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Wider scope - 81%

gasmask_colostomy, December 24th, 2017

There are perhaps two reasons to listen to thrash metal and the first is presumably to thrash, so we're left looking at the second for people who are sitting on their sofa at home (people like me if you can read between the lines). That second reason is that you want to make your boring life more exciting and make it seem like you're doing something quickly even if you actually have loads of time in which to finish. Of all the Overkill albums I've spent time listening to them, Horrorscope does the things I want the quickest, wasting little time in getting into gear and gouging a path down the highway of thrashing. Somewhat usefully, this album also uses a little of the dirt that would make later '90s Overkill releases such as W.F.O. and Necroshine into robust metal experiences devoid of trad metal delicacy and amped up on testosterone. That formula suits me better than the rather primitive thrash template used on Overkill's debut, which came across as a missing step from Iron Maiden to Metallica (and might well be if you're at all interested in chronology), while other thrash albums often strike me as either formulaic or long-winded depending on their preference for cheap thrills or more considered experiments.

As such, I might be forced to agree with the populous that this is Overkill's finest effort, especially as the opening of the album contains some of the most insistent arguments for speed as the prime metal invention, the mid-album also giving a decent showing in mid-paced crushers and some slightly kooky diversions, then the conclusion abstracting still further into some softer material. The atmosphere here inclines towards fitting the album title, just about making it past the point of cheesiness and into the creepy territory that the horror-movie piano intro to 'Bare Bones' is aiming for: this still doesn't achieve anything as mood-centred as a Paradise Lost album, though for thrash it's pretty effective and gives something other than riffs to focus on. The riffs themselves are certainly reasonable, 'Coma' and 'Infectious' leading the thrashing charge from the front, while 'Thanx for Nothin'' fares all the better for the breakneck groove in the main riff. The title track opts for a much slower and wider approach, coming close to Solitude Aeturnus in smooth slow-paced momentum that Blitz brings to a head by his charismatic vocals.

What makes this palatable for me whereas other Overkill albums fail to set a fire under my arse is that there is clear evidence of efforts being made to attend to more than one kind of song without sacrificing the character of the band, meaning that the older, thrashier style of the group powers several of the songs but is not overused, nor does the introduction of more diverse elements (i.e. the coming of Overkill's groove metal phase) distract from the essence of riffing and energetic leads. The slower strut of the title track and subsequent stomper 'New Machine', plus the gradually building closer 'Soulitude', sound stylistically close to the heavy beats of Metallica's Black Album sound, though the more atmospheric and creative execution of the songs, in addition to the warmer dirt of the production here, sway me strongly in favour of Overkill's version. The bursts of speed that are thrown into 'Live Young, Die Free' and 'Bare Bones' during the leads are also very well-judged, causing those moments to stand out as more exciting, while the verses have the chance to become catchy of their own volition, without needing to resort to palm-muted thrash riffing every time.

I'm still slightly underwhelmed by the total effect of the album, however, partly because I don't feel that Overkill end up with quite enough impact from all the changes they make. That piano introduction, the playful instrumental 'Frankenstein', and the combination of fleshier songs with briefer ones and fast-paced numbers with steadier cuts should add up to a satisfying choice of styles, but instead it just makes me feel that the band didn't quite have total control of everything here and compromised by offering variety instead of absolute quality. That's evident from the slightly lengthy running time and difficulty I have in choosing favourites, no song totally grasping me from start to finish. I'm quite a fan of the riffing style in 'Thanx for Nothin'' and the vocal hooks and doom influence of 'Nice Day...for a Funeral', though I'm not convinced that the groove opening is an entirely positive experience, even if Pantera thought it was good enough to re-use in their own songs.

In the end, it could just as easily be said that Horrorscope is the most representative Overkill album as the absolute best, though seeing that their career has been nothing if not consistent it's little surprise to find that a single best effort is hard to find. In any case, this is one of the most successful examples of an old school thrash band entering the '90s at full steam, beginning to diversify a stock sound in new directions and reaping rewards as a result. Unless you're absolutely allergic to thrash that you can enjoy while sitting on your sofa, you'll do well to take a look at your Horrorscope.