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Why Fuckin’ Obey… - 85%

bayern, August 13th, 2017

“to the new groovy/aggro laws when they’re not a part of our blood stream (yet)? Why betray our ideals and lofty visions for freedom, independence and classic metal world domination when our hearts and souls are telling us otherwise!?”

Those were the thoughts circulating in the heads of Bobby Ellsworth and Co. after the release of “I Hear Black”, a controversial blend of their fascination with the early Black Sabbath heritage and the oncoming groovy fashion that brought them nothing but commercial and critical crucifixion. They survived it, but that came with a blast of valuable, albeit short-term illumination the result of which was the album reviewed here. This is the first chronicled, genuine return to the roots after a temptation to try other directions in the annals of metal, produced mere months after the temptation itself, and more respect to the guys for that, for having realized their mistake early enough.

The times were confusing, classic metal was quickly fading away, and many of the 80’s practitioners went head-over-heels into the groovy “jungle”, some of them never to return. Our friends here did come back, though, although they left their options wide fucking open for such potential deviations in the future. We’re not going to bother with them now cause we’re listening to this album's “Where It Hurts”, a retro thrash pleasure sounding as though the previous album never occurred; bouncy hard-hitting riffs, brisk pace and last but not least, Ellsworth’s inimitable high-strung vocals. “Fast Junkie” is expectedly a fast-paced shredder with a memorable chorus, piercing leads, and the plentiful headbanging opportunities the latter sunk in heavy, ship-sinking rhythms which the following “They Wait-New High in Lows” offers in abundance, a dark brooding mid-pacer its pessimistic aesthetics cancelled in their turn by the brisk speed/thrasher “They Eat Their Young”, a great reminder of the band’s heydays.

No problems whatsoever at this stage, but comes “What’s Your Problem?”, and some groove sneaks in, innocently at first, but then more prominently before the guys take care of this unmitigated inconvenience with “Under One”, a livelier and more energetic speed/thrash proposition, offering more diversity later in the form of several moody doomy escapades. “Supersonic Hate” richly deserves its vociferous title the guys thrashing with so much vigour and enthusiasm that if one didn’t know them, he/she might think that they had just started their career. More slower deviations later on the jumpy, but thoroughly enjoyable “Up to Zero” which disguises its groovy infatuations underneath a wall of thick doomy reverberations; and on “Bastard Nation”, the most optimistic hymn here, a sing-alonger recalling the band’s first two instalments with the catchy chorus and the uplifting rhythmic-section. No such things on the final “Gasoline Dream”, a pounding thrasher with a shattering speedy mid-break, great lead sections, and a cool atmospheric balladic epitaph.

I have to admit I almost completely crossed Overkill off the list after “I Hear Black”, mostly based on the very positive impression “Horrorscope” produced on me to which I found the mentioned opus a most embarrassing sequel. Were the guys aiming at the fortune and glory achieved by Metallica hence the “black” connection in the title? I guess they were (who wasn’t?), but it was good that they realized before long that this might not be an option in their case, and returned to what they could do best, speed/thrash in the good old way that is. Excluding Slayer’s “Divine Intervention”, the album here was the most classic-sounding of the lot released the same year; Megadeth, Testament, Forbidden, and Annihilator were mixing things up, trying to sound relevant to the prevalent trends, and there were hardly any new heroes to look back at the past decade in defiance. Yes, the call of the groove was getting stronger, and Overkill felt tempted to give it one more go. This second go (“The Killing Kind”) was kind of more relevant and more successful prompting the band to stay the groovy/post-thrashy course, and it wasn’t until nearly ten years later that they decided to pay another tribute to their 80’s legacy with “Killbox 13”.

Again, this wasn’t the perfect retro thrash album having in mind what was going on around the field at the time, with the old school recapturing lost territories worldwide with ease. It took the wrecking Overkill crew a bit more time in order to establish themselves at the epicentre of this campaign with “Ironbound”, and nail three more sure classic thrash “nails” into the old school “façade”, the last one only a few months old. All good for now although one should always bear in mind the “why fuckin’ obey” stance acquired by the band in the not so distant past; one that may turn towards the ruling tendency at the time if taken now… why do I hear black coming from the distance in all its pitch-dark glory?