Metal-Is Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


You really have to admire a band like Overkill while feeling sorry for them at the same time. For 15 years, through all the phases and rising fates of heavy metal, these guys have slugged it out, releasing album after album of bone-crushing music that occasionally dared to make the listener think. And while they have moved away from the pure thrash base that made up discs like Feel The Fire and Taking Over, they have lost little of their power.

Yet Overkill is a band who have not been allowed the luxury of fixing a lineup in cement. Vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth and bassist D.D. Verni are the last original members of the lineup that recorded Feel The Fire. In recent years, Overkill has gone through guitarists at a rapid pace, most recently losing Joe Comeau to Annihilator (where he'll be serving as lead vocalist).

Now, once again as a foursome, Overkill returns to blow out your speakers with Bloodletting, an album which suggests the band is still having difficulties finding its footing again in a market where there are no longer any solid ground rules.

It might seem like I'm ready to slam this album, which I'm not. Bloodletting has many enjoyable moments to it, as did their last studio effort my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Necroshine. ( Coverkill, the band's last album, was merely a collection of cover tunes, though it was a great disc.) Tracks like "Thunderhead," "I, Hurricane" and "Blown Away" all suggest that Overkill is one of the best-kept secrets in the world of heavy metal, and has been for some time. Ellsworth remains one of the most powerful vocalists out there, going from an ear-piercing screech to a low growl effortlessly.

Yet there is both an air of uncertainty on Bloodletting as well as a feeling like the band chose to remain in a musical "holding pattern" until they could get their recent lineup change solidified. Guitarist Dave Linsk (who makes his second appearance on CD with Overkill) does an admirable job, but throughout the album it feels like he's not quite sure which direction he should take his solos. Possibly not having a musical foil like Comeau to feed off of is a limiting factor, and I'm certain it's something that can be overcome as Linsk gets comfortable with his role in the band. (Keep in mind, as well, that this is the first disc of Overkill originals where his work is featured.) There are no faults to be found with his rhythm work, however.

Musically, Overkill again seems to settle into a role they have followed now for three studio efforts. From The Underground And Below was a great album; Necroshine was a shade weaker, but still enjoyable musically. Bloodletting builds on what the band accomplished with Necroshine, breaking no new ground (unfortunately) but following a proven, stable route. Tracks like "Death Comes Out To Play," "My Name Is Pain" and "Can't Kill A Dead Man" are somewhat enjoyable, but all in all, I found it difficult to really get absorbed in this disc.

And it's not that Overkill can't accomplish this; when the band gets a solid groove going, their power is close to unstoppable. But Bloodletting just seems to miss capturing that on several fronts - and while the effort is not poor, it's not quite what the long-time fans would expect. Don't be surprised if you find yourself around "What I'm Missin'," the third track on the album, and you wonder where the last ten minutes have gone. Normally, this isn't bad - unless, of course, you don't have much of a recollection of the music that just played. Maybe that's the problem with Bloodletting; it too often falls into the trap of allowing itself to be absorbed into the listener's background.

Bloodletting should still please many fans of Overkill, and is not by any meaning of the word a bad album. But anyone who has followed Overkill for some length of time will seem to sense that the band is capable of much greater things - and hopefully, these will soon come, as well as stability with the band's line-up.

Rating: C+

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© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Metal-Is Records, and is used for informational purposes only.