From The Underground And Below


CMC International Records, 1997

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The first time I ever heard Overkill, there was a 12-inch promo single of "Elimination" jammed in one of the new release bins at the college radio station. Obviously it was left there as a prank by one of the overnight metal DJs, but if it was in the studio at the start of my shift, it was fair game... so onto the turntable it went at 250 watts.

There was no turning back for me after that. Their final albums for Atlantic, including I Hear Black, surprised me in the maturity of the songwriting and playing. But after that, for some reason, I fell away from following Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth and crew - nothing against them. I guess it was because, since they were no longer on Atlantic, I stopped getting their discs in their promo packages.

Then, a couple of months ago, their latest release, From The Underground And Below, arrived in my mailbox. And while Overkill is still charging forward in the metal vein despite the constant pronouncements of metal's death, the higher quality of songwriting has taken a back seat for sheer power.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The second album with their re-tooled lineup, D.D. Verni still provides a solid anchor on the bass, while drummer Tim Mallare doesn't always get the chance to really cut loose on the traps - too bad, 'cause he's incredible at what he does. The two-guitar attack of Joe Comeau and Sebastian Marino fit in with this band perfectly; it almost seems that both of them have been with the band since its inception.

Despite the abandonment of the metal genre by some of the scene's biggest names over the years, Overkill continue to turn their guitars up to 11 and shred your speakers - rather refreshing, to be honest, to see a band so dedicated to its roots. Occasionally I think I hear a bend towards industrial, like on the "miracle man" chant on "Save Me" - but this adds to the music for me, almost creating an extension of what Overkill has accomplished in their career.

When Ellsworth et al. release the hounds and let it shred, From The Underground And Below is unstoppable. "It Lives" and "F.U.C.T." are incredible tracks that grab the listener by the head and slams them into the stereo. Pain never felt so good.

The die-hard metal listener might scream in fright at the introduction of acoustic guitars - once at the end of "I'm Alright," and during the verses of "Promises". Fear not, for Overkill uses them to their advantage. The acoustics allow the talents of Comeau and Marino to be displayed in new ways, and "Promises" is a decent attempt, albeit slightly flawed, attempt to do a slower-tempo number.

In fact, there are very few moments where From The Underground And Below falls short. "The Rip N' Tear" is one of those few moments - the songwriting takes a bad turn on this one in the verses. It picks up a little bit in the bridge, but the track as a whole doesn't impress me.

In that sense, while From The Underground And Below is another great Overkill album, the songwriting doesn't seem to be the main focus here. On albums like W.F.O. and I Hear Black, there was a noticeable improvement in the attention paid to the songwriting. The material contained on this disc is not bad by any means, but when one knows what they're capable of, it's a little bit of a letdown.

Ellsworth and crew make a strong case on From The Underground And Below that metal is far from dead, and is another solid effort of theirs to add to your CD collection.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 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 CMC International Records, and is used for informational purposes only.