Nuclear Blast
rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Scorched
02. Goin' Home
03. The Surgeon
04. Twist Of The Wick
05. Wicked Place
06. Won't Be Coming Back
07. Fever
08. Harder They Fall
09. Know Her Name
10. Bag O' Bones

They were there at the very beginning and, judging by the sheer venomous brutality of their 20th studio album, they will be there at the end. OVERKILL are not a band that have ever seriously contemplated retirement, possibly because somebody has to be there to show everyone else how this face-ripping thrash metal thing is done. Few, if any, of the New Yorkers' contemporaries have been as consistent or persistent over the years. "Scorched" is more of the same, and unapologetically so, but OVERKILL still sound like the hungriest band around.

Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth is apparently 63 years old but screams his head off like an incensed teenager throughout this hour of pure fucking metal. OVERKILL have never strayed far from the righteous thrash metal path, but their last few albums have been particularly strong and have summed up the band's straight-head, unpretentious values with increasing levels of efficacy. That ongoing buildup of momentum is evident in the dark sprawl of the opening title track. A riveting amalgam of dark riffing, composed as ever by bassist D.D. Verni, and Ellsworth's ferocious shriek, it proclaims this band's mastery of the form they helped to create, but leaving room for subtle hints of creative progress still ongoing.

Despite their still-flourishing artistic curiosity, OVERKILL remain primarily concerned with going for the throat but with a sophisticated streak that throws up a few surprises. The succinct and profoundly snotty "Goin' Home" is the most direct and unfussy song here, and it fulfils the brief of heads-down rager perfectly. Recent single "The Surgeon" is far more representative: pitch-black and unpredictable, it is built from the purest thrash ingredients, but the end result is gargoyle grotesque and utterly distinct to OVERKILL circa 2023. "Twist Of The Wick" heralds the same hybrid of tooth-dislodging thrash and ornate, grimly melodic trad metal, with multiple tempo changes adding to the tension. With a similar vibe of claustrophobic urban horror, "Wicked Place" is a mid-paced miasma of melody and grit; "Won't Be Coming Back" is a brutal '80s throwback, replete with SAVATAGE-like instrumental detour and some miraculous soloing from Dave Linsk; "Fever" ebbs and flows from trippy, gothic mellowness to nails-hard, swaggering doom, with the leather-throated Ellsworth on particularly astonishing form.

Part of OVERKILL's enduring authority comes from the fact that they have never taken the soft option. "Scorched" is among the band's most aggressive and punishing records, and despite a few dynamic detours, it will smash heads against walls from start to finish. "Harder They Fall" is so relentless and gnarly that it's exhausting (in a fun way). "Know Her Name" is steel-plated rock 'n' roll at its most intense. "Bag O' Bones" is loose-limbed and darkly funky, like the soundtrack to a floodlit parking lot beating. To paraphrase some of Ellsworth's legendary stage banter from a few years ago, when you listen to "Scorched" for the first time, you'll be shitting roof nails for a week. That's just what OVERKILL do.

Author: Dom Lawson
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