Sunday, November 11, 2012

Overkill - Bloodletting

No, I won't stop complaining

Really, I did want to just leave well enough alone when it came to Overkill's preplexingly forgiven/overlooked mid era.  I wanted to just let it be and focus on when they were good.  I wanted to review the surprisingly fantastic Ironbound or the near flawless Feel the Fire, but sheer morbid curiosity led me to reaffirming my belief that everybody except me is fucking crazy.  Originally, this review was going to be for From the Underground and Below, as it seems to me to be the somewhat "forgotten" Overkill album.  Fans who defend their 90s/00s era stuff even manage to look over that release entirely, and for good reason because I can't imagine a Borisite backing up that "Machine Head/Pantera performing Godsmack covers before Godsmack ever released an album" trainwreck.  But in doing my research for that review, I floored myself by discovering that, as of the time of this writing, both Necroshine and Bloodletting have average review scores in the eightieth percentile on Encyclopaedia Metallum.  I had a small Mugatu breakdown upon seeing that.  What in the goddamn hell are you people hearing that I'm not?  I'll be the first to admit that this is a step in the right direction, but it still sucks golfballs through gardenhoses.

The main problem I have with Bloodletting is the same problem I have with the entire middle streak of Overkill, and that's that it's just fucking boring and unmemorable.  Overkill really felt the impact of bands like Pantera and Machine Head in the 90s, and it's extraordinarily clear on their albums of the era.  The early 00s were still a high time for nu metal and groove metal, and Overkill remains, as they always have been (despite what revisionists claim), a product of the times.  I don't know if Bloodletting here was a small fluke or what, but it is actually one of the first albums from a stalwart thrash legend to step back in the direction of the high tempo thrash aggression that got them popular in the first place.  The Germans seemed to be ahead of the game here, with Sodom releasing Code Red the year prior, and Schmier's return to Destruction with All Hell Breaks Loose a few months before the release of this album (the trifecta of Sodom, Destruction, and Kreator would all solidify their comebacks to their thrash roots with two classics (and an "eh" album) with M-16, The Antichrist, and Violent Revolution respectively, all within a month of each other the following year).  The problem was that the style still wasn't the big draw in Overkill's home market, which was still nuts deep in all that is groovy, which kept Overkill firmly in the groove camp, despite the raising of overall tempo with this 2000 release.

Most defenders of this album point to the first two tracks, "Thunderhead" and "Bleed Me" as proof as to why Bloodletting is just as worthy of the band's legacy as something like Taking Over.  While I do admit that these two tracks wouldn't sound too horribly out of place on a record from a decade later when they got good again like Ironbound, it's still plagued with problems that dragged the band down consistently throughout this time, plus a special new one that was never a problem until this one.  That problem is Blitz's vocals.  Yeah, I never thought I'd say that either, but for some reason they're just fucking grating here.  "Thunderhead" is my prime example of this problem, which in itself is a pretty big problem considering it's the opening track and one that people usually point to when I tell them they're wrong for liking this album.  He's more nasally than ever before, and also even more prominent in the mix.  The chorus of the aforementioned song is almost unbearable with his atrocious "I'M COMIN' HAAAWWWOOOOMMME" that just drills itself into your temples.  I realize I'm probably just being harsh on one aspect considering the rest of these two opening songs are pretty decent groove/thrash, but this is really a huge flaw because it's the first time where the band could actually benefit from not having Blitz behind the mic.  I've always said that while he's technically a pretty awful vocalist, he's a lot like Dave Mustaine or Lemmy in the sense that I really can't imagine him fronting a different band or another person fronting the band he rose to prominence with, but good lord even Sean Killian would be an improvement here.  I have to stress that this is the only album where this is a problem, so it's another reason why I'm so utterly dumbfounded at this album's positive standing within the fanbase.

Digression aside, I do note that the opening few tracks are worlds better than anything the band had released in nearly ten years, but after then the album just falls apart.  They fell right off the wagon and went back to the Machine Head style of slow grooving that they've always sucked at.  "Let it Burn", "I, Hurricane", and "Blown Away" are somehow simultaneously boring as hell and also completely unmemorable.  They drag on for ages with nothing approaching an interesting riff or solo or vocal line or anything of the sort, and yet when they're over I can't recall what they sound like at all.  "Blown Away" stands out a small bit for the long, gloomy intro that the band is so fond of shoehorning in to every fucking album since 1989.  But otherwise the middle six or so tracks all blend into this nebulous grey mass of uninteresting plods and directionless grooves.  "Death Comes Out to Play" and "Let it Burn" are probably the worst offenders in the realm of uninteresting structure and riffs and ideas, but I have to give an honorable mention to the one-two punch of "Left Hand Man" and "Blown Away" being A) next to each other in the track listing, B) similarly structured with the drawn out intros and outros, and C) being over six minutes long.  Normally, this isn't all that bad, but for mid tempo plodders like them, it's nothing less than a test of endurance.  There's a half hour stretch in the middle of the album that leaves listeners cold and wondering where the hell the band we all fell in love with wandered off to.

The strangest thing?  Bloodletting is structured overall like a Skyclad album, with the good songs at the beginning and end with all the mindless filler taking up the middle of the album.  "My Name is Pain" is probably the best track on the album, with it's high tempo and chest beating bravado presented in the way that only Overkill can, and I almost didn't fucking hear it because it's such a chore to listen past "Blown Away".  The closer ("Can't Kill a Dead Man") is underwhelming in comparison to the total barnburner that precedes it, but it follows the same late 80s thrash ideals and pummels the listener with one of the rare examples of how the groove elements can work in conjunction with the high octane thrash numbers.  And therein lies the big problem with the albums starting from this point and continuing through the following three albums, they try to retain the Pantera style grooves whilst still hearkening back to the thrash scene of the 80s, and only succeeding in blending the two about half the time.  Within the context of this album, "Death Comes Out to Play" has a really fun, fast paced thrash part, but most of the track is the damn low plodding that bores me to tears, whereas "My Name is Pain" is exactly the opposite.  The title track for the previous album, "Necroshine" is pretty much the only very solid example I can give of Overkill doing the pure groove metal style correctly, and one song out of over 90 is pathetic.

The easiest way to tell whether a song will be good on this album is to see how long it runs.  The four tracks under five minutes are all very good, while anything over that is bad.  Yes, that includes "Thunderhead", I really don't like that one at all and am blown away by how many people cite it as one of the best mid-era tracks.  That's how simple and shallow the whole thing really is.  Overkill are just not good at groove metal.  They never were and they never will be.  Now, I know in my review for The Killing Kind I had claimed it was my favorite of the band's bum era, but after realizing there are a whole four songs on Bloodletting that I like, I'm somewhat forced to reassess that claim.  I can confidently say that that will not happen again, as even though they did pick up the pace starting from this album, the quality stays pretty consistently low until 2010.

For the quadrillionth time, Overkill are not legends, they just released legendary albums.

RATING - 36%


  1. Rubbish. Absolute rubbish and non-scientific review!
    Though not nearly as good as Overkill's first five, this is still a worthy release to be given some great amount of consideration. But how on earth a 36% by you? You are a moderator for the No wonder the site is nowadays becoming a crap when it comes to "new reviews". Borisite? Poor guy, he spoke his mind on some of the albums some years back and he's still being persecuted? I think you need to remove the "Borisite metal block" you have and then - first listening to records and then review those. Doesn't mind if you delete this comment. Message is conveyed.

    Once again, try not reading Ultraboris' reviews before you do a review of an album.

    Good luck!

  2. I'd just like to clarify that I'm a big fan of UltraBoris. If you read my old reviews (which I'll be the first to admit are terrible and in desperate need of rewrites), you'll see that I started off by pretty much just ripping off his enthusiastic and comedic style. I have nothing against him as a reviewer. My issue stems from his constant championing of Overkill to the point of absurdity. You may not realize it and he may not realize it either, but he's a cult of personality that has helped formulate the opinions of many young metal fans, and a few of his weird misperceptions still persist to this day as a result. Especially in the early days of the site, if a classic album had a review, there was a good chance he'd reviewed it. He's had a profound impact (look at Torture Squad. I realize they've done the battle of the bands thing at Wacken and all, but their popularity on MA has a lot to do with his glowing review of Pandemonium. It's the oldest review for the band on the site and it's by far the most reviewed album of the band) and one of the consequences of that impact is rampant apologism for Overkill's cruddy era. They DID NOT play thrash during this time, they DID NOT write songs on par with what they used to, they were essentially the shell of a once mighty band. And Boris's boneheaded fanboy insistence that none of that is true is still a problem today along with other historical revisionism that has become common thanks to him.

    If you can give an honest, convincing argument as to why, say From the Underground and Below is a good album that carries on the spirit of thrash in the 90s, I will personally mail you a T shirt.

  3. Well, well, well.. I don't either believe that anything during the their 90s was anywhere close to their prime initial years. From the Underground and Below is more Groove and LESS of Thrash. I missed out on a T shirt?

    I do agree that Ultraboris' review collections has got some rotten stuffs also in it. But, I gotta tell you that for someone from India, where Metal exposure is very thin, his reviews did provide a good base for me and did indeed shape my Metal tastes. Thanks to him. His reviews showed me the way to a world beyond the Iron Maidens, Sabbaths and Judas Priests. Its quite sad that he's become non-existent now. I'm sure that had he been active in MA, he would have re-written some of the old ones.

    I'd be really interested to read your reviews on some of the 80s Classics, if you can review those.

    Thank you,