The countdown to the year’s end is officially on, and that means for the music industry, the push is officially on to start assembling those annual year-end “Best Of” lists. One of the lists that this critic in particular has seen overflowing with impressive titles is that of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums. New releases from the likes of Prong, The Haunted, Dragonforce and so many others have easily proven themselves deserving of a spot on that list by any critic. No critic’s list of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums would be complete without the inclusion of Overkill’s latest album the Grinding Wheel. Released this past February, this 11-song, 64-minute album is an offering that reminds audiences once again why even after more than 30 years, Overkill is still one of the elite acts in the hard rock and metal realms even. That is even as the band continues to embrace the mantra of if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. The old school thrash riffs that have made the band a constant fan favorite throughout its life combine with equally interesting lyrical content here to prove why this record is one more of the year’s top new hard rock and metal offerings.
Anytime that Overkill releases a new album, it will find its way onto critics’ lists of the year’s best new hard rock and metal albums. The New Jersey-based thrash outfit’s 18th (yes, 18th) full-length studio recording The Grinding Wheel is no exception to that rule. That is proven right from the album’s outset in ‘Mean, Green Killing Machine.’ The song’s arrangement boasts riffs in its verses that easily lend themselves to some of the greatest classic thrash works from fellow thrashers Exodus, Metallica, Megadeth and others of that ilk. In the same breath, the combination of front man Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth’s vocal delivery with those riffs also conjures thoughts of so many classic Judas Priest songs. The inclusion of the song’s more blues-based hard rock arrangement in its bridge adds even more interest to the song. The sudden change between those two wholly separate styles is, needless to say, stark. Yet at the same time, it still is not enough to ruin the song, musically speaking. It only makes it that much more interesting. Keeping that in mind, it is only one part of what makes this song proof of what makes The Grinding Wheel yet another standout record from Overkill. The song’s lyrical content is just as important to discuss as its musical arrangement.
Ellsworth sings here, “Somewhere out where no one knows/Rusts a cool revolution fight/Way out there where no one goes/And it’s got to keep moving/Got to keep getting it right/So here’s to the piston charged/Combustible delight/The single-minded supercharged/That’s got to keep moving/Got to keep getting it/A call to arms/A call right through the dream/A call to action/Blow up the in-between/Feed, feed your engine/Feed, feed the wolverine/Feed, feed the tension/Mean green/Killing machine/C’mon, C’mon say what my name is/Mean green killing machine.” Ellsworth goes on in the song’s further verses to deliver what seems like commentary perhaps about the world’s religious and business leaders, leading to the belief that perhaps while not a politically charged song, it is a lyrical worked aimed at reminding listeners to not just give in to the things being force-fed to them. That is just this critic’s own take and should not be taken as the only interpretation. Ellsworth could easily have been making a wholly different statement. That ability of these lyrics to create so much discussion in itself is even more proof of the importance of the song’s lyrical content. When that content is joined with the song’s rich musical arrangement, the end result is a song that clearly exhibits what makes The Grinding Wheel yet another solid offering from Overkill. It is hardly the only of the album’s songs to support that statement. The album’s title track is one more example of what makes The Grinding Wheel another standout album from one of metal’s true elite acts.
‘The Grinding Wheel’ proves just as much as ‘Mean Green Killing Machine’ what makes Overkill’s latest album so enjoyable in part to its musical arrangement. As with the previously discussed song, this composition also boasts an arrangement that is pure thrash at its finest. It lends itself just as easily to comparisons to works from Judas Priest as the album’s opener, too. Considering this, it goes without saying that this song’s musical arrangement is just as solid as those presented in the rest of the album’s songs. That being the case, the next sensible step here would be to examine the song’s lyrical content. This song’s lyrical content is just as intriguing as that in the album’s opener and the record’s other songs. Ellsworth sings here, “A bed of nails/Cold, dark, deep refrigeration/I hear it calling me/A broken rail as he drools over the congregation/I hear it calling me/Now I won’t tell you how to live your life/I never saw the point in thinking twice/I turn the wheel by day, by night/Raise your flag/Here’s to the liberation.” The song goes on in similar fashion with equally cryptic statements throughout that are just as certain to leave listeners talking and thinking as the song’s lead verse. Again, that ability to so easily engage listeners, even just through its lyrical content, is another way in which the song proves an important part of the record’s whole. When it is joined with the song’s musical arrangement, the two elements in whole support that statement even more. Even considering this, it still is not the last of the songs included in this record that shows what makes the album stand out. ‘Shine On,’ which comes early in the album’s run is one more example of what makes the record stand out.
‘Shine On’ is another key example of what makes The Grinding Wheel stand out, as with the previously discussed songs, in part due to its arrangement. The up-tempo, guitar-driven arrangement. The arrangement presented here is a polished composition that lends itself directly to comparisons to some of Metallica’s greatest thrash style works. Even as the song turns more doom-sounding bridge, that slower–yet no less heavy–section is a perfect fit that gives listeners just enough time to catch their collective breaths without losing them. It is only one part of what makes this song another key addition to The Grinding Wheel. The song’s lyrical content is just as important to discuss as its musical arrangement.
The lyrical content presented in ‘Shine On’ is important to discuss because of its seemingly anthemic nature. That anthemic nature is inferred, at least to this critic as Ellsworth sings in the song’s chorus, “We got no patience, but we get through/We got no patience, but we got you/All of the paraders shout no fear/All of the hurricaners with their fists up in the air/Someone else gave the order to the band/Someone else ignored us/Left the cat out in the rain/One more fire before I die/One more fire, get me high/Climb on down to the fire/Climb on down to the flame/Leave your battles behind you/Shine on Doomsday/Shine on Doomsday.” This all comes across as the band paying tribute, lyrically, to its fans, inspiring audiences to never give up on anything in life as they thank their fans for their dedication. Again, this is only this critic’s own interpretation and should not be taken as the only interpretation. Either way, this song’s lyrical content comes across as a loud, proud statement from the band. When that seemingly loud, proud statement is joined with the song’s equally heavy, driving musical arrangement, the whole of the song shows why it is an important addition to the album’s whole. When the song is joined with the other songs noted here (and those not noted), the album in whole shows clearly why it is another powerhouse offering from Overkill, and an easy candidate for any critic’s list of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.
Overkills’ 18th full-length studio recording The Grinding Wheel is a presentation of a band that more than 30 years into its life is still successfully grinding it out. Yes, that awful pun was fully intended. That is due to the solid, heavy musical arrangements presented throughout the course of the album’s 64-minute run time. The record’s arrangements are everything that the band’s legions of fans have come to expect from its records throughout the years. What’s interesting about them here is how polished they sound in each case. The album’s collective lyrical content will have listeners thinking and talking just as much as its musical arrangements. From seeming commentaries (of sorts) to fist-pumping anthems and points in-between, the songs’ lyrical content gives listeners plenty to be happy about, too. Keeping thin in mind, The album in whole proves to be a work that any Overkill fan will appreciate and agree deserves a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums. It is available now in stores and online. More information on The Grinding Wheel is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:
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