Overkill - The Wings of War (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


The Wings of War (2019)

nuclear Blast

I have been writing reviews for Punknews for about five years now. (I’m over 350 and climbing.) This is the third Overkill album that I’ve had the privilege of reviewing in that time. To put that into perspective, each of the “Big Four” (Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer) of thrash have released one album in that time span. Those of us who have been paying attention know that the next four biggest bands in thrash (Death Angel, Exodus, Overkill, Testament) are the ones who have been putting out the much of the best thrash in recent years.

I’m actually a little blown away by how good The Wing of War is. After the excellence of White Devil Armory (2104) and The Grinding Wheel (2017), expectations were high. This is at least as good as those albums. How the hell are vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth, bassist DD Verni and the rest making music like this nearly 40 years into their storied career? I’d be tempted to mumble something about a deal with the Devil if it wasn’t so obvious that they owe it all to their blue collar work ethic.

On The Wings of War, Overkill gets back to the basics. They eschew the progressive tendencies that every big ‘80s thrash band has at least toyed with, and opt for a more stripped down approach. They may alienate a small fragment of their audience, but they let their punk roots show more than they have in years. The results are undeniable, starting with the one two punch of “Last Man Standing” and “Believe in the Fight”. Both of those killer songs are about Overkill’s devotion to the path they’ve chosen and the music they make. “Where Few Dare to Walk” later on is thematically similar. Bobby Blitz’s voice sounds great. I swear he’s actually getting better with age. The riffs are razor sharp and the production is top notch. I wish the classic thrash albums sounded this good, sonically speaking.

“Distortion” is the most musically adventurous song on The Wings of War, and is a slight concession to the progressive thrash camp. “Welcome to the Garden State” is the exact opposite. Their tribute to their New Jersey home might be the most straight up punk song the band has done since they covered the Canadian Subhumans classic “Fuck You” in 1987. “Head of a Pin” and “Batshitcrazy” offer some moments of levity. “Pin” takes a swipe at Christianity, while “Bat” employs some good old fashioned Alice cooper style theatrics. “Out on the Road-Kill” is Overkill’s Motorhead-like take on the touring life. “A Mother’s Prayer” and closer “Hole in My Soul” are a bit more somber, but no less propulsive.

What’s the bottom line? Overkill rules, and The Wings of War is magnificent. I know there are at least a handful of thrash fans around here, and you’re going to need this in your record collection. It’s 50 minutes of relentless, pummeling ass kicking from one of the very best in the business. Go ahead punk - bang your head!