Overkill – The Atlantic Years ’86-’94 captures eight years of prime Thrash Metal, packaged in a killer, ‘blacked-out‘ hard box, served-up on six 180gm remastered dynamic black discs, that will carve a wide smile on any self-respected Thrash Metal fan.
In chronological order, we start with ‘Taking Over‘, which literally defines the bands ‘blue collar‘ approach to the genre, ripping out adrenaline-pumped aggression, fuelled with a concoction of Lemmy’s acid-piss, and vitriol.
When you have tracks such as ‘Deny The Cross‘, ‘Wrecking Crew‘, and ‘In Union We Stand‘, which is in its own right, a Thrash anthem for the era of the genre. Thanks to their involvement with the infamous East Coast Punk scene in the early ’80s, [drummer Rat Skates and bassist D.D. Verni, formally of “Lubricunts“, and vocalist Bobby ‘Blitz’ Elsworth formally of D.O.A] Overkill solidified their love of Punk and Motörhead with an extra gut-punch, and it only gets better from here on…
Disc two delivers a vicious and more confident-sounding Overkill with ‘Under The Influence‘, and like the previous disc, the remastered dynamic sound is well-balanced, rich and warm…which makes for a pretty outstanding audio experience. How anyone could ever deny the party anthem that is, ‘Hello From the Gutter‘ is beyond me!
Despite the elitist take on ‘Under The Influence‘, (which for some is that it was “rushed” and a slight “step back” for the band), there is no denying that this album has aged very well. This is gold-plated classic Overkill, and it’s never sounded better.
For me ‘The Years of Decay‘ brings back waves of nostalgia and hazy memories of wild house parties, and cheap beer. And that’s fine with me! Like a time capsule that has been restored, polished and tweaked with care and attention, infamous Thrash Metal producer Terry Date’s DNA still remains evident on this re-issue, and is loaded with bangers from opener ‘Time to Kill‘, and the MTV smash hit, ‘Elimination‘, and ‘Nothing to Die For‘ [to name but a few].
There is a very noticeable jump in sound quality with ‘The Years…‘ (there usually is with any bands’ discography when success began to take hold), and this re-issue follows suite, sounding utterly fantastic.
Bridging the bands’ career from the late ’80s into the ’90s sees ‘Horrorscope‘ next in line. Opener ‘Coma‘ rips through the ether with more girth than a Californian Red Wood, and once again, is a reminder of the care and attention that BMG have taken with this boxset.
So far so good with regards to sound. As I move onto ’93s ‘I Hear Black‘, an album that saw Overkill move into new territories, taking on a more “dense” groove that continues to divide fans still to this day.
Nonetheless, ‘I Hear Black‘ has it’s moments, and even though Ellsworth’s favours a more animalistic/melodic vocal approach on this LP, compared to his distinctive high-pitched shrill throughout, tracks such as ‘Feed My Head‘, and ‘Spiritual Void‘ make for a good time, and once again sound urgent ,and crystal clear on this re-issue.
Rounding off the collection is by far one of the bands’ more dramatic returns to form following the slower approach on ‘I Hear Black‘. Released in ’94, ‘W.F.O’ was the bands’ last dance with Atlantic Records, and in true Overkill style, they go out fighting.
D.D. Verni’s bass dominates on the original release and although high in the mix on this re-issue, the dynamic balance of the metallic guitar tones, brings the brightness of the albums mix a little more into perspective from an audio point of view, but can be a little grinding on the ears after a while… if I’m being honest.
Standout tracks, ‘Fast Junkie‘, ‘Supersonic Hate‘, and ‘Bastard Nation‘ make up for the skyscraper bass mix, and overall, a pleasing Overkill opus, not to mention a fitting way to complete this crushing box set.
As far as boxsets’ go, ‘Overkill – The Atlantic Years’ 1986-1994‘ is a solid investment for any vinyl collector, or an inexpensive way to obtain a decent chunk of the bands’ early career, rather than seeking down original copies from Discogs, or Ebay.
My only gripe is that BMG could have included a booklet or insert of some description to accompany the set. The recreation of the original inserts for each album is a nice touch, but an overview booklet would have been the icing on the cake.
Either way, this boxset is a must in my opinion. 8/10
‘Overkill – The Atlantic Years 1986-1994’ is released via BMG on December 3rd. Pick up your copy here.
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