Like many other thrash acts from the 80’s, Overkill returned to their old-school roots around the time thrash started popping up everywhere again. Whether you consider it to be bandwagoning or a surge of inspiration from all of the young bands around, it’s hard to deny that “Ironbound” was an impressive record. “The Electric Age” showed the band settling into a more standard sound, and was a bit of a letdown after the brilliance of “Ironbound”. “White Devil Armory” shows the band keeping up their prolific pace, and the good news is that Overkill has put together a pretty solid effort with this album.
The first song on this record is the single, “Armorist”. The lyrics are a bit strange, but once you get past that issue, the music is absolutely pummeling. On first listen, this song was a bit underwhelming, but with successive listens, its brilliance became clear. The song brings a much-welcomed burst of speed, with the aggression that only Overkill can deliver (likely a part of that New Jersey attitude). Over the course of the next few songs, Overkill continues to pump out memorable songs. “Pig” is the definite highlight; it is another track that suffers from disappointing lyrics, but the riffs slay, so that issue can be ignored. In fact, the main riff of this song is on par with anything the band has written since the first album. The chorus of this song shows a slight change in Blitz’ vocals. He is becoming a bit more distinct in his snarl (as if that were even possible), but at the same time, it sounds as though some of his singing ability is deteriorating slightly. On “Pig”, this new vocal sound is particularly effective because of the attack in the vocal lines.
Another standout song is “Bitter Pill”. This isn’t a doomy song per se (especially when compared to classics like “Drunken Wisdom” and “Playing With Spiders/Skullkrusher”), but it is certainly slower and less thrashy than the rest of the record. About halfway through the song, a Black Sabbath riff appears out of nowhere. It’s got the bouncy groove that was extremely prominent on a record like “Vol. 4”, and it’s a great change of pace for the album. Unfortunately this section is only about a minute long, but it’s still nice to see the band trying new things. The next few songs bring up the speed again (particularly "Where's There Smoke...", and are still top-grade songs. It isn’t until “Another Die To Day” that there is a slight drop off in quality. The remainder of the record is still enjoyable, and certainly none of the remaining songs are out of place, but they lack the energy and catchiness that the earlier songs had.
One thing Overkill nailed on “White Devil Armory” is the production. This is probably their best sounding record, mainly because of the rhythm section. Anytime the double kicks are playing (which is pretty often) the record because immensely heavy. D.D. Verni’s bass is also very prominent; that’s nothing new for Overkill, but in tandem with the newly electrified drums, it creates an even more crushing sound. This is even further compounded by the plentiful gang vocals that are scattered through the album.
I was very critical of “The Electric Age”, perhaps because it couldn’t live up to “Ironbound”, or perhaps because it just wasn’t a particularly great record. I would lean towards the latter reason, simply because “White Devil Armory” has shown Overkill can still bring the heat. While “White Devil Armory” cannot reach the heights of “Ironbound”, it is still an enjoyable album in its own right.
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4.3/5 or 86%.
Written by Scott