Overkill’s return to form in 2010 was a seriously uplifting moment for thrash metal. Though some of the other old guard had put out some decent records over the previous couple of years, few of them ruled as much as “Ironbound”. While many of their peers continue to put out equally strong releases (Kreator and Testament come to mind), Overkill has slowly trailed off since “Ironbound”. “The Grinding Wheel” marks their third release since 2010 and continues this downward trend. To be fair to Overkill, this album is still far superior to the 20 years of material that followed “Horrorscope”. The problem is that it shows the band slowly reverting to their groove metal era. When Overkill is thrashing on this record, they can still compete with almost any band out there. Unfortunately, these moments are fewer and further between.
Since “The Grinding Wheel” is less thrashier than any of the band’s other output over the last 10 years, they need to rely on excellent songwriting. And to Overkill’s credit, there are still a few times where they come out on top despite the mid-paced tempos. “Mean, Green, Killing Machine”, the opening cut, is filled with memorable moments, even amidst some groove. Blitz’ snarl is in full effect, with him sounding as good as ever (he unleashes a wicked scream towards the end of the track). His voice is definitely a major factor in making this album as enjoyable as it is: no matter what the rest of the band is doing, Blitz always has a major attitude that helps to keep the music as aggressive as possible. Blitz sounds like he hates everyone and everything and lets you know it on every single track.
The failings of “The Grinding Wheel” are really the same points of weakness that Overkill has had for years. Firstly, this album is just too long. Even without the bonus track, it exceeds an hour in length, and given that the band isn’t doing anything novel anymore, it’s just too much. The other problem, as mentioned, is the band’s shift way from speedier thrash moments in favour of returning to groove metal. Even some of the faster material has a lot more stop-start riffing than one would hope for. This makes “The Grinding Wheel” a difficult album because it isn’t outright boring like some of the band’s mid-era, but it also has trouble sustaining its playtime. Though Overkill was once one of my favourite bands, their music just doesn’t seem to have the staying power it once did. Perhaps it is that there is simply too much Overkill music at this point, or maybe it’s the fact that some other 80s legends are still crushing it, but “The Grinding Wheel” is pretty much exactly what one would expect from Overkill at this point. The band would have to do something truly memorable to be as relevant as they were just a few years ago.
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"Mean, Green, Killing Machine"
"Our Finest Hour"
"The Long Road"
3.5/5 or 70%.
Written by Scott