Overkill has made a great total of one major change to their sound over the past three decades. That occurred back in 1991, when the band followed up Horrorscope – many a fan's fave 'kill opus – with the universally reviled I Hear Black, a limp dick attempt to update their sound to fit in with the post-Pantera groove metal zeitgeist that pleased exactly no one.
To the band's credit they performed an auto-correct almost immediately, and since then they've settled into a measured compromise between their early full-speed-ahead thrash and the more riff-based groove metal template.
All of which is just a way of saying that if you don't know what you're getting out of an Overkill record in 2012 you haven't been paying attention. I usually cringe when someone describes an album as "critic proof", the implication being that word of mouth will carry the day (don't look now but written criticism still counts as word of mouth), but Overkill have become one of those bands that nothing short of a unanimous negative reception is likely to impact their sales at all.
Much like other workmanlike bands such as Motorhead, the only germane question surrounding Overkill in 2012 is whether they add any significant classics to the canon. Kinda. "Classic" might be a bit of hyperbole, but "Save Yourself" and "21st Century Man" are definitely in that catchy, dependable mold that warrant repeat listens. "Electric Rattlesnake" – the latest single – sounds great production-wise and has an engaging velocity to it, but at heart it's Overkill-by-numbers, another song that sounds fine when it's brand new but will likely be little more than a footnote two or three albums down the line.
And that's kind of the litmus test for Overkill these days: either you've absorbed their legacy up to this point and ravenously crave any new material that scratches a familiar itch, or you just never gave a shit in the first place. The Electric Age will appease the former while doing little to win over the latter. There's nothing particularly wrong with that; for every band we need out there breaking down walls we also need bands carrying the torch for old traditions.
The Electric Age is out now on eOne.