Many bands who have been around for decades tend to slow the pace of releases as the years go on. Not so with New Jersey thrashers Overkill. In a two year span, they have issued two full-lengths, an EP, a split single with Kreator and a live album. The Wings Of War is Overkill's nineteenth studio album, and the first with drummer Jason Bittner (Shadows Fall, Burning Human).
Overkill have always had a distinctive sound, whether playing pure thrash or a thrash/groove hybrid. That sound is anchored by two members who have been there since they started in 1980: bassist D.D. Verni and vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth. That trademark sound is fully intact on The Wings Of War.
The album kicks off with the noisy “Last Man Standing,” which is a good introduction to Bittner, whose booming drums are front and center in the intro. The thrash eventually kicks in with Ellsworth's unmistakable vocals and a memorable call to “fight.” That word is also prominent in the following track, the very catchy “Believe in the Fight” that shifts tempos between a moderate groove and a more urgent pace.
The dual guitar attack of Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer is showcased throughout, from slower parts on “Head of a Pin” to rocket-fueled riffs on “Hole In My Soul.” There's some killer solo work on “A Mother's Prayer.” Overkill do a nice job in varying tempos to add more variety to the proceedings. Tracks like “Distortion” start slowly and methodically before kicking in.
“Welcome To The Garden State” is an homage to their home state of New Jersey. “It’s all about us,” Ellsworth says. “It’s the way we grew up as kids, it’s a certain attitude about the area, it’s responding to 'we don’t do that where we’re from' with: 'well guess what, you’re not where you’re from! You’re here, now!'”
The band's early output featured some classic albums, and they've had a resurgence lately, with several very strong releases over the past decade. The Wings Of War is on par with their recent catalog. It's very consistent with minimal filler and a lot of quality songs from a seemingly ageless band.