Review by Jeff Maki
Being the die-hard thrash metal fan you are, you’ve watched The Grinding Wheel album trailers, checked out the lyric videos for both “Mean Green Killing Machine” and “Our Finest Hour,” the music video for “Goddamn Trouble” and, hopefully, read our new interview with frontman Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth. There’s been a hell of a lot of promotion for this album–incredibly, Overkill’s 18th of its career—and we’ve been part of it. With good reason, because this is one of the finest hours of thrash metal in recent years. Blitz said the band “thinks it’s better” than new albums by Anthrax, Megadeth or Testament. You know what? He might be right.
With stellar production by Andy Sneap and the current incarnation of Overkill–original members Blitz and bassist D.D. Verni, lead guitarist Dave Linsk (1999-present), rhythm guitarist Derek “The Skull” Tailer (2002-present) and drummer Ron Lipnicki (2005-present)–sounding as “Overkill” as ever, The Grinding Wheel doesn’t stop with the songs mentioned above. In an age of bands releasing singles and other formats, this is a true album, from start to finish. You can hear the band’s longtime influences shining through, like Iron Maiden on “The Long Road,” Black Sabbath on “Come Heavy” and the bonus track, a cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Emerald.” And then there are those when Overkill sounds like classic Overkill, like on “Let’s All Go to Hades”–I guess that’s the next stop after the gutter?
Blitz is in classic form. So is D.D.’s bass. And the “new guys?” Just listen to the drum gallop and the solo that open “The Long Road,” or all the tempo changes and styles incorporated in the band’s new anthem “Mean Green Killing Machine.” As I described the album in my interview with Blitz, it’s “dangerously fun.”
As Blitz explained to me, the album title can have different meanings. It can represent the band’s longevity and determination over the course of its 30-plus years, or it can represent something that is wearing down. Gears wear out, and the wheels stop turning.
I don’t think that’s it. These gears are pumped up with the highest grade motorcycle grease, and this engine is running better then ever, primed to thrash and grind. As the lyric to “Goddamn Trouble” declares, “Ain’t never gonna stop!”
(Nuclear Blast Records, February 10, 2017)