Most folk seem to forget that Hammerfest XI Headliners Overkill pre-date Slayer, Anthrax and even Metallica.

Formed as a punk band in 1980 the New Jersey quintet are still all guns blazing on ‘The Wings of War’, their 19th studio album. With such a hefty output over their career you could be forgiven for thinking that the cauldron of ideas is running dry, but following on from their previous releases this decade it’s clearly evident that the cauldron is still bubbling away with a hefty thrash stew.

Opener ‘Last Man Standing’, with its eerie epic intro, blasts out of the gates amidst a flurry of pummelling rhythms and frantic riffs, all topped off with Blitz Elsworth’s inimitable vocal style which have become Overkills trademark over the last few decades. The track also sets the tone for the rest of the album, as well as being one of the best tunes they’ve penned in years.

The rest of the album is also of similar high quality, with a few curve balls thrown in for good measure. ‘Bat Shit Crazy’ is built around a gargantuan groove of a riff that resembles Pantera on steroids and has the potential to be a future live favourite. ‘Welcome to The Garden State’ is a homage to their home state of New Jersey with some fairly tongue-in-cheek lyrics and displays the amount of fun evident in this current carnation of the band. In fact, the whole album has a feel good vibe to it. Thrash doesn’t always have to be deadly serious, but when it’s this enjoyable it could put a smile on even the most hardened, po-faced metal head.

Also of note is the excellent production courtesy of the band themselves and a sterling, meaty mix from renowned knob twiddler Zeuss. The fat bottom end really shines through on tracks like ‘Distortion’ and ‘Head of a Pin’, definitely one to annoy the neighbours with (assuming they’re not Overkill fans).

It’ll be interesting to see just how much gas they have left in the tank, but judging by this, then the milestone 20th album – which may coincide with their 40th anniversary – will no doubt see them cement themselves even further in the metal history books. If you’re new to the Overkill bandwagon then ‘The Wings of War’ is a pretty perfect place to start.

Overkill – The Wings of War is out now on Nuclear Blast Records.

Very limited tickets for Hammerfest XI are still available from www.hammerfest.com or by calling the HRH team on 0207 193 1164.

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