15. ReliXIV (2005)
While some Overkill fans often bemoan much of their 90s output, I would argue that the oughts were their weakest decade, from Bloodletting to Immortalis to ReliXIV, the band felt a bit uninspired overall. Only 2003’s Killbox 13 seemed to break out of that. Again, it’s all relative as the New Jersey thrash masters don’t make bad albums, just some that are better than others. This album blends a balance of Overkill thrash with the groove elements they incorporated in the 90s, and there are some classic headbangers on here like “Bats in the Belfry,” “A Pound of Flesh,” “Within Your Eyes,” and the punkish dust up, “Old School”. The production on ReliXIV is fairly raw, which works to the band’s favor as much as its detriment. On the positive side of that is, the guitar sound is thick and muscular. Beefy riffage is always a plus.
14. The Killing Kind (1996)
In prototypical Overkill fashion, the band throat punches you right out the gate on album opener, “Battle.” Immediately apparent is the punishing fretwork of newcomers Joe Comeau and Sebation Marino. Verni’s bass rumbles and Ellsworth is all gravel and wail. With the addition of Comeau we also get more back up/harmony vocals in the mix. “God-Like” has that punkish groove the band has always held fast to. The album overall, showcases many aspects of the bands developing yet consistent sound. Hardcore elements even appear on this effort. “Certifiable” reaffirms that Blitz is indeed so. So after three crushers you’re asking, why so low on the list? After this breakneck start the album, things begin to wane a bit. It’s definitely a frontloaded affair. Much of The Killing Kind feels a bit plodding if not lost in mid-tempo meandering.
13. Killbox 13 (2003)
Unlike the majority of Overkill records, Killbox 13 did not open with a true kick down the door, fist to the gut assault. In fact, one of the album’s weakest songs, “Devil by the Tail” opens it up. Fortuitously the album improves from there. The album finds the band returning to more of its thrash wheelhouse, though elements of the Nu-Groove sound appear on tracks like “Until I Die” and “Crystal Clear.” In the “save the best for last” mold, Overkill cranked it hardest on the album’s final three tracks, “Struck Down,” “Unholy” and “I Rise.” The trio serve as speedy whirlwind onslaughts of thrash goodness. One of the only back-loaded album’s in the band’s catalog.
12. I Hear Black (1993)
This is by far the hardest album to judge among Overkill’s studio works. Here’s the problem, it’s a damn good album, but it’s not very Overkill. In fact, but for Blitz’s readily identifiable vocals, one might assume this were another band. The album followed its iconic masterpieces Years of Decay and Horrorscope, so instead of trying to top those they took a sharp left turn into new territory. This opened the door for the band’s much maligned groove heavy 90s era. Creatively this may be the band’s most diverse effort, and for that alone it bears returned excursions to appreciate it as a notable exception, a diversion of the band’s trademark sound. The metal world as a whole was in disarray and being crushed under the boot of grunge. Many bands shifted focus to adapt to some degree, and even Overkill was not immune, and in that regard, I Hear Black is remarkably better than what many of their contemporaries were dishing out.
11. Under the Influence (1988)
I know it seems like blasphemy to have this ranked down here, but it had to go somewhere, and as it is the least of the band’s earliest efforts, this is the spot. Under the Influence features one of the band’s true classic anthems in “Hello from the Gutter” and gets a kick start from album opener “Shred.” After two classic albums to open its career, Overkill shifted to a somewhat mainstream thrash sound eschewing some of their hardcore/punk elements. The result makes for an album that appears to be trying a bit too hard to play with the big boys. Metal insecurity. It happens when you have a label and big names trying to push you in a certain direction. The production is lacking on most levels as well which didn’t help, and Blitz seemed a little unmoored vocally.