The first feature of the record to strike me is the tempo. After the relatively ferocious, if slightly disjointed, "Armorist" - which I suppose is sort of the title track - the record slowed down rather tangibly. For the most part, it isn't ponderous, but it definitely doesn't seem to hurtle along at a thousand miles per hour, as the last two records did. People out there will, in their more critical moments, probably play around with the idea of describing it as a groove-metal record, as much of the bands mid-career output was. While there's something to that, I'm not sure I'd go that far; there's still a bit more kick to it than a lot of those records, even though said kick-to-the-face which the album delivers is substantially less than the two before it. So far - and subsequent re-listens shall surely tell - the problem with White Devil Armory is not that it's a bad album, but that it exists in a musical purgatory; it's not a big enough step down to be disappointing, but not quite hitting the targets well enough to be satisfying; it shatters the invincible air which the band had, after Ironbound and the, by my reckoning, equally good Electric Age... indeed, it says a lot that the record is probably excellent by the standards of second-wind eighties thrash-bands - I doubt the Megadeths and Metallicas of this world could summon something this good at all. From Overkill, I think some will have been hoping for more.
Of course, it's easy - too easy - to simply say the album is missing something. What exactly is the problem? Answering that is the real meat of the review. White Devil Armory has plenty of catchy, near-classic Overkill moments - the playing remains tight, the production is relatively good, aside from a clicky, treble-heavy drums, and Bobby Blitz sounds as ferocious as ever, still commanding the vocal department with no sign of weakness. There are a few reasons which are potential candidates, however. Foremost, the lack of bite. It's odd, that while the sections themselves tend to have me without complaint - heck, there are some great riffs, even the slower ones - but the way they are arranged doesn't favour them. When the songs feel like they're really cruising along, exuding thrashy goodness to an Ironbound standard, they can grind to a halt and, almost arbitrarily, divert into a slower, mood-killing section which, as some tracks manage to show, need not be the case. The record has slow sections - slow songs even, which really work, in the way tracks like Necroshine did in days of old, but there are, likewise, plenty of slow sections which really jam a spanner in the works, curbing the energy and velocity of what could have been - at times, it feels like the whole songwriting process has grabbed a fist-full of solid sections and accidentally put them together badly. Attempts to describe the problem aside, after a paragraph of trying, it's still best described as an album which just isn't quite as good.
So, harking back to the introduction, how cheerful will my afternoon now be? I suspect reasonable. White Devil Armory isn't poor or abysmal - it's still a solid record, in fact, it's that very term above; reasonable. There's a line in the sand between disappointing and underwhelming, and I'm not disappointed. The album, however, is underwhelming - it's not part of a holy trinity of great releases, as I'd hoped, instead, it's the runt of the litter. Enjoyable and with hints of glory, for sure, but as the record draws to a close, I can't help but feel what I just listened to weighed in at "not bad", as opposed to "great".
This is a 7/10.
Overkill Official Site
Overkill on Facebook
Overkill on Metal Archives