Wednesday, September 24, 2014

N.W.O.B.H.M. Wednesday: Overdrive-The Final Nightmare

Pure Rock Records

Grantham, England's Overdrive (who should not be confused with the numerous other bands which have adopted that very same moniker!) are a cult N.W.O.B.H.M/heavy metal band that has been active on and off since 1977. Original formed by lead guitarist Tracey Abbott and percussionist/second vocalist Neil "Mad Dog" Streets (percussion and 2nd vocals), with bassist/vocalist Ian Hamilton and rhythm guitarist Paul Garner rounding out the initial line-up, Overdrive would release a demo in 1978 before following that up in 1981 with the three track single, "On the Run". By that point in time Neil "Mad Dog" Streets was gone* and the band had welcomed in lead singer Steve Farmer**. Unfortunately it would be some seven years later before Overdrive would release another recording (a limited-edition two-track cassette demo), but that recording merely paved the way for the group's 1990 full-length debut album, "Dishonest Words". Since then Overdrive has been fairly active with several studio albums, a 2004 live album and a 2007 compilation preceding "The Final Nightmare". The band's first full-length LP since 2006's "Three Corners to Nowhere",  "The Final Nightmare" is (admittedly) also the first full-length album that I have heard from this classic hard rock/heavy metal-infused five piece although I am well-aware of the group's excellent "On the Run" single! And the reason that I bring up that single is quite simple. Other then time (and the gradual appearance of grey hair and/or disappearance of long hair) not much has changed for this long-standing English metal band. Sure, "The Final Nightmare" finds Overdrive welcoming new lead vocalist David Poulter*** to the fold, but otherwise we are talking about a band that still features Tracey Abbott on guitars and Ian "Scratch" Padgett on drums and has seen the return of bassist/vocalist Ian Hamilton! Even keyboardist/vocalist Tim Hall (who wins extra points for wearing a Motörhead t-shirt in this picture taken from the Metal Archives!) has previous ties to the group!
Tim Hall (whose exquisite Hammond/keyboard solos give this album a cool Deep Purple/Rainbow vibe!) played on the group's last studio album ("Three Corners to Nowhere") so we're looking at a band with a fairly consistent line-up. Move past the line-up part though and we're still talking about a band that (musically at least) that hasn't changed that much other than aging gracefully. What I love best about the group's latest album is how much Overdrive still sounds like that same N.W.O.B.H.M./traditional heavy metal band that blew me away with "On the Run" while showcasing the obvious signs of growth. Overdrive has matured into a slick sounding classic metal band and one that understands the advantages of modern day studios. Each and every instrument present here on "The Final Nightmare" (and yes, we're going to include vocalist David Poulter in this category!) is effectively punctuated so that no one person shines brighter than the next! In other words every instrument has been fine-tuned so that it all gels together while simultaneously providing plenty of punch! But, here's the really cool thing about "The Final Nightmare". Despite all of the modern touches Overdrive's latest album (and first for Pure Rock Records!) feels authentic. "The Final Nightmare" plays like a classic heavy metal treasure and gives off this wonderful vibe of a long lost gem that has been rediscovered and re-released. And Overdrive does all of that without sounding outdated or as if they are simply trying to relive past glorious! For fans of Overdrive this album must feel like a gift from the metal Gods themselves! Whether that includes you or not "The Final Nightmare" is still well worth the price of admission as this is just about as good as it gets when you are talking about N.W.O.B.H.M./traditional heavy metal. All I can say is how sorry I am for not paying attention to the rest of Overdrive's career as this is one cult metal band that has blossomed into something amazing!

*Long-time member Ian "Scratch" Padgett replaced Streets.

**Along with drummer Ian "Scratch" Padgett one of Steve Farmer's finer moments was the "Lady of the Night" single in 1980. Released by N.W.O.B.H.M. band Marz, "Lady of the Night" is one hell of a catchy single.Sadly it's also one of the few numbers recorded by this apparently short-lived act.

***I'm not sure where they found this guy, but as the promo material justify points out he sounds remarkably similar to Saxon front man Biff Byford! That is by no means a bad thing. If anything it's just curious as Overdrive appears to be his first band making one wonder why it took this long for someone to notice just how good this guy is?

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