A rare breed in the Speed/Thrash Metal genre, New Jersey’s Overkill have been plying their trade without interruption for over thirty years. Regardless of any changes in style, or inevitable personnel reshuffles, the band has always remained a constant force on the scene. Continue reading
I don’t know if Overkillness is a word? For sure this band very early on knew its identity. When you don’t have an identity crisis, you don’t have to worry about popularity, it’s more about doing what you want to do, and that works better. We grew up in the New York punk scene and then over from the British Isles came NWOBHM and we loved both equally, so we knew what we were. When you know what you are, and are having a good time doing it rather than worrying about who’s talking dirty about me, that’ s never been our approach to things; it becomes five handsome selfish bastards who enjoy each other’s company and would rather roll dice and play heavy metal than worry about our popularity.
On the middle-finger and Fuck You!
The middle finger is an attitude about moving ahead. When I spoke of us as managing the band (in part 1), it created huge opportunities. When other bands had to stop because they didn’t know how to do it different, for us we learned how to turn it into a positive cash flow and keep ourselves going. So there’s this whole other side of the coin about reinventing yourself to adapt to the situation. It was never a discussion about “This is impossible”. It was hard, but not impossible. But in there is our tenacity. This is what we like doing. We didn’t care about popularity. Who gives a fuck?! We work better as a unit. We work better as an explosion. Any discussion was every only about refuelling and going again.
On coming from New Jersey
I think that one of the things that we have in our favour. I’ve always thought this anyway, compared to rest of the States, the area I live in, there’s a fantastic work ethic in New Jersey. We were the people who picked up Manhattan’s garbage. Someone had to do it and we made sure the job was always done. People from Manhattan say “I’d never go to Jersey”, but when you come down to where you get the work done is over in New Jersey, and that’s something we’ve always carried with us. So my point is, we’re always writing. It’s not about sitting down and saying we need to assemble a record and going “I’ll get it to you in six months when I’ve finished driving my Lamborghini on a desert island with these six supermodels”. That’s not what’s happening. What’s happening is we’re knocking down houses, and we’re taking our swords and hammers out and we’re building it up, and that’s when we’re happiest.
On the fans
That is one of my favourite shows of all time that you’ve just mentioned (Dynamo 1999 was the first time I had my chops smacked by Overkill live – ST). On a personal level, because I met my wife at that show and on a professional level because I remember they lit up the porta-toilets by the time we were on. I can see them burning in the distance. I went to DD and said “Now THAT is heavy metal!”.
I do feel that this band has always been an extension of the audience. That’s what makes it accessible. We don’t take shit and we don’t kiss ass, and goddamit don’t cross us, but we have a good heart. We’re not bad asses or wild people, we know our product, and we like the people who listen to our product. Overkill has always had that intangible; when the band is actually fans of the fans it becomes a pretty good fucking relationship. This community that we both walk through is perfect for that, to both be accessible to each other.
On Social Media
I gotta great story… we released something in the states through eOne… I think it was Ironbound… and one of the guys goes to me “Who’s running the Twitter account”? And I said “Oh my god, we don’t even have a Twitter account” and he said “Sure you do and it’s really good!” So he gets in touch with the guy, so I sent him an email that just said “Hi, This is Bobby Blitz from Overkill” and that was it. So now he’s replying with all these apologies about fucking around and using the name and everything, so I said “you’re doing a helluva job and would you like to continue?” and we’ve become great friends since. He’s from Sheffield (UK) and he’d taken it upon himself because he saw a lack of our visibility there, and now he’s been doing so well for us for the last 3 records!
On why the Nuclear Blast albums are just so fucking good…
It’s a good chemistry first of all. This is the longest standing Overkill line-up too, bar none. We like each other. The last new member was Ron and he’s a wild horse. The beauty of the wild horse is you don’t saddle the fucking thing, you let him run free. He actually did Immortalis and if you start looking into that record, which is on the Historikill boxset, you can start seeing the change there, the change which was heading into Ironbound. And the change, I think, is directly related to Ron, you know. I think he added something to our formula, our council, that was missing. And he understood what he needed to do. He came in as the new guy, with all this fucking energy, us old dogs are looking at him going “Holy fuck, we gotta keep up with this young thing!” and it was a positive all round. To this day you cannot get Ron, Derek and Dave off the stage. They walk into a venue at noon and they start playing and they play all the way up to and through the soundcheck and then do the show. And this is the way they live their lives. They like being with each other. We like being with them. Ron’s a great drummer and he’s added to us and I think you get good results from all that.
On perpetuity and why the first seven won’t be re-released
It’s a good question… If you’re going to do a box, why not do it all? We knocked on those doors forever trying to get hold of that stuff. It’s called perpetuity and Atlantic Records owns that stuff forever. They call it “active product” even if they’re not producing any more copies. And they just want it. It’s about possession for them. And I think it’s probably a really good representation of what the music industry was before the download.
I can understand that people download shit because the music industry ripped them off forever. You obviously don’t want your bands to go away, you don’t want them to not be able to afford to do this, but big corporations are such hoarders that’s almost an impossibility to get those albums and get ownership back to release it. We tried, but it’s always been with the same result, which is failure.
On the next album
We always have plans. We meet in dark basements. Somebody lights a cigarette and then you see five faces appear! It’s fucking great!
So, we’re writing. We’re touring the US with Symphony X, still writing when we’re on the road. We’re looking to record some-when around May, but we’re going to do a UK run right before, which will be cool because we get a lot of attention and love from those islands, and we can’t wait to do that just before we record.
On being interviewed
My voice holds up well, you know! I’m trained. I’m a fucking professional! I could talk for two days about this, but you don’t want that!
Nah, it’s cool, I’m enjoying… it’s the typing this up that I’m not looking forward to…
(laughing) It always get boring from the 31st minute! We better end it now (laughs)…
On having the best laugh in metal
WORDS BY STEVE TOVEY
There are very few bands that are instantly recognisable and have their own “sound”. Even within the distinctive refrains of Thrash Metal, Overkill have always retained identity, honed and refined over 30 years. Yet when Nuclear Blast picked them up on a multi-album deal five years ago (the are on eOne in the USA) a few eyebrows were raised as, despite a W.F.O. (Atlantic) or From The Underground And Below (CMC), it had been over twenty years since the release of the bone fide classics of their canon, the seminal thrashmeister-pieces Feel The Fire, Taking Over, and Horrorscope (Megaforce).
Overkill started their recent run with Ironbound in 2009, an album that stands comfortably replete in hi-tops and leather jacket shoulder to shoulder with the best of the bands’ career. This was big dog reclaiming the yard stuff. Any concerns this return to form was a flash in the pan were quickly dispelled as the band, always a force live, backed up the acclaimed Ironbound tour by releasing its follow-up The Electric Age, which continued in the same vein. Overkill was more than back, and was more than flying.
White Devil Armory completes the hat-trick of belters, possibly outshining its two companions and proudly ranks among their stand-out releases. Alongside having two trademarks elements – DD Verni’s snarling metallic bass growl and Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth’s unmatched nasal spit – one of the key aspects to the East Coast thrashers’ sound has always been their ability to marry aggressive thrash with melody and to produce memorable anthems. From the opener, the gut-punch pummelling ‘Armorist’, to the closing epic chug of ‘In The Name’, that is what you get. Aggressive staccato riffs welded into memorable, powerful thrash tunes, tunes with the vibrancy and commitment of the bands earlier days, but the muscle and know-how of seasoned veterans. These guys know how to get it done, and the win is what matters.
Whether that’s pulling out a manic, catchy chorus in track three ‘Down To The Bone’ and dovetailing that with some choice ‘Use Your Head’ riffage, or reprising the punk/hardcore battery of ‘The SRC’ with the face-smashing ‘Pig’, the consistency and delivery is high-level throughout. The darker stomp of ‘Bitter Pill’, all channelled hammer-to-anvil, leads into stand-out rager ‘Where There’s Smoke…’, a heads-down-see-you-at-the-end opening that hurtles out of the blocks and runs headlong into a trademark Blitz snarl, before seguing into a grooving, juddering mid-section. Any fears of the album petering out are laid to rest by a closing trio of ‘King Of The Rat Bastards’, a classic Overkill slam-dunk mix of the hook and the heavy, the neck-snapping tightness of ‘It’s All Yours’ and finale ‘In The Name’, an Overkill closer in the tradition of an ‘Overkill II (The Nightmare Continues)’, bring matters to a conclusion with its studded-wristband-pumping call-and-answer.
White Devil Armory presents a band at the top of its game. Health issues seemingly long behind him, Blitz personifies this, producing a performance of vigour and confidence, nailing and owning as you’d expect. He brings to the table an assurance in delivery as he knows, even 30 years on, no one does it like he does. He is the boss. This asserted presence filters across and applies to all parties. Guitar twins Dave Linsk and Derek “The Skull” Tailer have partnered each other for over a decade now and with seamless self-assurance bring the riffs, the finger-flurrying solos and the structured melodic links. Elsewhere DD Verni shows off his skills, bass runs filtering through the mix at appropriate times, while Ron Lipnicki is the perfect backbone, punishing when needed, able to groove when required, but at all times driving everything, and releasing the reigns when it’s time for the powersurge.
It may be patronising to say, but to maintain this level of quality, consistency, force and vitality at their age and this deep into their career is testament (sic) to the professionalism and ability of all involved with Overkill, but above all to the passion within the band to keep producing the very best of thrash. Thrash may have come and gone and come back and gone again, with very few of their contemporaries surviving, but when Overkill decreed “We are strong, We will always be” back in 1987 (‘In Union We Stand’) they uttered a statement that sums up their career. This is no Indian summer; White Devil Armory is simply Overkill doing what Overkill do best.