Monday, November 7, 2016
Begin: 7.30pm | Doors: 7pm
Location: Backstage Halle
Promoter: Backstage Concerts GmbH
Nobody opens their favorite beer and wonders what it will taste like.
Experimentation, stylistic departures, overtures toward the mainstream? That’s somebody else’s game. In a time before MTV’s abysmal “Jersey Shore” or HBO’s magnificent “The Sopranos,” New Jersey blessed the world with Overkill. A heavy metal institution established at the forefront of the burgeoning American thrash movement, with one boot in the gutter and one fist railing against the polish of lesser pretenders.
This year’s White Devil Armory is as vital, powerful, aggressive and melodic as any of the albums in Overkill’s ridiculously impressive back catalog, which stretches over 16 slabs of genre defining and redefining molten metal. The crunch is unmistakable. The voice is irreplaceable. Get less than a minute into White Devil Armory and it’s clear it’s Overkill. No pretense, no musical red herrings. This is tried and true, always trusted thrash metal.
“We don’t have an identity crisis,” declares frontman and metal lifer Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth. “We know what we are. We do this because we like it, first and foremost. We’re not sitting there thinking about what’s popular when we’re writing a song, we’re thinking about what kills. It’s not rocket science. It’s about action, rather than reaction.”
New Overkill bangers like thrastastic album opener, “Armory,” the punkish “Pig” and the signature-sound powered “Bitter Pill” pack as hard a punch as ever. White Devil Armory is focused, destructive and catchy as hell, demonstrating the full capacity of a group whose creative work ethic is evident as the new songs blast from the speakers. White Devil Armory continues the blue-collar band’s modern tradition of self-production, with mixing by The Electric Age’s Greg Reely (Fear Factory, Devin Townsend).
Nearly as ubiquitous at a metal show as Eddie, Snaggletooth or Vic Rattlehead, the batwinged-skull known simply as “Chaly” has adorned the backs of many denim vests around the world. And chances are, anybody with Overkill’s mascot on their jacket will proudly display the logos of bands like Destruction, Exodus, Kreator, Death Angel, Helloween and the Big 4 (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax) on their person, as well.
“I’m not just a contributor to that community, but a supporter of it as well,” Blitz confirms. “I can speak for the band when I say we’ve never drawn a line between the bands and the supporters. That’s part of the beauty of all of this and why I’ve been doing it for so long. Bottom line is that we like what we do. It’s not about wandering off to let my ‘artist’ batteries charge,” he adds, laughing. “I’d much rather talk to my buddies about the new Slayer song, drinking an imported beer on the hood of a Ford.”
The massive contribution of heavy metal partners in crime Bobby “Blitz” and bassist D.D. Verni, who cofounded Overkill the same year Ronald Reagan was elected President, is undeniable and remains unchallenged by those in the know. Overkill got going about a year before Slayer and Anthrax and a couple of years ahead of Metallica, and all of them pushed forward a new style of music drawing from NWOBHM, hard rock and punk. Dave Linsk (lead guitar) has dedicated the last 15 years to Overkill. Derek Tailer (guitar) came in just a couple years later. Ron Lipnicki (drums) followed in 2005.
Now more than 30 years into a formidable career filled with international acclaim and fueled by the unrelenting passion of a diehard fanbase, Overkill has not only stood the test of time – their modern creative output continues to shine. Overkill could easily make a career out of playing nothing but thrash classics like “Elimination,” “Rotten to the Core,” “In Union We Stand,” “Electro-Violence” and the Headbanger’s Ball staple, “Hello from the Gutter.” It’s a collection of anthems to make any band as green with envy as the Overkill logo. But the diehards and a new generation alike celebrate it all.
Right behind “Elimination,” the title track from 2010’s Ironbound and “Electric Rattlesnake” from 2012’s The Electric Age are the most downloaded Overkill songs on iTunes, with newer tracks like “Come and Get It” outpacing the longstanding hits, too.
“We’ve had success with more recent records, whether it’s Immortalis, Ironbound or The Electric Age. Those were accepted by the metal community at a high level,” Blitz confirms. “They want to hear ‘Skull and Bones’ or ‘Electric Rattlesnake’ from the newer stuff. I think that’s a strong testament to what Overkill means to this community.”
Overkill’s Power in Black demo hit the much-celebrated metal tape trading circuit in 1983, long before the Internet made music as accessible as water. Feel the Fire (1985) and Taking Over (1987) remain two of the most important releases in thrash metal music ever, with their major label debut,
Under the Influence (1988), raising Overkill’s profile to new heights. The Years of Decay (1989), the dark and heavy Horrorscope (1991) and the doomy I Hear Black (1993) followed in quick succession. W.F.O. (1994) was one of the most aggressive records of their career. There was no running for cover when grunge squashed so many metal bands, or when nü-metal tainted the sound.
Overkill remained true to themselves and the fans with The Killing Kind (1996), From the Underground and Below (1997), Necroshine (1999), Bloodletting (2000), Killbox 13 (2003), ReliXIV (2005), Immortalis (2007), Ironbound (2010) and The Electric Age (2012).
White Devil Armory cements that legacy. The album is a sonic high watermark and a stylistic crown resting atop the Overkill’s surging modern chapter, which sees the band continuing to tour for a worldwide crowd as they have for over 30 years alongside bands like Slayer, Motorhead, Megadeth, Testament, Death Angel, Nevermore and Jag Panzer.
“I think it was my niece who asked me recently, ‘What do you really do for a living? Are you a Rockstar?’” Blitz remembers with a devilish chuckle. “I told her, ‘I have spent 30 years of my life alienating the masses. That’s what I do. But I endear myself to a small minority. That small minority loves me and I love them. That’s how it works.”
Blitz lets out a big laugh. “I think she’s still at home going, ‘Hmm, I don’t get it!’”
Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth – Vocals
D.D. Verni – Bass, Backing Vocals
Dave Linsk – Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals Derek Tailer – Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals Ron Lipnicki – Drums