Overkill + Xentrix + Shrapnel
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
Overkill is synonymous with power, precision and perseverance. Across three decades, the pioneering powerhouse has shaped, refined and steadily broadened a determined style of blue collar power metal, soaring melodic hard rock and genre-defining thrash built from steadfast, muscular pulls at their own proverbial bootstraps. Overkill continues to power ahead through the changing musical landscape, trends be damned, and has delivered an incisively supercharged and ridiculously energized new landmark in the form of The Electric Age.
“Overkill has never had an identity crisis. We know who we are and to chase something else would just kill the purity,” says vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth. “This is who we are, love it or hate it.”
New tracks like album opener “Come and Get It,” “Black Daze” and “Old Wounds, New Scars” brim with the attitude and passion of a band at the top of their game, with Ellsworth’s signature vocals rising to the top alongside the steady rhythmic backbone of fellow band co-founder, bassist and chief songwriter D.D. Verni, whose very own GEAR Studios once again served as the gestation location where the long-running New Jersey legends incubated their latest recorded beast.
Dave Linsk, lead guitarist for Overkill since 1999, ratchets up his signature shredding to uncharted levels alongside rhythm guitarist Derek Tailer. Ron Lipnicki fashions drum parts that always serve the songs first and foremost while tastefully displaying his formidable prowess behind the kit simultaneously.
“We have a formula and that formula has worked for us for many years,” Ellsworth explains of the writing and recording process Overkill has perfected. “It’s really a balance between trading files back and forth across the ‘net but also being in the same room. D.D. starts with a riff and then it develops over time. When the riff comes, the riff comes. The actual sit down writing process was about eight months. It was getting the drums together, getting the boys together in the room, making riffs into songs, changing arrangements and seeing how it develops. How technology helps that is that you can do a WAV file from New Jersey to Florida – where Dave is – if he’s not in the room. Songs can always be worked on even if you’re not in the studio or together. So it’s a combination of both.”
The Electric Age serves as an instant reminder as to why Overkill is held in high regard the world over as one of the pioneering thrash metal bands. Overkill’s Years of Decay was recently inducted into Decibel Magazine’s lofty “Hall Of Fame” alongside similarly influential metal masterworks like Slayer’s Reign in Blood, Anthrax’s Among the Living and Metallica’s …And Justice for All. And truth be told, Overkill has maintained a level of excellence and consistency across their entire catalog that knows few rivals in any genre.
Ellsworth and Verni comprise one of the great songwriting and band leader partnerships in metal, or any genre. Hetfield / Ulrich, Mustaine / Ellefson, even Page / Plant of Lennon / McCartney come to mind when fans think about the New Jersey duo who have been working together in Overkill since 1980.
“The whole songwriting and business aspect works for D.D. and myself because there’s a whole other level of relationship here that’s first,” Blitz points out. We’re these guys from this area who really kind of had the same background, brought up the same, became really good friends and have now done this together for a long period of time. We didn’t know that when we were starting our friendship, but as time goes on you kind of get that goal. We’ve both got that sideways Jersey smile, like we’ve got a secret that everybody else doesn’t know. We’re friends before we’re business partners. That’s the simplicity in this.”
That transcendent friendship is what allows the creativity to flow in a productive manner within Overkill. “It works because friends compromise with each other; friends listen, that’s why it kind of works with us. It’s really unique to have a business relationship for this amount of time with as much fun as it is and it’s just as unique, if not more unique to have a close friendship for this amount of time. We went through member changes and as those member changes started happening I think D.D. and I became closer through these things.”
Blitz says the tenacity he shares with Verni has ensured Overkill’s longevity. “It won’t stop because somebody leaves. It’s going to be because we want it to stop or the public doesn’t want this anymore. That’s how it works with D.D. and I. I suppose I take it for granted sometimes, but when push comes to shove, out of the studio comes The Electric Age. When someone asks me, ‘How’s your relationship with D.D.?’ I say, ‘Press play! I guess it’s pretty good!’”
Overkill’s signature mascot, Chaly (a green eyed skull with bat wings), is as widely recognized amongst hardcore metal fans as Iron Maiden’s Eddie or Megadeth’s Vic Rattlehead. The band’s attention to detail, from their stage show to their signature logo, has been at the forefront since their earliest rumblings. The Power in Black demo in 1983 announced the band’s arrival to the underground tape trading network, followed by and eponymous EP and their blazingly monumental duo of albums Feel the Fire (1985) and Taking Over (1987) on Megaforce Records. Overkill was one of a handful of their contemporaries to earn the opportunity to sign with a major label in the late ’80s, making a slew of critically acclaimed and fan favorite records for Atlantic, beginning with 1988′s Under the Influence.
Brilliantly prolific at a breakneck pace, Overkill unleashed the wildly popular Years of Decay (1989); the incredibly dark and heavy Horrorscope (1991); the more hard rock infused I Hear Black (1993), which debuted at #122 on the Billboard 200; the self-produced, balls out thrash album W.F.O. (1994) – all in fairly quick succession and all while operating as an international touring force.
While many of their contemporaries ran and hid during the onslaught of grunge or tried to adapt to nu-metal later on, Overkill continued to create albums throughout the ’90s that honored their fans, their legacy and themselves while continuing to progress. The Killing Kind (1996), From the Underground and Below (1997) and Necroshine (1999) saw release through different labels but maintained the level of consistency and excellence fans have rightly come to expect and appreciate from Overkill.
Bloodletting (2000) kicked off the new millennium for the band with force, followed by Killbox 13 (2003), ReliXIV (2005) and Immortals (2007). Ironbound was immediately embraced by fans upon its release in 2010, generating yet another resurgence of interest and support of Overkill’s tremendous firepower that created a momentum that’s carried over to The Electric Age. With the monumental Big 4 shows and the overall resurgence of a style Overkill helped pioneer, the timing is perfect for a record of this caliber.
“There’s this whole general feeling that thrash has value again and I think that’s because there’s a purity in thrash that is not always carried through other genres, including other genres of metal,” Blitz reasons. “It’s also been celebrated now for a ten-year period by younger bands, which you can’t even say they take ‘influence’ from the 80s, they are the 80s!” he continues. “They’ve just taken themselves out of the present day and tried to place themselves into the 80s. Not even with just sounds but as far as they dress. I could have made thousands of dollars if I had saved all those white hi-tops I had back in the 80s and sold them on eBay. I think that celebration is a good thing. It’s given the genre an opportunity to expand because young bands bring in young fans. As a band, we always make sure we take out some young bands with us.”
Overkill has perfected a stage presence and live presentation through years of performing at all levels of the live environment, touring with a diverse group of metal bands including Slayer, and Motorhead and headlining their own Killfest outings.
Overkill has continued to thrive by always making the best of their opportunities, which can be traced back to their East Coast upbringings. They have maintained a work ethic that pushes them forward through the good times and bad. “When an opportunity presents itself, we choke the crap out of it,” Blitz laughs.
They continue to enter the studio with a competitive mindset. The appearance of The Electric Age is yet another opportunity for Overkill to playfully proclaim: “hey, beat this!” to their peers. It’s the same spirit of healthy competition that created many landmark albums in the scene back in the day. While Blitz points out that the album isn’t a “reinvention of the wheel,” everyone who heard it from the moment of its completion noticed an energy and a certain spark, throughout.
“For some reason there’s something about it that’s really special,” Blitz says. Part of that lies in the fact that while The Electric Age is fast and energetic, it’s equally full of memorable hooks. It’s the type of Overkill album that has listeners singing along almost instantaneously.
Despite the rising tides and crashing waves of the various stylistic trends in metal and shifting sands of the entire configuration of the music business, Overkill has stood tall and continued to be something each of the guys enjoy doing. “I work with good people and I suppose the bottom line is I’m still excited about doing what we do best,” Ellsworth says. “And what we do best is Overkill.”