Overkill performing at Metalmania 2008.
|Origin||Old Bridge Township, New Jersey, U.S.|
|Members||D. D. Verni
Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth
Overkill is an American thrash metal band, formed in 1980 in New Jersey. They have gone through many line-up changes, leaving bassist D. D. Verni and lead vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth as the only constant members. In addition to Verni and Ellsworth, Overkill's current lineup includes Dave Linsk on lead guitar, Derek Tailer on rhythm guitar and Jason Bittner on drums. Along with Anthrax, whose one-time lead guitarist Dan Spitz was also an early member of Overkill, the band is one of the most successful East Coast thrash metal bands, and they are often called "the Motrhead of thrash metal". The band has a notable mascot named "Chaly", a skeletal bat with a skull-like face, horns, bony wings and green eyes, who has appeared on most of their album covers.
To date, Overkill has released eighteen studio albums, one album of cover songs, three EPs and three live albums. They were one of the early thrash metal bands to sign to a major label (Atlantic Records in 1986), and rose to fame as part of the genre's movement of the late 1980s, along with bands such as Anthrax, Exodus, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Testament. Overkill first reached substantial commercial success with their second studio album and Atlantic debut, Taking Over (1987), which peaked at number 191 on the Billboard 200. The band's next five studio albums--Under the Influence (1988), The Years of Decay (1989), Horrorscope (1991), I Hear Black (1993) and W.F.O. (1994)--were also successful on the Billboard charts, with the latter two cracking the top ten on the Top Heatseekers chart. After their split from Atlantic in 1995, Overkill went through some label changes, but continued to enjoy moderate underground success, particularly in Europe and Japan. The band experienced a resurgence of popularity in their home country during the 2010s, with three of their studio albums released that decade--The Electric Age (2012), White Devil Armory (2014) and The Grinding Wheel (2017)--reaching the top 100 on the charts. As of 2006, Overkill has sold over 625,000 albums in the U.S. since the beginning of the SoundScan era, and over 16 million records worldwide as of 2012.
Overkill was formed in 1980 from the ashes of the punk band "The Lubricunts", featuring bassist D. D. Verni and drummer Rat Skates. Verni and Skates placed an ad looking for a guitarist and lead singer which was answered by guitarist Robert Pisarek and singer Bobby Ellsworth and the first incarnation of Overkill was formed.
Early covers, especially those done under the "Virgin Killers" name, were punk songs by Connor Neeson, The Ramones, Aron mc Garrigle, The Dead Boys and others. By late 1980, the setlist was made up of songs by bands such as Motrhead's ("Overkill", half of the Ace of Spades album), Judas Priest ("Tyrant" was their closer), and Riot. Along with the new influx of heavy metal covers, the band still played a smattering of punk covers, with extra distortion, intensity, and speed.
In 1981, the band went through a succession of guitarists after Robert Pisarek left, first being replaced by Dan Spitz and Anthony Ammendola, then Rich Conte and Mike Sherry, before settling with Bobby Gustafson in late 1982/early 1983.
At this point, the band started writing original songs, including "Grave Robbers" (later renamed "Raise the Dead"), "Overkill", and "Unleash the Beast (Within)". More songs would follow, including "Death Rider" (1981) and "Rotten to the Core" (1982).
The band became a staple at New York and New Jersey clubs, such as L'Amours.
Verni gave Ellsworth the nickname "Blitz" due to his over-the-top lifestyle.
In 1983, the lineup of Verni, Skates, Ellsworth, and Gustafson released the Power in Black demo, a recording that made as much impact in the underground tape trading circuit as demos by up-and-coming Bay area thrash bands like Exodus and Testament.
Power in Black gained the band two compilation appearances. "Feel the Fire" was included on New York Metal '84 and "Death Rider" appeared on volume V of the legendary Metal Massacre series.
The band was also able to secure a small recording deal with Azra/Metal Storm Records that resulted in the 1985 four track EP Overkill, that quickly sold out, instantly pushing the band to the forefront of the fledgling thrash metal movement.
Though it is said that the band never saw any money from the release, the Overkill EP garnered the band massive underground interest, and the attention of Jon Zazula, the owner of Megaforce Records, one of the most prominent independent heavy metal record labels at the time.
Megaforce signed Overkill to a new multi-album record contract and released their full-length debut album Feel the Fire in 1985. Hailed by many critics and fans as a thrash metal masterpiece, the album cemented the band's position as one of the driving forces of the East Coast thrash movement.
The band spent the better part of 1985 and 1986 touring in support of Feel the Fire, touring Europe with Anthrax and Agent Steel, and supporting Slayer on their Reign in Blood tour in North America.
1987 marked the release of Overkill's second album Taking Over, the first to be released by Megaforce in cooperation with the major label Atlantic Records. The album featured improved song writing and production and had a somewhat more epic style, showcased in such songs as the anthemic "In Union We Stand". The song was chosen to be Overkill's first music video, used to promote the band through the booming new medium of music television. Another European tour followed, this time opening for Helloween. Overkill also opened for Megadeth on their Peace Sells in North America, and toured with the likes of Testament and Nuclear Assault.
1987 also saw the departure of drummer Rat Skates. He was replaced by Mark Achabal for a few gigs, then on a permanent basis by European drummer Bob "Sid" Falck, formerly of Paul Di'Anno's Battlezone.
Overkill released the follow-up to Taking Over, the aptly titled Under the Influence, in 1988. Once again produced by Alex Perialas, Under the Influence was much more raw and thrashy, lacking most of the grand and epic atmosphere of its predecessor. Suffering from rushed writing and production, the album is often regarded as a snapshot and a step backwards for the band. The song "Hello from the Gutter" was released as a single, and the music video gained regular airplay on MTV's Headbangers Ball. Overkill kept up constant touring all over the world, furthering their reputation as one of the most active live metal bands.
Overkill released their breakthrough album The Years of Decay in 1989. Produced by Terry Date (Pantera, White Zombie and Soundgarden), the album featured the band's best production quality value to date, mixed the raw approach of Under the Influence with more complex song structures and epic elements of Taking Over, resulting in a more serious atmosphere and longer songs, including the eight-minute title track and the ten-minute "Playing With Spiders/Skullkrusher." The uptempo thrasher "Elimination" was released as a single and the music video again received regular airplay on MTV's Headbangers Ball. The song became a fan favorite and has been played live at almost every show since its release. Overkill toured for almost a year in support of The Years of Decay with several bands, such as Testament, Wolfsbane, Dark Angel, Vio-Lence, Mordred and Death Angel.
In 1990, guitarist and songwriter Bobby Gustafson left the band. Verni and Gustafson had long locked horns over the direction of the band, with Blitz siding with Verni, and asking Gustafson to leave Overkill. Gustafson has stated that one of the reasons for his split with Overkill was due to royalty disagreements, which contributed to his feud with Verni and Ellsworth. The remaining members added two new guitarists to the band; Rob Cannavino, who had been Gustafson's guitar technician, and Merritt Gant.
The "new" Overkill recorded their fifth album Horrorscope, again with Terry Date, in 1991. Featuring the furious riffs and trade-off solos of new guitarists Cannavino and Gant, and the refined songwriting of Verni and Ellsworth, Horrorscope quickly silenced fan fears that the loss of a chief songwriter would ruin the band. Today, the album is widely regarded as one of Overkill's defining moments and is arguably their heaviest release. Focusing on a darker, heavier style, the album spawned the doomy single "Horrorscope", a departure from the band's earlier singles, which had traditionally been uptempo songs. The band continued to tour constantly, fully cementing their reputation as one of the premier live bands of the genre.
In 1992, during the Horrorscope tour, Sid Falck left the band. Admittedly never a big fan of thrash metal music, Sid said that he had initially wanted to push his drumming to the limit by playing the most complex type of music (of the era), and in time he decided to pursue other musical interests.
Falck was replaced by M.O.D. drummer Tim Mallare, with whom the 1993 album I Hear Black was recorded. Produced by Alex Perialas (who by then had worked with Anthrax and Testament), I Hear Black was the first Overkill album released directly through Atlantic Records. The album once again presented a change in style, from the heavy thrash of Horrorscope to a more stoner/blues rock-oriented style influenced by Black Sabbath. The eclectic nature of the album is often attributed to the fact that many different songwriters were involved. Verni and Ellsworth would handle most of the song writing themselves on subsequent albums, with only minor contributions from the other members. A music video was shot for "Spiritual Void" but failed to receive much airplay. The European leg of the 1993 "World Of Hurt Tour" featured Savatage and Non-Fiction as support acts.
Overkill's self-produced seventh album W.F.O. (which stands for "Wide Fuckin' Open", a common biker term) was released on July 15, 1994 as an answer to the criticism that I Hear Black had received. The album presented a fast, heads-down, old school thrash metal style without any of the experimental elements present on the previous record. The music video for "Fast Junkie" was widely ignored by MTV, due to changing mainstream tastes and limited airplay availability for metal bands. Overkill continued to have bigger success overseas, mounting an extensive European tour in the fall, supported by Jag Panzer and Massacra.
With grunge dominating the airwaves in the US, and many heavy metal radio stations changing formats, W.F.O. failed to find an audience and in 1995 Overkill left Atlantic Records. Overkill were happy to leave the mainstream label, where they felt they received little or no attention and signed to different record companies around the world (CMC International in the US).
A March 1995 show, once again in Cleveland, Ohio, was recorded for Overkill's first full-length live album, a 100-minute double CD entitled Wrecking Your Neck. The album was released in April 1995, with the first pressing featuring a bonus CD containing the Overkill EP that had been out of print for ten years. A music video for the song "Bastard Nation" taken from Wrecking Your Neck was also released, but again failed to receive airplay in the US.
Late in 1995, both Cannavino and Gant decided to leave the band; Rob Cannavino to focus on motorcycle racing, and Merritt Gant to spend more time with his family. To everyone's surprise, Overkill then hired Joe Comeau, former singer of Liege Lord (now playing guitar). Comeau brought along former Anvil guitarist Sebastian Marino, with whom he had worked in the past. The new line up recorded The Killing Kind in 1996, again self-produced and mixed by Chris Tsangarides (Judas Priest). While staying well within the thrash genre, the album was a departure from its predecessor's more traditional thrash metal style and featured many modern elements such as Hardcore, while the vocals showed influences from a broad spectrum of music. As Comeau was also a singer, backing vocals on The Killing Kind and subsequent albums were more elaborate and frequent than before, adding another element to the band's sound. Press response to The Killing Kind was very positive, but the album remains a hotly contested topic among the band's audience, with some longtime fans resistant to the new modern elements, and others hailing The Killing Kind as one of the band's finest moments.
Overkill toured Europe twice in support of The Killing Kind first in February 1996 with Megora and Accuer, and then again in November with Anvil and Stahlhammer. In the summer of 1996, Overkill appeared on Volume 2 of Century Media's "Legends Of Metal - A Tribute To Judas Priest" compilation, to which they contributed 'Tyrant', heavily adapted to the band's own style.
In summer 1997, the band released !!!Fuck You!!! and Then Some. The album included the !!!Fuck You!!! EP, which had been out of print for some years, along with the classic Overkill EP and two live tracks from a 1990 promo single. October of the same year saw the release of the ninth Overkill studio album, titled From The Underground And Below. This record retained some of the modern influences from The Killing Kind, while also reincorporating elements from the band's earlier efforts. Some songs on From The Underground And Below, including "Save Me", even had a slight industrial metal sound to them. Reportedly a video for the track "Long Time Dyin'" was shot, but received no television exposure. In 1998, once again the band opted to tour only Europe in support of the album, hitting the road with Nevermore, Angel Dust and Nocturnal Rites.
In 1998, Ellsworth was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of nose cancer and underwent immediate surgery, stopping the cancer before it spread. After his recovery, the band started work on their tenth studio album. The self-produced Necroshine was released in February 1999, making Overkill the first thrash metal band ever to release ten full-length studio albums (Other first wave thrash bands, such as Sodom or Kreator would not achieve this milestone until two years later). While once again quite different from the previous records and musically not considered "classic" Overkill, the album was vocally even more experimental than The Killing Kind, and was well received by fans and critics alike.
Before the release of Necroshine, Sebastian Marino left Overkill to spend more time with his family. He was replaced by Dave Linsk from the New Jersey hardcore/thrash metal band Anger On Anger. A two-week European trip in June was arranged to fill the gap between appearances at the Dynamo and With Full Force festivals.
September 1999 saw the release of Coverkill, an album consisting entirely of cover versions from bands that were especially influential to Overkill, such as Black Sabbath (featured three times), Kiss, Motrhead, Manowar, and The Ramones. Some of the tracks had been previously available on compilations or as bonus tracks, but others had been shelved for years (the earliest recording was from the Under the Influence sessions) or were recorded immediately prior to the album's release. A full European tour in support of both Necroshine and Coverkill took place in February 2000, as Overkill co-headlined with Canadian thrash metal band Annihilator, with the German band Dew-Scented in the opening slot.
During the European tour, Annihilator fired their lead singer Randy Rampage due to his disruptive behavior. A few months later, Joe Comeau was confirmed as his replacement, effectively ending his tenure with Overkill. The band returned to the studio, this time as a four-piece, and in the fall of 2000, released Bloodletting. Once again produced by the band, and mixed this time by Colin Richardson.
November of the same year saw the band again touring Europe as a special guest of Halford's "Resurrection" world tour. Since Overkill had not found a new rhythm guitarist yet, Comeau joined on a temporary basis for the tour. For the last couple of shows, the band also utilized another session musician. With D.D. Verni's wife about to give birth to their second child, Verni was to miss a week or two of shows and needed a fill-in. Derek Tailer of Dee Snider's band S.M.F was asked to do the job. In 2002, Tailer was announced as a permanent member of Overkill, although not on bass, but filling the vacant rhythm guitarist position.
After taking a break, Overkill resurfaced in 2002 with Wrecking Everything, their second full-length live album, recorded at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The album contained only songs that had not been on Wrecking Your Neck, some simply because they were released on later albums, but also a few early songs from albums such as Taking Over and Under the Influence. The same show was used for Overkill's first ever DVD, Wrecking Everything - An Evening in Asbury Park, also released in 2002.
The European tour in June 2002, supporting both Bloodletting and Wrecking Everything saw Blaze and Wicked Mystic opening up for Overkill. During the second to last show of the tour in Nuremberg, Germany, Blitz suffered a stroke on stage and collapsed. For nearly three days, rumors ran rampant, reporting everything from Blitz being in a coma, permanently paralyzed, or even that Blitz had died. Finally, three days later, the band announced that the stroke was very minor and had no lasting consequences, as well as no cause that could be determined by the doctors.
Overkill signed to Spitfire Records and entered the studio in late 2002 to record their next studio album, Killbox 13. Produced by the band and Colin Richardson and released in March 2003, the album was actually only their twelfth regular studio album, but the Overkill EP was also counted to achieve the number 13. The album received critical acclaim, combining the "new" Overkill with their raw early style as presented on the debut album Feel the Fire. Touring for the album included a number of European festivals during the summer, and a full European tour followed in November with Seven Witches and After All. The band played without Derek Tailer, who was absent for undisclosed reasons. Nobody was hired to fill in for him, so Overkill toured as a four-piece for the first time since 1990. Tailer was still considered a full member of the band.
In late 2004, after a Japanese tour with Death Angel and Flotsam and Jetsam, the band started work on another record in D. D. Verni's own recording studio. The album, ReliXIV, was produced and mixed by the band themselves and released in March 2005.
Overkill toured the eastern US in April 2005, and just before they went on a European tour in May, it was announced that Tim Mallare would not take part in this tour. Replacing him for the tour was former Hades drummer Ron Lipnicki. A few weeks later, the band announced that Mallare had left permanently and Lipnicki was his replacement. In the summer of 2005, Overkill organized their first US west coast tour in more than ten years, playing Western Canada to Southern California. The tour was such a success that the band was added to the 2006 Gigantour bill, as second stage headliners, marking Overkill's first nationwide US tour since 1994.
Now with the Bodog Music label, the band rejoined forces with Jonny and Marsha Zazula, previous owners of Megaforce Records, who are now part of the Bodog Team in the United States. Overkill released its 15th studio album, Immortalis, on October 9, 2007. The album featured the lineup of founders Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth and D. D. Verni, guitarists Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer, and new drummer Ron Lipnicki. Lamb of God vocalist Randy Blythe contributed vocals on the song "Skull and Bones".
On October 30, 2009, it was reported that Overkill had inked a multi-album deal with Nuclear Blast Records. The band's next album, Ironbound--which is described as a true "thrashter-piece"--was released on February 9, 2010. The band happened to be playing at Times Square in New York City on May 1, 2010, as part of their Ironbound tour when someone nearby attempted unsuccessfully to blow a car up using fireworks. The show proceeded without interruption, but some ticket holders arriving late were prevented from entering the theater by police responding to the incident.
In July 2011, Overkill began demoing six songs and were planning to begin recording a new album in October for an early 2012 release. The resulting album, The Electric Age, was released on March 27, 2012. In 2013, Overkill embarked on The Dark Roots of Thrash tour of North America, headlined by labelmates Testament along with Flotsam and Jetsam, and 4Arm. However, they canceled their February 15 show in Huntington at The Paramount Theatre due to singer Bobby "Blitz" being diagnosed with "walking pneumonia". On February 18, Overkill officially dropped out of the Dark Roots of Thrash tour as Blitz's condition had gotten slightly worse after the show in Worcester, Massachusetts.
On August 31, 2013, Overkill entered Gear Recording on to begin recording their seventeenth studio album. The album was going to be released on March 7, 2014. On January 14, however, it was announced that the album was postponed to July. On March 15, it was revealed that the new album was going to be titled White Devil Armory. After some delays, White Devil Armory was finally released on July 22, 2014. The album was their most successful; it peaked at #31 on the Billboard 200, making it Overkill's highest chart position so far.
On November 5, 2015, it was announced that Overkill would play a special show on April 16, 2016 in Oberhausen where they played Feel the Fire and Horrorscope albums in their entirety. The show was professionally filmed and recorded for the DVDLive in Overhausen, which was released on May 18, 2018.
Overkill released a box set, titled Historikill: 1995-2007, on October 16, 2015. To support the box set, Overkill embarked on a North American tour with Symphony X in September-October 2015, and a UK tour in April 2016. In a September 2015 interview, Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth revealed that Overkill had begun writing their eighteenth studio album, and by March 2016, they had "fully demoed" eleven songs for it. Ellsworth said in a March 2016 interview that Overkill would begin recording the album in early May for an October release. On April 16, 2017, the band announced that their drummer Ron Lipnicki would miss the European tour due to a family emergency, and that he would be replace by Eddy Garcia, which was later confirmed to be a "personal issue" from Lipnicki. On August 13, 2016, The Grinding Wheel was announced as the name of the album, and Ellsworth said that the band was "looking for a first-week-of-November release"; however, the album's release date was pushed back to February 10, 2017. To support the album, Overkill toured North America with Nile, and supported former Sepultura members Max and Igor Cavalera in Europe on the Return to Roots tour. They also headlined the 2017 edition of the Metal Alliance Tour, supported by Crowbar, Havok, Black Fast and Invidia.
On February 9, 2018, Overkill announced that they were in the studio working on demos for their nineteenth studio album. Pre-production of the album began that April, and according to Ellsworth, it is expected to be released in February 2019.
Though less popular than larger bands of the same genre, Overkill is one of the oldest thrash metal bands performing today. Despite the fact that their debut album was not released until 1985, Overkill's beginnings predate the formation of all of the "Big Four" of thrash metal bands (Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer) by at least one year. After the band's inception, as time passed and Overkill began creating more music alongside its quickly-growing competitors, it became known for its fast and heavy style. The band's music lacked enough variety to rival the names of the "Big Four", but Overkill maintained its unique sound unwaveringly throughout its career instead of trying to gain popularity with a more commercial style. Overkill has been viewed as one of the most important thrash bands from the East Coast.
Along with Exodus and Testament, Overkill has been the subject of which thrash metal band should be included in an expanded "Big Four". Asked in September 2014 about the idea of either Overkill, Exodus or Testament being included in the "Big Five" of thrash metal, frontman Bobby Ellsworth replied, "Aw man, that's gonna put me in a corner! We measure our success in days, not dollars! But maybe you can find the answer in what I'm going to say. When [playing thrash metal] became harder in the '90s with grunge music, we never had a question about if we would stop doing it and go work for our moms and dads or something. We just needed to make it happen. We weren't going to let grunge stop us. And if it did, we'd just go back to the underground. I liked it there anyway!" Commenting on the fact that Overkill never became part of the "Big Four", Ellsworth stated, "When it comes to being selected and not selected, that's a simple accounting issue. When you talk numbers, numbers make the world go around, numbers put food on your table, and numbers put the 'Big Four' in arenas. And they sell enough records to do that. For me, it's not a concern. To even be asked the question from you is quite a compliment with regard to, let's say, our longevity or tenacity doing what we like doing. But this is quite simply an accounting issue. He who sells the most gets the pole positions."
Overkill's sound has had an impact on the genre of thrash metal. Their technique draws on bits and pieces of punk and hard rock as well as NWOBHM. These elements blend to create a fast, aggressive style unique to the band and make Overkill's sound easily recognizable to metal fans; as a result, they have been referred to as "the Motrhead of thrash metal". The band's influences include Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motrhead, the Ramones, the Sex Pistols and Venom. Many of today's new-wave thrash bands have been influenced by older groups in the genre. Some, including Mantic Ritual, incorporate a variety of stylistic traits reminiscent of Overkill and other thrash bands that had found success in the past.