Sunday Old School: New Jersey Thrashers Overkill
It’s undeniable that heavy metal has some of the most talented and confident vocalists in the world. Some are merely copies of the genre’s best, while others create a style so unique it can become as synonymous with their band as a guitarist’s style or drummer’s beats. Perhaps nowhere in the history of American heavy metal is there a vocalist more unique than Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth, of New Jersey based thrashers, Overkill.
Overkill was formed in 1980 after drummer, Rat Skates and bassist D.D. Verni left their punk band, The Lubricunts. They quickly recruited Ellsworth on vocals and hit the East Coast club scene with full force, mainly performing covers but with a few originals seeping in. After releasing a demo entitled, "Power In Black," the group gained some interest from record labels, resulting in their debut self-titled EP. The success of the EP earned Overkill a multi-album record deal with Megaforce Records, one of the biggest metal based record companies at the time, through whom they released their first full length album, "Feel The Fire," in 1985, which was instantly hailed a thrash metal masterpiece. They released their next album, "Taking Over" in 1987, which Megaforce distributed in co-operation with major label, Atlantic, enabling the band to produce their first music video in the form of, "In Union We Stand."
Following the release of an EP named, "!!!Fuck You!!!," Overkill suffered their first blow to their lineup when drummer Rat Skates quit the band, being replaced by former Battlezone skinsman Sid Falck. Falck made his recording debut with Overkill on their third album, "Under The Influence," which received mixed reviews from fans and critics but found some success with the song, "Hello From The Gutter." A more mainstream breakthough finally came in 1989 with the album, "The Years Of Decay," which entered the Billboard album charts at number 29. Despite the record’s success, guitarist and songwriter Bobby Gustafson decided to leave the band after touring, owing to his difficult relationship with bassist, Verni. In a move similarly made by such bands as Motorhead and Thin Lizzy, the band replaced him with two guitarists in the form of Merritt Gant and Gustafson’s guitar technician, Rob Cannavino. Fans were skeptical of how Overkill would sound with Gustafson but found themselves pleasantly surprised with the next album, "Horrorscope."
"Horrorscope" was another success for Overkill, but like most metal bands, they found the next decade to be a struggle owing to the grunge explosion. They attempted a more stoner metal sound with "I Hear Black" but returned to thrash with their seventh album, "W.F.O." Despite the obstacles faced by commercial isolation, the band released a double disc live album in 1995 entitled, "Wrecking Your Neck" as well as a critically successful new studio album with "The Killing Kind."
Following the release of another well received album, "From The Underground And Below," frontman, Blitz was diagnosed with an aggressive form of nose cancer, but was able to have surgery in time to remove the threat before it spread. Proving himself to be a great example of determination, he and Overkill immediately got back to work, releasing two albums the next year in the form of, "Necroshine" and the covers record, "Coverkill." Unfortunately, another health issue threatened the band, and more importantly Blitz, when he suffered a stroke on stage in Germany in 2002. Thankfully, he recovered quickly and the group released their fourteenth album, "Relix XIV" in 2005. Since then, the band has continued to tour the world and release new albums, with the most recent being 2010’s "Ironbound" (reviewed here). With a truly remarkable spirit of determination and a catalogue of brilliant thrash metal, Overkill will always be remembered as one of the best thrash bands to ever emerge from the United States.
Overkill - "Elimination"
Overkill - "Rotten To The Core"
Overkill - "Fuck You"
Overkill - "Bring Me The Night"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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