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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"

Diamond Oz's avatar

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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12 Comments on "Sunday Old School: Overkill"

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Anonymous Reader
1. Armageddon writes:

just listening to them. Overkill has been pure thrash through and through. an awesome band

# Nov 7, 2010 @ 11:12 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
darkA.T.M's avatar

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2. darkA.T.M writes:

favortie thrash band of all time!! \m/\m/

# Nov 7, 2010 @ 11:17 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
ThrashattheHeart's avatar

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3. ThrashattheHeart writes:

Favorite thrash band of all time

# Nov 7, 2010 @ 11:51 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Triforce's avatar

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4. Triforce writes:

f*** yeah Overkill is classy. Saw them with Vader a few months back and they still kick the sh** out of you.

# Nov 7, 2010 @ 4:57 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Jenny's avatar

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5. Jenny writes:

Yus! \m/ Sweet video picks Oz.

When I first found out about these guys the song that really got me was "Feel The Fire." I remember thinking "If Iron Maiden and Thrash had a baby, that's what Overkill sounds like." lol

# Nov 7, 2010 @ 7:04 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
METAL213's avatar

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6. METAL213 writes:

I SO regret not seeing them two years ago. Definitely one of thrash's best and probably it's most underrated along with Testament. They continue to keep their signature sound and integrity. Keep on keepin on Overkill

# Nov 7, 2010 @ 8:42 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
7. o-matron writes:

I saw them in april at the webster in Hartford CT and they were awesome, actually got to say hi to Blitz! Glad I finally got to see them, next is suicidal and DRI on saturday!

# Nov 7, 2010 @ 8:57 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
deathfreak's avatar

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8. deathfreak writes:

I get to see them in a few weeks =]

# Nov 7, 2010 @ 9:37 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar

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9. hellrat writes:

fvck ya Oz man

classic, high quality cheese metal!

fvckin love it man---right on

# Nov 8, 2010 @ 1:29 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Cynic's avatar

Senior Reviewer

10. Cynic writes:

Wow - it's crazy how much that vid and others were influenced by Metallica's "One". Watch the videos for "One", "Elimination" (above) and Sepultura's "Dead Embryonic Cells" back to back and you'll see what I mean.

# Nov 8, 2010 @ 4:41 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Hammerheart's avatar

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11. Hammerheart writes:

I'm actually listening to Overkill's "Feel the Fire" album right now. It's such a classic, I can't believe I just got my hands on it a couple of weeks ago. Damn you, local record stores, for not having an adequate metal section and forcing me to buy nearly all of my CDs online! *Raises fist in anger*

# Nov 8, 2010 @ 2:48 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
12. cam666 writes:

Now this is real metal

# Nov 8, 2010 @ 2:53 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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