Themed Thursday – Overkill

This is more like an anthropological study of a band through their videos and albums. I am examining the career of East Coast (USA) thrashers Overkill. I think they are highly underrated and had the potential to be something much bigger than they were. They endured the 90’s metal-meltdown and today are stronger than ever with their most recent release, Ironbound.

A little gee whiz for you, Overkill was the first “thrash” band to release 10 studio albums. 15 albums later, they are celebrating 25-years in the business. Overkill is like the little engine that could. If you ever saw Overkill live you would probably agree with me their live show (even today) is energetic and on fire whether for 100 or 1,000 people. Overkill has never taken the easy road out of town and they don’t seem to let that bother them. Here is where their story begins.

• In instances where there is no video for a song on one of their albums, I will substitute it with live footage.

Feel the Fire was released in 1985. During this time, the Big Four was already hard at work with some of their biggest albums that are now nostalgic with older metalheads. Feel the fire is raw and unapologetic. Rotten To The Core withstood the test of time and is still played at gigs decades later. The release of this album scored Overkill a live support role for both Megadeth and Anthrax.

Just two years later, Taking Over was released. Still very raw in nature, this album contains several tracks that are part of the Overkill set list today; Deny The Cross, Wrecking Crew, and In Union We Stand. During this time, Overkill signed with Megaforce in cooperation with a major label, Atlantic. With major label backing, why did they not achieve similar status of like-minded thrashers such as Slayer, Megadeth, or Anthrax? If I am not mistaken, In Union We Stand was their first video.

The following year (1988), under the eye of a new label, Under The Influence was released. Although it was no major leap in forward progress production wise; sometimes regarded as a step back, the song Hello From The Gutter reached millions of metal fans via Headbanger’s Ball on MTV. I can’t tell you how many times I saw this video. Because of MTV, I discovered Overkill (during this album) and from this point purchased all their older material and then every album since.

1989 brought with it Overkill’s third album in three years – The Years of Decay. This is perhaps one of the biggest leaps musically and lyrically from one album to another in Overkill’s career. For just a short period of time, Overkill became a force to be reckoned with. This album is solid through-and-through. I think this is where being on a major label finally helped the quality of music for its time. Here is the video for Elimination, still one of my favorite Overkill songs. This album, among a few others, needs to be remastered and reissued! To date, it has sold 4-million+ worldwide. Definitely not bad for thrash metal!

Riding on the success of The Years of Decay, Overkill came back in 1991 with Horrorscope when the metal world was about to be turned upside down. By this time, Big four bands released some of their biggest albums (Black album, Rust in Peace, Persistence of Time, Seasons In The Abyss). Was Overkill falling behind or picking up? Horrorscope was an outstanding album and probably Overkill’s defining moment. In my opinion, every song is worth its weight in gold. Also by now, Gustafson was out and replaced by two guitarists Cannavino and Gant adding a new dimension to Overkill’s sound…more rhythm and leads. Overkill’s sound became more refined and purposeful instead of more-or-less thrashing about in an organized fashion. Again, a major record label added to production value for the times. This is another album that needs remastering and reissue. It was during this album and supporting tour that I got to see Overkill live for the first, but not the last time.

With drummer Sid Falck leaving during the Horrorscope tour, his replacement was Tim Mallare of M.O.D. I hear Black was released in 1993, the first directly through Atlantic. I Hear Black was less heavy and more blues-infused than anything Overkill had recorded at this point. Unlike their previous music videos, Spiritual Void did not fare well on MTV. I imagine this is because by now, MTV was all grunge and Guns N’ Roses.

W.F.O., released in 1994, stands for Wide Fuckin Open. If there was any backlash to the bluesy I Hear Black, this was the answer. W.F.O. was fast and furious (no pun intended) and as straightforward as thrash can be. Again, another Overkill video, Fast Junkie, went virtually unplayed on MTV. This probably explains why Overkill didn’t record very many videos for several albums to come. There was no point; it wasn’t going to get played anywhere.

The Killing Kind was released in 1996 with two new guitarists added to the lineup. Still retaining a thrashy sound, it received mixed reviews for its slightly hardcore elements. Overkill added backing vocals since Comeau (new guitarist) was also a vocalist in his former band. By now, metal was basically forced underground with some exceptions. Overkill did not compromise. You can see during this live clip of the DVD Wrecking Everything, The Battle is still Overkill doing what they do best….kick ass. The Killing Kind also marks the beginning of Overkill without Atlantic as major label support. I am pretty sure it was in support of this particular album, I saw Overkill for the second time while I was in San Antonio, Texas. There were probably 100 people total in the dive club, but Overkill played like it was sold-out.

From The Underground and Below was released in 1997. This album was a more or less thrashy, but also incorporated elements of Overkill’s past . In my opinion, it’s a great Overkill album. To support the album, Overkill toured Europe since America’s thrash scene was busting at the seams…not in a good way. Long Time Dyin’ was the only video recorded for this album which received little to no airplay on MTV. Big surprise! I never even saw this video until I found it for this post.

Self-produced 10th album, Necroshine, was released in 1999 with more lineup changes. Comeau left to be part of Annihilator…enter Linsk who is still part of the Overkill today. Marino also left the band which meant that recording for their next album would happen as a four-piece. As far as I can see, there is no video to represent Necroshine, an album well-received by fans including me. This is a live clip of of the title track – Necroshine.

Continuing with lack of video promotion, Bloodletting (2000) was another album produced by the band. During the tour, Comeau returned to help out and Derek “The Skull” Tailor filled in for D.D. Verni (on bass) who needed to be home for family matters. Tailor soon became the full-time guitarist to fill the gap. Once again, Overkill toured Europe and during which vocalist Blitz suffered a minor stroke on stage; cause unknown. Bloodletting maintained that constant stream of thrash you would expect from Overkill. Below is a live clip of Bleed Me.

It took three years to see Killbox 13 in 2003, perhaps one of the longest gaps in Overkill studio album releases. Again, touring commenced around Europe mostly and finally returning for an eastern U.S. tour in 2005. During this period, Ron Lipnicki took over on drums and the Overkill lineup has remained steady ever since. Overkill also toured the West coast for the first time in over 10 years. In 2006, they were added to Megadeth’s Gigantour as second stage headliners. Still, no music videos and hard to find anything from this album that wasn’t just a track with an album cover photo.

ReliXIV (2005) was another self-produced Overkill album. By now, thrash (specifically) was making more of a comeback. Overkill’s stint with Gigantour put them back in the spotlight a little bit. Though the album didn’t chart, Overkill would soon find themselves back on the Billboard 200 with their next release. Still, no videos that I know of for ReliXIV. Below is live footage of Old School at Wacken Festival, Germany.

Immortalis made its appearance in 2007 and reached #9 on the Heatseeker’s chart. Randy Blythe of Lamb of God made a guest vocal appearance for the song Skull and Bones. Finally, Overkill got back in the business of making videos now that there are other avenues besides MTV, like YouTube, Scuzz, Kerrang, and MTV2. Not sure about VH1 anymore. Anyway, Overkill was back! Immortalis is a great thrash album…still carrying the torch, never letting up, never compromising.

Ironbound is Overkill’s latest album and was released in 2010. It charted on the Heatseeker’s chart at #4. Personally, this is the best Overkill album since The Years of Decay and Horrorscope. This was one of my top albums of 2010 and one of my favorite Overkill albums. Although they always remained steadily heavy and often added new elements to their music, Ironbound was top-notch thrash as it should be made. This also marks the 3rd time I saw Overkill live on their Killfest 2011 tour. After all these years, their live set is as energetic and spot-on as the first time I saw them back around 1990. Yay, another video! This is one is for Bring Me The Night…over 1.2 million views. I guess Overkill still has quite a fan base.

Based on their videos, you can see that Overkill was never a band to sit and act out parts. All of their videos revolve around them just playing music with shots of either scenery, live sets, or of the band. They were never one for theatrics. Overkill is and always will be an uncompromising thrash band.

Why is it that a band can work so hard and not quite get to the levels that other similar bands did? Did they not soften enough? Do you think it was Overkill’s preference to stay closer to the club scene? Based on their discography, do you think Overkill was just churning out records for the sake of churning our records? A few weeks ago, I posted a poll about who you think should have been a Big Four member. I used Overkill and Testament as examples. Overkill won that poll. I would love you hear your thoughts on Overkill and their place in thrash.

I think Overkill did mature musically, but stayed too heavy for anything mainstream. Nothing Overkill ever did came close to Metallica’s “Black” album, but I think Horrorscope and The Years of Decay are up there with Rust in Peace (Megadeth), Seasons in the Abyss (Slayer), and Among the Living (Anthrax) as far as pivotal metal albums go. Yet, those three bands became some of the biggest acts in metal (Anthrax is questionable) Overkill didn’t.

The latest news from Overkill camp is that D.D. Verni is hard at work on the new album, whatever is left to do with it. We (fans) are looking at a possible release date of March/April 2012.

About Reggie

Just a dude writing a heavy metal blog and always on the prowl for a cool metal show. I am also a family man...first and foremost!

Posted on January 26, 2012, in Theme Thursday and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. NJ PRIDE!!!!!!
    Overkill is unfairly under-rated. Horrorscope is one of the best thrash metal albums of all time. Gotta give them props for always releasing quality material and never giving up.
    Great and interesting post!

    • I hope they put out a big box set with remastered stuff and their video collection etc, etc, etc…They have never done that I think it’s time they should.

  2. Great Post, Reg! Great comments! My favorite Metal band, and, WAY underrated.
    Horrorscope is one of the best ever, although there were probably only 2 of us listening to it in all of New England!
    A box set would be killer with complete re-mastering and a DVD release of Videoscope, too.
    I can think of one band they should replace in the big 4…only my opinion.

    Great job, guys!

  3. Hey just wondering, where’d you find that it The Years of Decay sold over 4 million? I know it did but is there a link to where you found it?

    • Sorry man, I looked around and can’t seem to find that bit of into again. I usually go to Wikipedia, the band websites, facebook pages, or other music websites for information; even their record labels. To put that particular piece together I must have went to dozens of sites and after another 30 minute search I can’t find it again. I guess I should have used a reference list since we pride ourselves on research for posts like that. Overall, I read they solg 16 million albums so 4 million for The Years of Decay seems plausible wherever I found that. Sorry I can’t give you a website at the moment to look at.

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