It’s always the Big Four that comes to mind when people say thrash metal. But what about some of the other greats of the genre that deserve just as much respect and recognition? Well, one them that’s just as qualified in the category is New Jersey’s very own Overkill, who’ve had a highly influential effect on the metal scene since 1980. With their second ever tour in Australia taking place eight years after their debut in the country, Overkill were sure to feel just as welcomed, if not more than their first visit. With that being said, we went to 170 Russell to see what Overkill had cooking their kitchen for the Melbournian crowd, with the support of locals Direblaze and Harlott.
Direblaze started the show for a somewhat small, but progressing number of fans that dropped by the venue as soon as doors opened. Even as the evening was still young, they already possessed a number of fans up at the front row with thrash metal’s furious, signature tempo of 210bpm with headbanging. Guitarists Nick and Jimmy would chaotically deliver some frantic work on their strings with the help of Dave’s speed-induced rumbling on his bass, and Noriyuki’s aggressive rapidity on his double-kicking drum kit. With these elements, Direblaze were giving the evening to Overkill’s headline show one hell of a powerful start.
Soon after, thrash metal favourites Harlott, who’ve had a great career going for them in the last few years, brought a new level of velocity and hostility to the table. Granted, this was the first time in six years where I had seen them live or even heard them. Since then, they’ve changed and evolved into a whole new entity. With three albums worth of material, Harlott performed various and balanced selections from their debut “Origin” up to their latest recording “Extinction”, which earned them a highly receptive audience resulting in moshing and bellowing their lyrics from the nethermost of their vocal cords. Because of this, Harlott succeeded in getting everyone throughout 170 Russell all pumped up for what was about to be witnessed by the almighty Overkill.
And finally, New Jersey thrash metal gods Overkill stormed the stage with a potently formidable approach, opening with Mean, Green, Killing Machine, which had everyone in 170 Russell’s pit go absolutely haywire. Not long after, Overkill belted out many classics and fresher material to keep their setlist equivalent to the newer fans and those that have dedicated themselves to the band a lot longer.
From oldies such as Rotten to the Core, Hello from the Gutter, I Hate, Coma and Hammerhead to the later pieces including Electric Rattlesnake and Goddamn Trouble, as well as sneaking in a cover of Motörhead’s Overkill halfway through The Subhumans cover Fuck You, Overkill were dominating the entirety of 170 Russell in a way I had never seen in my thirteen years of going to countless gigs. But how exactly? Well, if there’s one vocalist that’s a true natural with crowd control, its Bobby Ellsworth, and god, does he do it right! His skills as a vocalist can also be used in the same way as a conductor with their baton. But of course, his fellow bandmates were also responsible for the insane reactions they received from their audience. Dave Linsk has been one of the most underrated guitarists in the thrash metal genre, and really outdoes his performance one gig after the next from his expeditious skills on the six strings. D.D. Verni too brings out deeper and energetic tones to his bass than most, keeping the rhythm flowing smoothly with drummer Jason Bittner, who was nothing short of incredible with his role as the high-speed percussionist.
After everything that happened, I’m still in awe of what the hell just went down within that four hours of pure thrash metal. Overkill haven’t had to prove much to the world as to why they’ve always been regarded as one of the best bands in the world of metal. This show felt as though we were only receiving a fraction of their potency. Nonetheless, seventeen year old me from 2009/10 was beyond pleased with the chance to finally catch the thrash metal titans themselves in the flesh, and man, it was worth the long wait! Regardless as to whether or not you’re into the faster side of metal, Overkill must be ticked off everyone’s personal bucket list of gigs to go to. If not, then don’t say no one didn’t warn you, because there’s no way another thrash band could top Overkill.
Get tickets to Overkill’s remaining shows in Sydney and Perth here.
Photos by Matt Holliday.