Four years seemed like an eternity while Albuquerque waited for the return of OVERKILL. The band had made an appearance on the Legends of Thrash tour, but tonight is OVERKILL's first full headlining show in the city since The Electric Age tour, a little more than four years ago.
The anticipation was palpable in the historic venue as a packed house awaited the band's return. What was heartening to see was that the median age of the crowd was about thirty. The band itself is thirty-seven this year. I am very pleased to report that there were fans in attendance, whose parents are not old enough to remember life before OVERKILL. A great sign that there is hope for these Millennials yet!
Opening the show was Albuquerque's DECEITFUL, a young heavy thrash fourpiece to definitely keep an eye on. Made up of vocalist/guitarist Andrew Sanchez, guitarist Vincent Garcia, bassist James Sanchez, and drummer Adam Montoya, you can hear the BIG 4 influences in their songs, but there are also the unmistakable influences of non-mainstream thrash acts, showing that DECEITFUL are not some Megametathraxler wannabes, but rather passionate musicians that have a true love for their genre and are doing it proud. They were a perfect choice to open this show.
Next up was Albuquerque's death metal virtuosi DEFORME, comprised of Alexander Sokol vocals, Joseph Baca & Alex Camacho guitars, Blair Robey bass, and drummer Hiram Viezca. The rhythm section of Viezca with a clean double kick and impressive blast beats and Robey's complex bass lines complement the technical guitar to create a striking sound reminiscent of early death metal masters CYNIC. The deep, guttural vocals equipoise resulting in a very notable and brutal set.
Many fans were brought to the show by support act NILE. An Egyptian themed technical death metal act, with a nod to H.P. Lovecraft, out of Greenville, South Carolina. A band that has been around just short of twenty-five years themselves. The current lineup of Karl Sanders vocals & guitars, Brad Parris vocals & bass, Brian Kingsland vocals & guitar, and George Kollias drums were met with fervor by the audience. The excitement of the crowd was intense as "Dusk Falls Upon the Temple of The Serpent on The Mount of Sunrise", the intro to the 2005 release Annihilation of the Wicked began. By the time, NILE went into the following song from the album, “Sacrifice unto Sebek”, the fans were in a frenzy. The chaos on the floor was unrelenting through "Defiling the Gates of Ishtar", "Kafir", "Hittite Dung Incantation", "The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick Of the Deceased", "In the Name of Amun", "Sarcophagus", and set-closer, "Black Seeds of Vengeance".
After a short intermission, the wait was over. It is always awe-inspiring to witness artists, having years of experiences practice their craft. There are only two current, original members of OVERKILL, vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth and bassist D.D. Verni, who were part of the band’s formation in New Jersey in 1980. Three if you count Chaly, the OVERKILL mascot that has been around nearly as long as the band. Joining them were lead guitarist Dave Linsk, rhythm guitar Derek "The Skull" Tailer and drummer Eddy Garcia, who was touring in place of Ron Lipnicki who played drums on the record. In support of their incredible, eighteenth studio album veteran thrash masters OVERKILL took the stage with a two-song reverse retrospective of "Mean Green Killing Machine" and "Rotten to the Core". The former from their most recent release, the 2017 record The Grinding Wheel and the latter from their 1985 debut Feel the Fire.
OVERKILL's sound is easily recognizable because of the elements of metal and punk in their fast and aggressive style and because of Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth's unique voice. Giving the active audience a minute to catch its breath, Bobby, whose favorite word is "motherfuckers," greeted the city like an old friend he hadn't seen in a while. As the band launched into "Electric Rattlesnake", one had the distinct feeling that we were in the presence of greatness. As the band went into the classic "Hello, From the Gutter", the feeling became a realization.
The night continued with a mix of new and classic songs. The Grinding Wheel's "Goddamn Trouble" to title track "Feel the Fire" to "Nice Day for A Funeral" and "Infectious" from 1991's Horrorscope and back to "Our Finest Hour" the last song from The Grinding Wheel they would play that night. Next, they played one of the earliest OVERKILL songs, "Hammerhead". I remember hearing that originally sometime in the eighties and being impressed by the sheer intensity of it. Thirty years past did not weaken it at all. If anything, it was somehow more intense and the crowd of metal heads and punkers noticed it too as evidenced by the ensuing mosh pit that left no place to hide on the venue's floor and it did not let up through the next song, "Armorist" from 2014's White Devil Armory.
Many critics have stated that OVERKILL's music lacked enough variety to be included in the BIG 4, but the band simply continued, unwaveringly throughout the decades, making them one of the biggest and most influential East Coast thrash bands. An honor that keeps them in the ongoing debate, along with EXODUS and TESTAMENT, of which band would take the fifth spot. That supposed "lack of variety" reputation made what was about to happen even more impressive.
Mercifully granting the crowd another breather, Ellsworth announced the next song, a remarkable tribute to his friend, Phil Lynott, THIN LIZZY's "Emerald", from the 1976 album Jailbreak.
After a short interlude, with the crowd chanting the refrain "O-VER-KILL! O-VER-KILL!" The legends return to the stage for the encore hat-trick, starting with 2010 title track, "Ironbound", followed by the classic 1989 "Elimination" and culminating with OVERKILL's most famous cover, THE SUBHUMANS' "Fuck You!" The fan-favorite sing along with two thousand middle fingers in the air.
There is no question that OVERKILL have been hugely influential on many thrash, metal, and punk acts, and it appears that, thankfully, that influence is continuing to the next generation. Here's to the legends, for all they've given us, and equally, to the unknowns, just starting, out there in garages and basements. We're eager for you to show us what you've got!