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OVERKILL // Live @ Terminal 5 // 10.17.15

Article and Photos by: Steven Principato


NYC – When contemplating thrash metal, visions of woolly haired, angst-ridden young men come to mind. Snarling and uniformed in denim and leather, these soldiers of speed deliver punishing rapid fire barrages of ordnance. Originating not from their matching bullet belts encircling their waists, but from their demonically shaped guitars and deafening back-line, expending a million sinister notes a minute, effectively obliterating our last remaining vestiges of sanity. A rather generous and romantic portrait that may actually describe Overkill and many of their contemporaries in a by-gone golden era of metal. But can Overkill still over-kill? Or maybe JUST kill? Hopefully not under-kill. Let’s find out!



Eager to learn the answer to that question, I once again arrived at the cavernous confines of one of NYC’s larger venues, Terminal 5. Die-hard fans with molten metal coursing in their veins had already formed a growing line at the entrance hours before, already easing any pre-existing doubts about the show. Opening this night of respected veteran metal acts, were Seattle’s recently re-united Sanctuary.  As a progressive metal band that conveniently skipped the guitar solo hostile ’90s, Sanctuary took to the stage with a confident presence as they delivered a collection of classic and new tracks from their limited catalogue. Despite a nearly twenty year hiatus, Sanctuary delivered a commanding and perhaps courageous performance before a growing army of die-hard thrashers, not exactly known for their forgiveness of inferior opening acts! Wrapping up their short but effective set, Sanctuary left the stage, all limbs accounted for, ready to play another night. Not bad for taking a 20 year vacation. Gentlemen, it’s good to have you back.


Next up was the pro-prog-metal, with a touch of neo-classical influence, Symphony X. Formed in 1993, during the waning days of thrash metal,  one may not expect to encounter such an act opening for perhaps one of the purest and most genuine examples of thrash metal in the genre. However, more than just Nuclear Blast label mates, but also fellow New Jersey natives, Symphony X shares an extensive history and camaraderie with an exceedingly raw and aggressive Overkill. Powered by the intimidating virtuosity of lead guitarist Michael Romeo combined with the occasional masked showmanship of vocalist Russell Allen, Symphony X appeared to have no issues winning over the unexpectedly open minded crowd. Completing a lengthy set list more resembling that of a co-headliner rather than an opener, the 3000+ capacity venue remained congested with eager fans amid melodic and multi-solo, eight minute plus compositions. Never before experiencing the colorful showmanship of Symphony X, I finished the set no longer ignorant to the average headbangers unusual approval of a scepter brandishing front man with a collection of Mardi Gras masks. How would the mighty Overkill follow that?


Finally, the moment of truth was upon us. Was I ready to experience a fitting death by OverkillWas the quintessential NJ Thrash band, who reside in the unholy pantheon of classic thrash beside their legendary contemporaries by the likes of Slayer, Exodus, Testament, and Megadeth up to the task of wrecking my neck? (actually, since I was shooting in the photo pit, there wouldn’t be any wrecked necks on my part, that is … unless someone landed on me.) Ultimately, I learned the hard way to NEVER again question the potential destructive power of band who’s career spans three decades and 17 studio records, showing no signs of defeat at any point in their brutal conquest. Surging onto the stage under the shroud of dense white fog, annihilating yet igniting the rage of the ensuing riot that resembled an orderly army 3000+ die-hard headbangers just a moment ago. There was no question at this point that Overkill had legitimately preserved the rage and hunger of a younger and bigger haired version of themselves, in a world rife with lethargic and complacent overpriced retro-metal acts. Not mentioning names. 


Blasting open the set with “Armory”, the well received single from their 17th release, White Devil Armory (Nuclear Blast 2014), their menacing silhouettes began to gradually emerge from the ominous fog. As the show raged on, the band unleashed mosh inducing classics such as “Power Surge”, “Hello From the Gutter”, and “Ironbound”. Founding front man Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth sprinted to and fro center-stage to deliver his gospel of destruction, exhibiting all of the signature rage and intensity one would expect from the hardest working man in thrash. (see my exclusive one on one interview with Mr. Blitz here) Alongside his relentless collaborator, spider-bass wielding Overkill co-founder, D.D. Verni, in union they stood as Overkill remained true to their name on this final night of the band’s North American tour. Fittingly wrapping up in NYC where it all began for the band over 30 years ago, Overkill, loyal to tradition, closed the show with everyone’s favorite contemptuous and angst-ridden anthem, “Fuck You!” (Subhumans cover)  In other words, respectfully thanking the loyal army of denim and leather bound thrashers in attendance by their native tongue.     

As I exited Terminal 5 that night, among the tired, huddled, and bloody masses of neck-wrecked and overkilled headbangers, I was pleasantly satisfied with the answer to my initial question; After 30 years of honest working-class thrash-metal under their belts, Overkill still possesses flawless musicianship and a nuke-detonating level of stage presence that so many of their contemporaries have long exhausted. There is little doubt we’ve heard the last of this legendary institution of enduring metal dominance.   


Steven Principato
Steven Principato is our resident music historian and unofficial metal corespondent. Besides trying not to get his photo gear smashed in the pit, you might otherwise find him obsessing about obscure musical details. It happens to be Steven's eventual goal to be on stage IN the concert photo rather than the one taking it.