Thrash legends Overkill are trekking across the United States in support of their 19thstudio album ‘Wings Of War.’ They are the hardest hitting wrecking crew out of New Jersey and even after decades of non-stop touring, their venom is just as lethal as ever. This tour also offered Bay Area thrashers Death Angel and the intergalactic rock trio known as Mothership, which made for heavy night of music.
Hailing from Dallas, Texas the band Mothership took the stage. They masterfully blended Black Sabbath with ZZ Top in attempts to resurrect the rock vibe of the ‘70’s. I wasn’t familiar with the band but it became apparent very quickly that you don’t take your eyes off guitarist and vocalist Kelley Juett. He was an entire show on his own. He moved around the stage as he engaged the crowd with a multitude of faces and actions that kept you locked into him. The band kicked off with “Lunar Master” and into “Hot Smoke And Heavy Blues.” Rounding out the band was Kelley’s brother Kyle Juett on bass and Judge Smith on drums. They had an undeniable groove and they performed it with a sweat-soaked passion. As the band hit with ‘Cosmic Rain’ and “Crown Of Lies” the fans of the band were completely wrapped into the experience and people seeing them for the first time were discovering why this band is so addicting. Ending with the song “Angel Of Death” left a lasting impression on me and had me checking out their albums the next day. Another great example of getting to shows in time to catch bands you may not know as you might just discover a great one.
Death Angel’s attacked with precision as they launched into “Thrown To the Wolves” and then “Claws So Deep.” The bands importance within the roots of thrash metal cannot be overlooked as vocalist Mark Osegueda and guitarist Rob Cavestany continue to anchor the band. Death Angel was on fire and the Varsity Theater crowd was in a feeding frenzy as they punched out “Seemingly Endless time” from 1990’s ‘Act III’ release. The bands line-up also included Ted Aguilar (guitar), Damien Sisson (bass), and Will Carroll on drums. Death Angel has been pumping out vintage thrash since ‘The Ultra-Violence’ record back in 1987. Like many of their thrash brothers, providing a set-list that makes everybody happy is difficult, especially in a supporting role. They continued on with “The Dream Call For Blood” and one from the latest release, ‘The Evil Divide’ from 2016 entitled ‘The Moth.” A highlight from the night was hearing the title track, “Humanicide” from the upcoming album that is set for release in May via Nuclear Blast Records. Osegueda sounded as good as ever and has not lost a thing off his voice. He continually thanked the crowd for their support and repaid the hardcore loyal fans by ripping into two classics that put the band into thousands of walkmans back in the 80’s with “The Ultra-Violence” and “Kill As One.” It was a great set by a band that is still at the top of their game and that proof could be heard echoing throughout the theater and the fans that hung on every note.
There’s little mystery left about what you’re going to get at an Overkill show. They are truly the “mean, green, killing machines” and they attempt to take the roof off with a whole bunch of uninhibited thrash metal. The only guessing part is what or what isn’t on the playlist for the night. The opening track came off the new album ‘Wings Of War’ with “Last Man Standing.” A straight-ahead crushing number that set the table for the night. Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth stood in his familiar place on the stage and took control of the crowd. He has one of the most recognizable voices in the genre and his snarl is second to none. There are two things I have come to define the sound of Overkill and those elements continue to keep bringing me back through those nineteen albums. The first is what I just talked about, that one of a kind vocal that Blitz provides and the second is that pulverizing bass sound that comes from D.D. Verni. That is the combination that nobody can replicate and that success is documented by decades of recorded material and tours. After the venomous “Electric Rattlesnake” the band shifted gears and took the crowd down memory lane. They hit with the two big guns “Hello From The Gutter’’ and “Elimination” before the unexpected “Deny The Cross” from the ‘Taking Over” release. “Head Of A Pin”, the second song off the new album to be played, was as well received as many of the old school cuts were and “Necroshine” crushed. One of my favorite Overkill records is 1994’s ‘W.F.O.’ and “Under One” and “Bastard Nation” were its chosen representatives.
Overkill certainly has had its share of guitarists over the years but the axe attack of Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer have been able to embrace the history while engraving their own signatures into the bands sound. While Linsk was all business on his side of the stage, Tailer interacted with the fans all night long. He was busy making faces and exchanging middle fingers with the wrecking crew faithful. He also managed to line up a certain photographers head and rifled guitar pics with an uncanny accuracy. The newest member of the band, drummer Jason Bittner, who shined on the latest release, didn’t disappoint live. He is a machine on the kit and his attack gave Overkill an even bigger bite sonically.
Overkill pulled “Mean, Green, Killing Machine” from ‘The Grinding Wheel’ before returning to its foundation and struck with “Feel The Fire” and “Rotten To The Core” which ignited the crowd. The encore included “Ironbound” and the traditional closer “Fuck You.” The newest single “Welcome To The Garden State” came next and then a quick reprise of “Fuck You” closed the show.
I’ve seen some great tours this year and “Wings Over The USA” featuring Overkill, Death Angel, and Mothership was exceptional. I love discovering new bands and seeing and hearing Mothership for the first time was a big added bonus to the night. Death Angel never fails to deliver the goods and their performance was spot on. There is nothing really left to say about Overkill. They continue to be one of the most consistent thrash outfits in the universe. Judging by what I saw at the Varsity Theater that powersurge is as strong as ever and there no signs of it slowing down. Thrash fans would have it no other way.