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Stage Buzz: Overkill at Concord Hall

| February 10, 2017

Overkill 2017 – photo Mark Weiss

New Jersey’s “Wrecking Crew”  and old guard thrash metal kings, Overkill are back with their 18th album, The Grinding Wheel on February 10th. The 2017 line-up features members vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth, bassist D.D. Verni, guitarists Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer and drummer Ron Lipnicki, all intact and energized.

The Grinding Wheel is the perfect metaphor that best describes the band’s tenacious ability to “grind” it out with each passing year.  On first listen, fans will recognize that this band doesn’t have an identity crisis; Overkill sounds like Overkill. “To have the opportunity to have this quantity of records with our brand on it is amazing,” Ellsworth began. “So what you’re doing is inside you and of course you want to top it and you’re pushing yourselves.”

Boasting a classic heavy metal vibe decorated with a modern sound, Overkill delivers in spades with its 10 new tracks. “We’re talking about diversity in almost every song,” Ellsworth said. “The Long Road” has those NWOBHM influences. “Come Heavy” has the super groove with the dual guitar, while “Red White And Blue” has a New York influence. “Our Finest Hour” has a modern vibe to the punk rock influences on “Lets All Go To Hades.” “So what we’ve got here is diversity. And we recognize that in the songs and the separation of them are identifiable.”

With nearly every album, Overkill has always had the uncanny ability to offer up an anthemic opening track. And “Mean Green Killing Machine,” is no exception. “The opener has always been mock-titled for us as far back as the ’90s,” Ellsworth confessed. “It comes to fruition and it exists for close to a month until it gets developed. I think I got the demo from D.D. and next to the song it said, ‘Opener.’ So I kind of already knew that it had something special about it to open the album with.”

The Grinding Wheel was produced and mixed by the Grammy-winning British music producer Andy Sneap, whose credits include Accept, Testament and Megadeth. The band couldn’t be happier. “We’ve been trying to get Andy on board since Ironbound,” Ellsworth admitted. “He’s really the state of the art in regard to the section of the genre that we spent most of our time in. So we’ve been trying to get him for four records now, but it’s always been a scheduling problem. When we finally got Andy, everybody cracked a smile because we finally got “Mr. Ears” and “Mr. Knob-Turner.” It’s easy to like Andy immediately, and add that to his talents, the communication was easy.”

Gearing up for a headlining North American trek with Nile, Amorphis and Swallow the Sun, the other Jersey boys will be making a stop at Concord Music Hall on Feb. 17. And playing live is what it’s all about for Ellsworth. “This has always been really the drug for me,” he said. “This is where the high and the instantaneous gratification comes from. And that’s what I’ve been chasing since those (early) days of chaos. So to go off on a tour for me is always the most exciting part of it.”

Overkill has always been well-received by Chicago’s faithful metal enthusiasts, which gives the band many reasons to keep coming back.  “We’ve been to so many venues in Chicago over the years; Medusa (original Chicago location), Thirsty Whale, Aragon, House of Blues, the Pearl Room in Moline,”

Ellsworth remembers. “There’s so many different places that we’ve played there and I think that’s a testimony to a good metal community. The idea is, you don’t keep coming back unless it’s successful, and all of it has been successful. Some of the great memories I have go all the way back to the early days standing outside Wrigley Field at the Cubby Bear wondering if I could get tickets to the game! So I always look forward to going back to Chicago.”

-Kelley Simms
Appearing 2/17 at Concord Music Hall.

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