Although everybody seems to have a different account of who came first in the world of New York/New Jersey area thrash metal, it seems certain that New Jersey's Overkill have stayed around the longest, and have never let their fans down by remaining musically consistent and true to their roots for over 20 years and an unprecedented 14 full length albums.
Through much hard work and a slew of infamous live performances at New York area clubs like L'Amours, Overkill established a reputation as a blue-collar, working man's metal band. After the band released a self-financed EP in 1984, Overkill broke onto the scene in 1985 with Feel The Fire, a crushing thrash assault on Megaforce Records, the label to beat when it came to 80's thrash. The self-proclaimed “Wrecking Crew” - originally consisting of vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth, bassist DD Verni, guitarist Bobby Gustafson, and drummer Rat Skates - were on a tear, borrowing heavily from punk rock roots while adding a venomous metal crunch that allowed them to compete favorably with peers like Testament, Anthrax, and Megadeth.
LIGHT THE MATCH! Setting the scene ablaze, the rough and rowdy OVERKILL have reappeared to bludgeon your ears with their twentieth, that's right, twentieth studio album: SCORCHED. For over 3 and a half decades their bottom line crazy method of thrash has produced some of the most signature moments in the world of metal. Now in the latter half of their career, all the experience is showing face with SCORCHED as it somehow rings more mature, refined, and embellished with hints of more than just thrash metal. "It's not aggression for the sake of aggression," explains vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth, "there are a lot of different elements on the record. To me, it's more heavy metal, and less of an outright thrash record. There's a hell of a lot of melody on it."
Delving into writing right at the onset of 2020's pandemic provoked not just inspiration, but the ability to move through the album making process with ease and lack of pressure. Taking over two and a half years to reach completion, SCORCHED absorbed a ton of the energy from the ups and downs of the daily grind and contemporary turmoil. “My first stab at these lyrics was excited and amped up. The second phase was a bit more depressing; darker,” describes Blitz. In the end, it reflects a wide spectrum of emotions. “It was a whirlwind. The world said: 'enough of this bullshit,' put their foot down, and came out of it. Our record shows that. It's spinning something that was darker into something brighter."
Artist Travis Smith who has progressed right along with the band for their last several albums, returned to create the SCORCHED artwork. “We wanted something that said conflict,” remarked Blitz. “It's funny; when you have conflict, no matter how different the other side feels, you realize you're exactly the same and that's kinda what the artwork reflects.” Adorning the front of the album are two dueling serpent Chalys hissing at one another amidst a molton pool of flames. “The fire represents the origins of the band. Looking back to Feel The Fire in 1985 and then culminating in 2023 with a title like SCORCHED, we have the same kinda personality, the same kinda drive. Travis is a real artist and is constantly creating new ideas in his brain that align with the evolution of OVERKILL.”
Thanks to technology, with all members recording at home and file sharing, the long distance writing process was made easier. Soon after getting off the road in 2020, different elements began recording until “all of a sudden it was 2022 and the leads came in. I continued to work on lyrics and eventually had finished tracks to use,” describes Blitz. “I think that may be one of the reasons that you hear that experience, or those rough edges that are actually thought about. We got a different result based on the fact that there was so much time to go from the start to finish, and that's new for us."
Over in the UK, Colin Richardson and Chris Clancy were sent the album for mixing. “We wanted something that you could turn up to 10, and it wouldn't get you tired after listening to it for 3 songs. Colin's work is an 80's throwback mix with a modern punch,” Blitz explains. Johnny Rodd helped with producing vocals, and finally Maor Appelbaum took over mastering and adding finishing touches.
The end result is something born of heaviness, wisdom, and violent, melodic energy. The title track is an explosive representation of a 35 year history of burnin' things up along with The Surgeon, which is also Overkill 101. Opening with the chunk and clunk of a classic DD Verni bass line, it breaks open into machine gun vocals racing round and round with the guitar to see who tires first. “Although the record may be a little different, there are still the characteristics that have brought us to this point, and The Surgeon is the track that does that the most. Move it along, Electric Rattlesnake kinda Overkill, 'thrash with class' I call it; the thrash that makes us what we are,” laughs Blitz.
There's also an undeniable bluesy element that develops heavily in certain songs. Tracks like 'Wicked Place' and 'Fever' are ripe with what feels like old school Rock N Roll."'Going Home' might be my favorite song on the album," states Blitz. “It's almost unrecognizable that it's us until I start signing. For me, that kinda confirms the fact that we're going to new places, but still keeping our identity."
OVERKILL are expanding their reach but don't be fooled, the band will remain the filthy, massive gutter thrashers that we all know and love. “We are what we are and we've known what we are for a long fuckin' time. To be able to remain identifiable but still do something that's different at this point in our careers is fuckin' exciting for the band,” concludes Blitz.
SCORCHED will be released Spring, 2023 via Nuclear Blast Records. OVERKILL is vocalist Bobby Blitz, DD Verni on bass, Dave Linsk on guitar, Jason Bittner on drums, and Derek Tailer on guitar.
Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth (Vocals)
D.D. Verni (Bass, Backing Vocals)
Dave Linsk (Lead and Rhythm Guitars)
Derek Tailer (Rhythm Guitars, Backing Vocals)
Jason Bittner (Drums)