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Hailing from New Jersey, Overkill has been churning out some of the fiercest Thrash Metal out their since their start in the early '80s.  They are often mentioned in the same sentence as Metallica, Anthrax, and Slayer as one of the greatest thrash metal bands of all time, and rightfully so.  Predating most of these bands, they have been instrumental in spearheading an entire genre.  This Anaheim show being the opening night of their Wings over U.S. Tour, in support of their 19th studio record The Wings of War, the Green Machine shows no signs of stopping any time soon.  I've been anticipating this show for a good while now as their latest record is just unreal.  The distinctive vocals of Bobby "The Blitz" Ellsworth, combined with their influential East Coast style on the new album, exhibits some of the most exciting metal out there today!

As I entered the theater, I could feel this was going to be a great show.  Like me, the place was full of those wanting to see Overkill show the youngsters just how it's done.  The night began with Hydraform, taking the stage and unleashing some very hard and groovy music.  From the outset, they had the early-birds' attention and didn't give it up.  Carter Pashko (lead vocals) took it upon himself to join us in the photo-pit for a chance to interact with the fans on the rail.  This cool gesture cemented the direction the night was headed and couldn't wait to see what was next.

The next act to hit the stage was long-time thrashers Exhorder from Louisiana.  If you take a gander at their 1990 debut record, Slaughter at the Vatican, you'll see these guys are architects of some of the most brutal and aggressive music out there.  Returning from some rather long hiatuses over the years, Exhorder is back and they seemingly hit the stage with something to prove.  I especially liked "Hallowed Sound," the opening song from their latest record,  Mourn the Southern Skies, a fierce song with enough groove built in to keep everyone moving. To me, Exhorder's set flew by and ended much too soon, and I'm almost positive there were many converts in the crowd when it was all said and done.  Well done, gents.

Next up was the reason we packed the House of Blues, Overkill.  They exploded onto the stage unleashing "Last Man Standing," "Electric Rattlesnake," and the classic "Hello from the Gutter,", immediately addressing three different eras of the band's long history.  Following this was the crowd favorite "Elimination," arguably their most identifiable tune from the early days.  I'm here to tell you, the sheer size of the mosh pit that formed on the floor for this song was as enormous as their sound.  Unbelievably delightful!  Fueled by the neck-wrecking guitar work of Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer, the human swirl became more furious by the second as the crowd surfers multiplied with ease.   New drummer Jason Bittner worked seamlessly with founding member D.D. Verni on Bass to cement the bottom end and create the groundwork for the unbelievably tight and clean sonic assault.  Kudos to the sound guy on this night as I'm here to tell you it was impeccable!

Perhaps the biggest takeaway for me was the unique and satisfying vocals crafted by the one and only Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth.  Easily one of the most underrated front-men in rock, he had each patron in the palm of his hands as soon as the lights dropped.  Effortless in his approach, few can match his passion and energy and his voice has not lost a step after all these years.  Overkill's music has always been some of the most aggressive and furious out there, but I'm here to say their material from the last decade could be their best so far, and well represented in the set-list for this tour!

If you're a fan of the harder side of metal, why don't you slide into an Overkill show when they steamroll through your city this spring.  You will quickly learn why they have stood the test of time and remain one of the most potent forces in metal to this day.  Horns up.

Be Well!


John McAteer

Photojournalist - Orange County

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