verkill was started in 1980 from the remains of punk band The Lubricunts by Bobby Ellsworth (vocals), Bobby Gustafson (guitar), D.D. Verni (bass) and Sid Falck (a.k.a. Rat Skates; drums) in New Jersey, USA; Skates and Verni being the members in question from the former punk act. After self-financing a debut mini-album demo, Power in Black (1983), from which their track Feel The Fire would appear on several compilation albums, including volume 'V' of the legendary Metal Massacre set, the band secured a recording deal with 'Azra/Metal Storm Records' that resulted in the 1985 four track EP Overkill, that quickly sold out, instantly pushing the band to the forefront of the fledgling thrash metal movement.
The EP caught the interest of infamous Johny-Z (Jon Zazula) of 'Megaforce Records' who issued their full length set titled Feel The Fire in 1985. The album fully utilized Gustafson's unique guitar attack and Ellsworth's demonic vocals. The platter proved to be competent enough, even though it remained an less than innovative lump of power-thrash.
More speed metal, better production and a more epic feel introduced their second recording, Taking Over, that put them on the map in 1987; the album veered too close in style to Anthrax and Testament for the liking of critics, however. But with the newly found help of 'Atlantic Records', 'Megaforce' managed to shift some units. Late that same year the !!!Fuck You!!! EP was released, consisting of live tracks as well as a studio recording of The Subhumans' song of the same title.
1988's Under The Influence, however, was considered to be a step backwards for the band by some critics, while others praised it for it's return to basics by offering their hardcore fan base something their ears could chew on. It came a cross as more raw, lacking most of the grand and epic atmosphere of its predecessor. In fairness, however, it did suffer from rushed writing and production.
The next album, Years Of Decay (1989), offered a mix of the previous albums styles - a mix which seemed to please almost everyone. The uptempo thrash track Elimination was released as a single, and the music video received regular airplay on MTV's Headbangers Ball; the song became a fan favorite and has been played live at almost every show since its release.
In 1990, founding member Gustafson quit to be replaced by the twin guitars of Merrit Grant (ex-Faith or Fear) and Rob Cannavino, expanding them into a quintet, a configuration that gave them more musical wiggle room to expand and making the follow-up album, Horrorscope (1991), much more dynamic. The new release also included a cover of Edgar Winter's Frankenstein. After the album's release Falck left and was replaced by Tim Mallaire (ex-MOD).
I Hear Black (1993) was a more stoner/blues rock-oriented style similar to Black Sabbath. It failed to increase their commercial standing even though their reputation was expanding aided by tours with Slayer and Helloween.
W.F.O. ("Wide Fuckin' Open", a common biker term) was released on July 15, 1994 as an answer to the criticism that I Hear Black had received by being a fast and stripped down-to-basics old school thrash metal work. Changing tastes to grunge saw the album receive less than stellar sales and the act left 'Warner' soon after for various labels, including 'CMC'.10 Years Of Wrecking Your Neck (1995) a 100-minute double live CD followed.
Late in 1995, Cannavino and Gant decided to leave the band; Cannavino leaving to focus on motorcycle racing, while Gant left to spend more time with his family. Joe Comeau, former singer of Liege Lord (now playing guitar) replaced him. He, in turn, brought in former Anvil guitarist Sebastian Marino, with whom he had worked in the past. The new line up recorded The Killing Kind in 1996, again self-produced. While staying well within the thrash genre, the album was a departure from its predecessor's more traditional thrash metal style and featured many modern elements such as 'hardcore'.
Fuck You And The Some (1996) followed featuring the !!!Fuck You!!! EP that had been discontinued for several years.
On the back half of the 1990s they released a set of albums starting with From The Underground And Below (1997) was once again a hybrid of sorts by keeping the newer styles and re-introducing their traditional base.
In 1998, Ellsworth was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of nose cancer and underwent immediate surgery, stopping the cancer before it spread.
Marino left Overkill to spend more time with his family. He was replaced by Dave Linsk from the New Jersey hardcore/thrash metal band Anger on Anger.
Necroshine (1999) followed, along with the appropriately titled Coverkill (1999) which was as it advertised, a disc of cover tracks featuring Sex Pistols' No Feelings, Jethro Tull's Hymn 43, Black Sabbath's Changes, Never Say Die and Cornucopia, Deep Purple's Space Truckin', Kiss' Deuce, Manowar's Death Tone, Judas Priest's Tyrant, Dead Boys' Ain't Nothin' To Do and The Ramones' I'm Against It followed. This set of albums came and went but of the lot, Necroshine received the bulk of the notice.
After Coverkill, the band remained a four-piece for a while until Dave Linsk replaced Comeau when he left to replace Randy Rampage of Annihilator when they fired him due to his disruptive behavior. Bloodletting (2000), once again produced by the band, then followed.
After taking a break, Overkill returned in 2002 with Wrecking Everything, their second full-length live album.
Killbox 13 (2002), their first for 'Spitfire Records', received critical acclaim by combining the "new" Overkill again with their raw early style as presented on the debut album Feel the Fire.
Overkill toured the eastern US in April 2005; just before they went on a European tour in May, it was announced that Mallare would not take part tour. Replacing him for the tour was ex-Hades drummer Ron Lipnicki. A few weeks later, the band announced that Mallare had left permanently with Lipnicki as his replacement. ReliXIV (2005) would follow.
Now with 'Bodog Music' who boasted Jonny and Marsha Zazula, previous owners of 'Megaforce Records' within its employment, the band released Immortalis (2007) featuring the line-up of Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth and D. D. Verni, guitarists Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer, and drummer Ron Lipnicki. Lamb of God vocalist Randy Blythe contributed vocals on the track Skull and Bones.
Signing to 'Nuclear Blast Records', the band's next album, Ironbound arrived in 2010. The band happened to be playing at Times Square in New York City on May 1, 2010, as part of their Ironbound tour, when someone nearby attempted unsuccessfully to blow a car up using fireworks. The show proceeded without interruption, but some ticket holders arriving late were prevented from entering the theater by police responding to the incident.
The Electric Age (2012) was next. But on the supporting tour, The Dark Roots of Thrash in North America, headlined by label mates Testament, as well as Flotsam and Jetsam and 4Arm, saw Overkill cancel their February 15 show in Huntington at The Paramount Theatre due to singer Bobby "Blitz" being diagnosed with "walking pneumonia". On February 18 they dropped out of the remaining tour completely when his condition got worse (he would recover, however).
While White Devil Armory (2014) followed, it was the box set compilation, Historikill: 1995-2007 (2015) that got the attention.
2017 saw Jason Bittner replace Lipnicki as drummer. That same year, the next album, The Grinding Wheel followed.
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|City||Old Bridge Township, New Jersey|
|RRCA File Code||REV00216|
Artists mentioned in this article:
|Anthrax||Deep Purple||Black Sabbath|
|Sex Pistols||Jethro Tull||The Ramones|
|Lamb of God||Annihilator||Liege Lord|