OVERKILL: METAL TO THE CORE

     WHEN THE BAND OVERKILL IS MENTIONED, MANY PEOPLE DO NOT RECOGNIZE THE BAND OR ANY OF THEIR MATERIAL.  THIS IS A DAMN SHAME BECAUSE OVERKILL IS ACTUALLY ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL EAST COAST METAL BANDS BEHIND ANTHRAX.  OVERKILL IS A LOCAL THRASH BAND THAT ORIGINATED IN OLD BRIDGE NEW JERSEY IN 1980.  OVERKILL CAME ABOUT AFTER THE PUNK BAND “THE LUBRICANTS” BROKE UP…AND D.D.VERNI AND RAT SKATES PUT AN ADD OUT LOOKING FOR A NEW LEAD VOCALIST.  THEY QUICKLY RECEIVED INTEREST FROM A SINGER NAMED BOBBY ELLSWORTH.  THE EARLY VERSION OF OVERKILL CONSISTED OF MOSTLY COVER SONGS.  THEY COVERED BANDS LIKE MOTORHEAD AND JUDAS PRIEST, WHILE ALSO PLAYING PUNK STYLE MUSIC WITH ADDED DISTORTION AND SPEED.

     IN 1981, THE BAND RECRUITED GUITARISTS RICH CONTE AND BOBBY GUSTAFSON.  THEN RICH CONTE LEFT THE BAND AND OVERKILL WENT FORWARD WITH JUST ONE GUITARIST.  OVERKILL PLAYED NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY CLUBS…THE STAR LAND BALLROOM AND L’AMOURS TO NAME A FEW.  AT THIS POINT, BOBBY WAS GIVEN THE NICKNAME “BLITZ” DUE TO HIS OUT OF CONTROL LIFESTYLE.  IN 1984, THE BAND RELEASED A FOUR TRACK SELF-TITLED DEMO.  “OVERKILL” GAINED INSTANT CLOUT AND THE UNDERGROUND METAL COMMUNITY WAS ALL OVER THIS BAND.  AT THIS POINT, OVERKILL CAUGHT THE EYE OF JOHNNY ZAZULA, WHO ALSO PRODUCED METALLICA AND TESTAMENT AS WELL AS MEGADETH AFTER DAVE MUSTAINE LEFT METALLICA.  ZAZULA’S MEGAFORCE RECORDS SIGNED OVERKILL TO A MULTI-ALBUM RECORD DEAL.  IN 1985, OVERKILL RELEASED THEIR FIRST FULL LENGTH STUDIO ALBUM “FEEL THE FIRE.”  THE ALBUM WAS HAILED AS A METAL MASTERPIECE BY MUSIC CRITICS AND THRASH FANS ALIKE.  OVERKILL SPENT 1985-1986 AS THE OPENING ACT FOR MEGADETH, ANTHRAX, AND AGENT STEEL.  

     IN 1987, OVERKILL RELEASED ALBUM #2 “TAKING OVER.”  THIS ALBUM HAD MUCH BETTER SOUND AND PRODUCTION.  AT THIS POINT THE BAND WENT ON A EUROPEAN TOUR OPENING FOR HELLOWEEN.  THROUGH 1989, OVERKILL REMAINED ON CONSTANT TOUR MAKING THEM ONE OF THE MOST PROMINENT LIVE METAL BANDS IN THRASH.  THEN IN 1989, THE BAND RELEASED “THE YEARS OF DECAY”, AND THE ALBUM WAS PRODUCED BY TERRY DATE WHO ALSO PRODUCED WHITE ZOMBIE, PANTERA, AND SOUNDGARDEN.  THE SONG “ELIMINATION” BECAME A REGULAR VIDEO ON HEADBANGERS BALL.  IN 1991, OVERKILL RELEASED “HORROSCOPE”, ITS FIFTH STUDIO ALBUM.  THIS WAS A DEFINING MOMENT FOR THE BAND AS THE ALBUM WAS MUCH HEAVIER AND DARK THAN PRIOR ALBUMS.  THEN THE BAND THROUGH FANS THROUGH ANOTHER LOOP WHEN THEY RELEASED “I HEAR BLACK” IN 1993.  THIS ALBUM WAS INFLUENCED BY BLACK SABBATH AND HAD A BLUES ROCK TONE.  

     IN 1998, ELLSWORTH WAS DIAGNOSED WITH NASAL CANCER AND HAD IMMEDIATE SURGERY.  IN FEBRUARY 1999, THE BAND RELEASED ITS TENTH STUDIO ALBUM “NECROSHINE”, MAKING THEM THE FIRST THRASH METAL BAND TO PRODUCE TEN ALBUMS.  THEY ALSO RELEASED “COVERKILL” THE SAME YEAR WHICH FEATURED COVERS OF BANDS LIKE KISS, MOTORHEAD, BLACK SABBATH, AND THE RAMONES.  THE NEXT FEW YEARS SAW TURMOIL WITHIN THE BAND AND BROUGHT ON A FEW LINEUP CHANGES.  BOBBY ELLSWORTH EVEN SUFFERED A STROKE ON STAGE DURING ONE TOUR.  IN 2010, OVERKILL RELEASED “IRONBOUND”, WHICH ACTUALLY REFERS TO THE NEWARK AREA WHERE THE BAND ORIGINATED. IRONBOUND WAS ALSO HAILED AS A TRUE METAL CLASSIC.

     THE ONE CONSTANT WITH OVERKILL IS THAT THEY HAVE BEEN HEAVY SINCE DAY ONE AND THEY NEVER WENT MAINSTREAM LIKE MOST OTHER METAL BANDS SUCH AS THE BIG FOUR.  IN 2012, THEY RELEASED “THE ELECTRIC AGE”, ANOTHER FULL SPEED ONSLAUGHT OF THRASH METAL.  AFTER THE RELEASE, THEY JOINED A TOUR WITH TESTAMENT ON THE “DARK ROOTS OF EARTH” TOUR.  BOBBY ELLSWORTH ONCE AGAIN HAD HEALTH PROBLEMS AND THE BAND HAD TO DROP OFF OF THE TOUR.  THE BAND IS CURRENTLY DOING A MINI TOUR WITH ANTHRAX AND TESTAMENT WHICH WILL CULMINATE IN SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA, WHICH WILL ALSO FEATURE MEGADETH, LAMB OF GOD, DARK ANGEL, AND IRON MAIDEN.  THE BAND IS ALSO READY TO ENTER THE STUDIO TO WORK ON IT’S SEVENTEENTH STUDIO ALBUM.  OVERKILL IN MY OPINION IS EXTREMELY UNDERRATED.  ANY TRUE METAL FAN SHOULD DABBLE IN THEIR CATALOG.  MY PERSONAL FAVORITES ARE HORROSCOPE, ELECTRIC AGE, AND IRONBOUND.  OVERKILL HAS NEVER “SOLD OUT’ AND HAS BEEN BANGING OUT TRUE THRASH METAL SINCE 1980.  THIS IS PRETTY IMPRESSIVE CONSIDERING THEY ARE NOT FEATURED IN THE MAINSTREAM METAL COMMUNITY LIKE METALLICA, MEGADETH, AND ANTHRAX.  EVEN TESTAMENT HAS MORE OF A MAINSTREAM FOLLOWING THAN OVERKILL.  

     IF THERE WAS A BIG SIX, IT WOULD BE METALLICA, MEGADETH, SLAYER, ANTHRAX, TESTAMENT, AND OVERKILL.  THE FUNNY THING IS THAT THE FIVE BANDS ARE WELL KNOWN WHILE OVERKILL IS BARELY ON THE MAP.  HOWEVER, THIS IS ALL OF THE MORE REASON WHY THIS BAND SHOULD BE CONSIDERED AS ONE OF THE TRUE THRASH GREATS.  ELLSWORTH HAS A DISTINCT VOICE THAT RIVALS OTHER METAL SINGERS LIKE ROB HALFORD AND BRUCE DICKINSON.  OVERKILL IS AN AWESOME BAND AND I HIGHLY RECOMMEND ANY TRUE METAL FAN TO DIVE IN AND PURCHASE A LOT OF THEIR MATERIAL.  THEIR EARLY MATERIAL IS EXTREMELY HEAVY AND THEY ARE DEFINITELY INFLUENCED BY THE OTHER EAST COAST METAL BANDS AND WEST COAST THRASH MOVEMENT.  OVERKILL ALSO SHARES A PROMINENT MASCOT, A FLYING BAT WITH SKELETON FACE, HORNS, WINGS AND GREEN EYES.  OVERKILL IS A MUST HAVE FOR ANY TRUE THRASH FAN.  GO GET EM!ImageImageImage

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THE METAL WORLD MOURNS THE LOSS OF ANOTHER TRUE LEGEND

On Thursday, Jeff Hahnemann, Guitarist for one of the “BIG FOUR BANDS” SLAYER, was found dead in his home in Southern California. Jeff along with Kerry King formed the Metal Band Slayer in 1982. In 2011, Hahnemann nearly lost his arm due to a spider bite. The injury initially went untreated but then the star guitarist began to be plagued with health problems. Recently though, his health had improved and he was in the studio working on a new Slayer Album.

The initial cause of death is being stated as liver failure, although the “Spider Bite” and reoccurring skin eating disorder has to have some link to his death. The actual skin disorder is called necrotizing fasciitis. This disease is extremely fast as far as progressing to the later stages. The disease actually involves bacteria that actually eats human flesh. The bacteria spreads easily through the subcutaneous region. Doctors are not sure if the infection can spread to the organs, however the fact that he died from liver failure may be an example of this occurring.

Jeff grew up in Los Angeles and was in a family of many war veterans. His interest in war is the direct influence on his music lyrics and war connotations. “Angel of Death”, which Jeff was responsible for writing, is widely criticized for its link to Nazi Activity in the Auschwitz Death Compound during World War II. Jeff wrote the songs “Angel of Death”, “Raining Blood”, “War Ensemble”, “Seasons in the Abyss”, and “Reigning Blood”, all of which are played at every Slayer Concert!

Jeff had been trying to rehab and a few guitarists including Exodus front man Gary Holt was filling in. As a huge Slayer fan…I am not sure how the band will move forward at this point. It’s similar to Pantera with Dimebag. I mean, Pantera has yet to have a reunion and it would be impossible to replicate Dimebag Darrel and his style of play. The same holds true for Hahnemann. He is an excellent lyricist and has wrote some of the most extreme riffs for Slayers material. It would be like Dave Mustaine passing away and trying to keep Megadeth going.

No matter what the circumstances are surrounding his death, Jeff will be greatly missed. I know today in his memory, I am going to have a Slayer marathon and listen to all of the CDs in order. Rest in Peace Jeff…we pray for your soul. We pray for your family, friends, and band members. We pray for all of those around the Metal Community affected by his loss. We pray for your fans. And as we close the page on your life…you start a new chapter in Heaven. God Bless.

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TESTAMENT: THE BIG 5

Many people ask the question if there was a BIG 5…who would be the Fifth Band amongst METALLICA, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer. Everyone has their own opinion and there are probably a few bands that would come close but the Band that would receive the most votes would be Testament.
Testament is an American Thrash Band that was formed in 1983 in Berkley, CA. Considering the Band played the San Francisco Bay area, they received widespread exposure from the underground metal community just as fellow bands METALLICA and Megadeth. The band was originally formed by guitarist Eric Peterson…and has been through numerous line up changes during its 29 years of existence.
Many people don’t know this, but Testament was originally named Legacy, which actually became the Title of their first album…that was released in 1987. Originally joining Eric Peterson in the band was Alex Skolnick, a Joe Satriana disciple. Also joining the band was lead vocalist Chuck Billy, who replaced Steve Souza, who went on to form the Metal Band Exodus.
When “Legacy” was released in 1987….Testament quickly became a popular trademark in the Thrash Metal Community. In order to promote their new album, they began a tour with Anthrax, who was actually promoting their own new album “Among the Living.”. Legacy and it’s follow up album, consisted of many dark and gothic themes along with the occult. Testament continued to rise to the top of Metal Charts across the world.
Their 3rd album, “Practice What You Preach,” was released in 1989 and shared more realistic themes like politics and world corruption. Then came the Grunge era and Testament was failing to connect with their fans so they released a slower metal album called “The Ritual” was released in the late summer of 1992…over 20 years ago. When it was released it hit 55 on the Top 100 Bilboard List, which was the highest Testament ever went up to this day. The single “Return to Serenity” received favorable reviews and topped the charts at 22. This song received extended radio airplay…allowing them to gain a larger audience.
Up until now, Testament has released 10 Studio albums in the following order:
1) The Legacy (1987)
2) The New Order (1988)
3) Practice What You Preach (1989)
4) Souls of Black (1990)
5) The Ritual (1992)
6) Low (1994)
7) Demonic (1997)
8) The Gathering (1999)
9) The Formation of Damnation (2008)
10) The Dark Roots of Earth (2012)
From 1999-2008 the band failed to produce an album. Chuck Billy was even diagnosed with Cancer and had to temporarily quit the band. They reunited and toured from 2005-2008. Finally, in April of 2008 Testament released Formation of Damnation, which marked the return of Alex Skolnick who had left the band after “The Ritual.”. Now just recently, they released “Dark Roots of Earth” which marked the return of the original lineup. Their newest album, which was released in July , 2012 went back to their heavy roots and Alex Skolnick was better than ever.
Most people are aware of the Big 4…the concerts that toured all over the world with METALLICA, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer. One always wonders who would make the list of the Big 5 if there was such thing. Testament fits the bill as closely as any other bands of this era. Even though they went through much adversity…it’s no different from these other 4 Bands.
Let’s go back 20 Years ago to 1992 when Testament released “The Ritual.”. This album was “their” Black Album (METALLICA)/ “Countdown to Extinction (Megadeth), “Among the Living (Anthrax), and “Reign in Blood” (Slayer). This album was much more mainstream than what they had put out in the past and was able to sustain some serious air play with a few songs, mainly “Return to Serenity.”. “Electric Crown” also garnered a lot of positive attention from the Metal community. This album is still heavy and really shares Alex Skolnick’s talents on guitar as he has a lot of solos…but more it established that Chuck Billy is capable of singing a more classic heavy metal than the style of Thrash that it’s fans had become accustomed to.
Testament in my mind is right up there with these bands and they deserve much consideration when establishing the Top 5 list of Thrash Bands in America. Last fall…thy supported a tour with Death Angel and Anthrax which promoted the new studio album by Anthrax “Worship Music.”. The tour was a huge success and put Testament back on the map. Me and my best friend had the pleasure of seeing a show on this tour, in north Jersey, and I was very impressed with Testament and their live stage presence and musical talents. Of course…They just released their 10th Studio album “Dark Roots of Earth” which went back to their heavy roots. I give the album a 9 out of 10 rating and highly suggest any Thrash Metal fan pick this album up. It may be their best album to date. Classic Thrash sound and heavy guitar/drum riffs. Next year I am suggesting they create the Big 5. Testament belongs in this group although they never were as popular as the other 4 bands…but they showed they belong in this class. Let’s get a petition up to METALLICA to form the Big 5. Chuck Billy still rocks and Alex Skolnick has refined his guitar skills and can play lead and rhythm with the same intensity. Buy this album…support this band!

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Metal Is Back

I’m a 36 Year Old Metal Die Hard! The first CD I ever purchased as a young kid was “Countdown to Extinction” by Megadeth. I will never forget my trip to the music store…it was a Tuesday morning and the CD was released earlier in the day. I rode my bicycle from my little neighborhood in Echo Beach, Bensalem to the Woodhaven Mall. I cannot remember the name of the store but that’s where I purchased the CD. The year was 1992. I was not even of legal driving age (hence the bike). Anyways…as I raced home on my bike with CD in hand…I could not wait to pop it into my brand new CD player that my father had purchased for me a week earlier. This CD just happened to be the first one I bought because it was a new release. Many of my child hood friends were avid metal fans so I had heard some of Megadeth’s material at the time, mainly from the “Peace Sells but Who’s Buying” era along with a few songs from “Rust in Peace.”. My friend Sean was a huge METALLICA fan and I had listened to “Ride the Lightning” and “And Justice For All.”. So after listening to METALLICA I became enamored with the back story of Dave Mustaine…who at the time I really did not know all too much about, but only that he had been in METALLICA for a short time before being kicked out because of his widespread drug abuse. I had learned that Mustaine had formed his own band “Megadeth” and when I heard my first Megadeth song, Peace Sells But Who’s Buying I sensed that we had a musical genius on our hands. I’m sure whenever you hear this song you picture the video of the young kid watching a Megadeth Video and the father tells him to turn on the news and he replies…”This is the News.”. So anyways…back to the day that I purchased Countdown. When I got home…I made a BLine for my bedroom and tore apart the plastic covering and opened the CD. The artwork was impressive with the old guy in chains…in what looked to be like his own personal prison. So I popped the CD into my player…cranked up the volume and for the next hour I was blown away! The first track…”Skin of My Teeth”, with the opening heavy guitar riffs and the infamous was siiiicccck! I must have replayed the song 3x before moving onto the next song. Then I heard this slow sounding synthesizer on the next track that went into a hard crunching riff! This was “Symphony of Destruction.”. One thing I noticed right away about this album was the tremendous melodic tones and chords that were used in Its production. Symphony was an awesome production and to this day I know all the words by heart. Of course…this song became one of Megadeth’s signature tunes. “Just like the pied piper…led rats through the streets…we danced like marionettes…swaying to the symphony of destruction.”. Wow powerful lyrics which underlayed an obvious anti-political theme. Then Architecture of Aggression and Foreclosure of a Dream which were both hits in their own right. They may not have gotten the air time but they were absolutely metal high fives. Then it was “Hello me…it’s me again…you can subdue but never tame me…It gives me a migraine headache…thinking down to your level.”. One could tell right away the dark theme of this song and how it correlated with Dave Mustaine and his crazy past. “Sweating Bullets” another signature song. Then perhaps the most underrated track on the CD….”This Was My Life”….more powerful guitar and electrifying lyrics. Then “Countdown to Extinction” the title track…a very creative title and theme and an even better song to boot. Then it was the song about the band’s passion for jumping out if airplanes…”High Speed Dirt!”. This song made you feel like you were in the plane with the band taking the plunge. Then “Psychotron” yet another underrated song. Then one of my personal favorites…”Captive Honor” which if you read the lyrics has a double meaning about being in prison and being addicted to drugs…and it’s close relationship to being in prison. Finally, the album ended with “Ashes in Your Mouth”, which truly fit perfect as the last song on the album. Needless to say…that day I was blown away and from that day forward…Megadeth was my favorite band. To this day…I try to hit as many concerts as possible. This brings me to my next point about how the new trend is bands are tending to play entire albums at concerts. I think this is an awesome idea and truly brings back excitement to a once dying brand of Metal. A few years back, Motley Crüe did the entire Doctor Feelgood anniversary tour. This is by far my favorite Crüe album and this tour had tremendous success. Iron Maiden has been doing this for years…they may be the forefathers of this trend. Over this past summer they did the “Maiden England” tour which virtually covered the entire “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” a concept album. Hearing these songs together brought back lots of memories. METALLICA did the Orion Festival, which was out of this world awesome!!!! What they did those 2 nights in June was take over the entire Atlantic City night life that weekend. They decided to do 2 successive albums the first night performing “Ride the Lightning” and the second night performing “Black” their signature album, which was actually released after “Countdown to Extinction”. Countdown hit number 4 on the chats only to see the “Black” album hit number 1. Needless to say…Megadeth will be performing the Countdown Anniversary Tour in October. I am so looking forward to being at this show and would not miss it for the world. Not only was this my first CD….it led me to my favorite band…which further led me down the path of Metal Mania. I believe that as more bands adopt this type of concert…that it will only further cement Thrash Metal as a Superpower in todays music world. I am so looking forward to the first riff out of Dave’s Guitar. This will bring back so many childhood memories…some good and some bad…but nonetheless will be an extreme boost for me in general.

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All TIME GREATS

It has been a very busy weekend. I’m going to have some fun today with my blog so I hope that I can spur a debate by doing so. As most of you know…this is the end of my first week of blogging. It has been trial and error and I want to raise my game to a new level. Yes…it’s nice to report news on a variety of topics and discuss the finer points. However, the blog becomes more interesting when you pick a certain topic and back it up with facts and opinions alike. I really would like to get more participation from my followers so feel free to Comment, Criticize, or Compliment but please do respond. I’m going to start this debate by giving you my list of my Top Metal Bands. As I have stated before these are strictly opinions and are based on my own likes and dislikes:
1) Megadeth- My favorite band of all time…Dave Mustaine is a musical genius as far as writing lyrics, producing music, and guitar playing. Megadeth uses a lot of political, economic, and abuse as most of their themes. Megadeth has been through Many lineup changes during their existence. As far as being one of the Big 4…Megadeth is the most technical as far as instrumental and the musical production….my top Megadeth albums:
A. Countdown to Extinction.
B. Rust in Peace.
C. Youthanasia
D. The World Needs a Hero
E. Cryptic Writings
F. Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying.
G. Thirteen
H. United Abominations
I. Endgame
J. The System Has Failed

Now onto the second favorite as far as my all-time Bands. Talk about distinct sound…and bundles of extreme energy and pit stomping beats. Anthrax has it all…they bring many talents to the table. Joey Belladonna is an active frontman that not only has a great voice but also an amazing stage presence. When I think of Anthrax…I see the picture of Joey with the Indian headpiece on his head and running back and forth on stage to the fast pace “Indians!”. Anthrax has been a force in metal since the early 80’s and they continue to perform at a high level. In fact…out of the Big 4 Bands…they definitely are the best as far as live concerts. My Top Anthrax Albums:
A) Among the Living
B) Worship Music (New- Most Recent)
C) Spreading the Disease.

Of course…I cannot have a list without this next band. I actually did not really get into them until later years, but have recently spent a lot of time listening to their music and I now have a greater appreciation for their talent. Slayer sometimes gets a bad stereotype when people hear the name because they automatically think evil when they hear the name. Yes…many of Slayer’s Songs have deep dark sounds but when you listen to the lyrics you get a better idea of what they stand for. Tom Ayraya is one of the few Bassists who are also a Frontman in the Metal industry. He does an awesome Job of capturing the audience. Slayer is not Death Metal as some people may believe. They have stellar talent including Kerry King on Guitar who previously auditioned for Metallica and was in Megadeth for a very brief time.
My favorite Slayer albums:
1) Seasons in the Abyss
2) Reigning Blood
3) South of Heaven
4) World Painted Blood
5) He’ll Awaits
6) God Hates us All

Now we get into the deep roots of metal with Judas Priest. Judas Priest has long been one of my favorite bands period! I can remember as a teenager listening to the song “Breaking the Law.”. This song strikes a nerve in all the disenfranchised youth in America and it paints a picture iLife how society makes it so easy to become a criminal with all it’s rules and regulations. Rob Halford in my opinion has the greatest voice range in Metal History…right up there with Ronnie James Dio, Sebastian Bach, and Bruce Dickenson. KK. Downing and Glenn Tipton are the perfect combination on Guitars and they provide a true metal experience with a lot of melodic hard rock sounds….

Obviously my favorite album is British Steel.

To Be Continued

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