Tommy Mann Jr.
The Orange Leader
A heavy metal band with a multi-decade long career is seeing a resurgence in popularity and long overdue validation of a career in music.
Thrash metal masters Overkill arguably have been the most consistent band of the genre over the course of its nearly 30 year career, as the group is currently touring in support of its 16th studio effort, “The Electric Age,” which was released in March 2012 and reached No. 77 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart.
Overkill returns to Houston, Texas, as main support for Bay-area metallers Testament on the “Dark Roots of Thrash” tour, which will be held Wednesday, Feb. 6, at the House of Blues. Special guests include Flotsam and Jetsam and 4Arm. Tickets are $25-$35 at all Ticketmaster outlets, but a special four-pack ticket offer is available for $71.
The tour began on Jan. 30 in San Francisco and will travel the U.S. as the quartet of bands perform in 25 cities in a span of just 30 days.
“It’s a really nice package of bands,” said Overkill vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth in a telephone interview from Arizona on the second stop of the tour. “It has a traveling festival feel with a lot of value for your dollar. It’s a no-brainer if you like this kind of music.”
Overkill, which features Ellsworth and co-founding member and bassist D.D. Verni, along with guitarists Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer and drummer Ron Lipnicki, released its first album, “Feel the Fire,” on Megaforce in 1985. Fifteen more albums later and Overkill is still a force to be reckoned with on stage.
“It’s something we love doing,” Ellsworth explained about performing and making music. “It’s kind of unusual that a hunger for something last that long. It’s something we have to have, like an addiction. From writing music to recording music to playing live to doing it all again. That’s why I liken it to a hunger.”
Over the past several years, several bands from the thrash metal-era of the mid-to-late 80s have experienced a resurgence in popularity as many have reformed, made new music or, for those that never went away like Overkill, Testament and Flotsam and Jetsam, continued making music on a regular basis that has returned to favor with metal fans around the world.
“A lot of people like ask us stuff about the ‘good old days,’ like that’s all there was for us and nothing else, but these days are pretty good too,” Ellsworth added with a laugh. “There’s a lot of great music out there. Overkill has expanded in recent years and that approach has a youthful exuberance to it that is attracting a younger generation. In turn, it provides a spark for the band.
“Our new album, ‘The Electric Age,’ sounds like Overkill, but it sounds like 2013 Overkill and it sounds valid today,” he continued. “We’re not stuck in 1987 trying to record the same music or record.”
Speaking of the new record, Ellsworth still feels “The Electric Age” will stand the test of time as a solid Overkill album and it is one he is quite pleased with even nearly one year since its release.
“One of the things I’m still really happy about with this album is the energy,” Ellsworth said. “It’s more energetic than ‘Ironbound’ (released in January 2010) and it’s a valid energy. I can’t say if it’s our best record or not, I can’t rank it, but I’m very proud of it. Sonically, it’s a great record. It’s a loud record, even when you only have the volume turned to ‘3.’ Our producer, Greg Reeley, really got the sound out of this record.”
With the tour only just underway, Ellsworth said the first few shows have been top notch.
“San Francisco was over the top, but, of course, you expect that in Testament’s back yard,” Ellsworth added. “The other shows have been killer. It’s the quintessential package playing nice sized venues. The rooms are full, the floors are moving, and there’s a lot of action. It’s great.
“We’ve never been an arena band,” he continued. “We’ve played festivals and been part of big tours, but there’s something about being able to look a crowd in their eyes and to see them face to face and the smell of the room. It’s dangerous (laughs).
Ellsworth knows fans will be pleased with the band’s performance and the tour package, but he also knows it’s hard to please everyone when you are serving as main support instead of headlining.
“The stage looks like Overkill. The guys in Testament have given us plenty of room and let us use the drum risers and stuff. It’s not like they are treating us like an opening band,” Ellsworth said laughing. “But we’re only playing 45 minutes, so that’s about nine songs. And we have a lot of songs to choose from. Can you pick just nine songs for our set? That’s how hard it is for us.”
After the tour with Testament, Ellsworth said Overkill will prepare for spring and summer. Events will include European festival appearances, and “maybe” a co-headlining tour of Asia with a German band, which would include Overkill’s first ever trek to China.
In the meantime, it’s metal night after night and then some.
“We’ve filled in some of the off days we had on this tour with some headlining shows,” Ellsworth said before laughing. “I guess there’s no rest for the stupid. Actually, we find we get in more trouble on our days off than we do on days when we have shows, so we try to schedule shows. It’s kind of like a middle age boys club with us. It’s better to stay busy.”
For more information on the band and its upcoming tour, visit www.wreckingcrew.com.