February 23, 2017
By Ruben Mosqueda
Overkill has been on a collision course with greatness over the past decade; having ridden the grunge and nu-metal waves, they do what they’ve always done. They crank out consistently solid efforts and they’ve been hitting the Northwest regularly on every subsequent touring cycle. Their new album just released on February 10th on Nuclear Blast Records is titled ‘The Grinding Wheel.’ Overkill don’t shy away from taking out acts that can hold their own; on previous tours they have toured with the progressive rock act Symphony X and prior to that Overkill joined forces with Germany’s Kreator. Overkill rolled into Portland’s Hawthorne Theater with 35 years of history under their belts on February 23rd, 2017; ready to unleash their punk influenced East Coast thrash metal on an ecstatic ‘Portlandia Wrecking Crew.’ “We’re one of those ‘foxhole bands.’ [laughs] I mean who would you rather be in a foxhole with other than Overkill?! [laughs] We’re the guys that know how to shoot the guns!” [laughs] says singer Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth in his cartoony, shot out of a cannon, East Coast accent.
This time around Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth and Co are taking out technical death metal vets Nile on tour with them. While billed as a co-headlining tour Nile performed an intense 50 minute set; truth be told you didn’t need much more than that. With such epic evil tracks like; “Defiling the Gates of Ishtar” and “The Gods Who Light Up the Sky at the Gate of Sethu” you’re on sensory overload. You’re in a ‘fight or flight’ mode. New recruit Brian Kingsland stepped in when Dallas Toler-Wade left the band prior to the kick off of the tour.KIngsland fit in seamlessly on stage; alongside Karl Sanders and Co. Kingsland mentioned that this was his first time in Portland, Oregon which resulted in a barrage of screams from the ‘Nilecores.’
Nile are the real ‘Eagles of Death Metal;’ because everybody in that band sings[?]. While, my personal palette leans heavily toward the side of melody; one can certainly respect Nile’s precise, spot on execution. You could point out the ‘diehard’ Nile fans in the audience; they were singing along with “In The Name of Amum” word for word; though more coherently. Following Nile’s set ¼ of the audience cleared out which allowed for a little more personal space between concertgoers.
‘Blitz’ and Overkill hit the stage around 10 past 10 with “Mean, Green Killing Machine,” the opening track on their latest album ‘The Grinding Wheel.’ The reception was excellent and from there; Overkill dialed up the venom for the rest of the set. There was a lot of ‘green’ lighting which silhouetted the band throughout the night. Green is the Overkill trademark color and they wear it well. Wedged between tracks from the last 5 records were classics like; “Hello From The Gutter,” “Feel The Fire,” “Rotten To The Core,” and “Elimination.” Included in the set [and bonus track on ‘The Grinding Wheel’] was their take on the Thin Lizzy classic “Emerald.” ‘Blitz’ explains, “We actually added “Emerald” on the European tour on the last tour in November [‘16]. We ended the set with “Emerald.” It was really fun to do and we made it our own. We talked about doing some covers last and we all decided on “Sanctuary” by Iron Maiden but then [guitarist] Dave Linsk kept planting “Emerald” in my ear. That selfish bastard! [laughs] He wanted to show off his prowess! [laughs] He in the middle of the lead he dropped in and played at quadruple speed the Irish national anthem! [laughs] You hear a song like that and you can hear where we came from; you can hear where Iron Maiden came from. I’m really happy with the end result; I think we put our stamp on it.” Their rendition would have made Phil Lynott proud; [bassist] D.D. Verni’s performance in particular was stellar.
Closing out the night was The Subhumans’ “Fuck You.” I remember picking up the E.P. at ‘Dudley’s Records’ at Mall 205 in 1986. Well, I couldn’t actually buy it. I had to have my dad buy it because you had to be at least 18 years old to purchase it. I remember my dad looking at the cover and then looking back at me. “This is what you want to spend your allowance on?!,” he asked. I walked out of the store with the E.P. in one of those infamous pink ‘Dudley’s Records’ bags with the cowboy riding the horse backwards [was that ‘reverse cowboy?’]. I walked out of The Hawthorne Theater with that same feeling as I did back in ’86; the power of music.
*Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth quotes taken from my conversation which appeared on www.metaltitans.com on January 20th, 2017.