Appropriately bathing the Academy in their trademark green light this St. Patrick’s weekend, east coast thrash metal pioneers Overkill greet a sold-out crowd with middle fingers defiantly held high. Formed in New Jersey in 1980, and with seventeen studio albums under their belt, they have earned themselves a reputation as one of the hardest touring metal bands still on the road. Boasting no less than five thousand live shows, this is surprisingly their fist visit to our emerald isle. Unsurprisingly then, the Academy is filled with metal fans new and old, wearing genre-befitting t-shirts and denim jackets emblazoned with familiar band logos, including Kreator, Exodus, Testament, WASP, Death Angel and many more.
Tall stacks of Marshall amplifiers stand either side of an elevated drumkit, positioned above the classic Overkill logo. The show begins with the recorded drumbeat intro to ‘Come and Get it’ from their most recent offering, The Electric Age, and as soon as lead guitarist Dave Linsk blasts out the first scorching riff, the air guitars are seen (or not seen) throughout the jostling audience, deftly played by aspiring axemen. A brief pause is filled with massive cheers and deafening chants of “Overkill” before turning the clock back to 1987 for ‘Wrecking Crew’. The distinctive raspy voice of vocalist and founding member Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth sounds as good as it did almost three decades ago, and he regularly addresses the crowd throughout the show. Sharing advice given to him by his mother, he advocates finding something you like doing, and doing it with people you like. And with his bandmates, including original bassist D.D. Verni, they look like they are indeed enjoying what they are doing, and with a convincing onstage rapport.
Linsk pulls comical facial expressions to accompany his dextrous fretboard fingerwork and gestures appreciatively to the fist-pumping fans crushing to be at the rail. The crowd-surfing is relentless, much to the torment of the security staff who give “one last chance” to all but the most inebriated surfers as they release them back into the sweaty and smelly mosh pit. One daring deviant succeeds in scaling the stage for an epic fifteen seconds of fame before diving back into the sea of arms, narrowly escaping the clutches of the bouncers.
The fifteen-song setlist is a crowd-pleasing mix of tracks spanning their entire career, including two tracks from their debut album and four from their last two albums. Their forthcoming album, White Devil Armory, was originally due to have been released in early March has been postponed until July at the earliest, and any hopes to hear new material live are unfounded.
The two-song encore opens with the darkened stage being gradually illuminated in blood-red light as the bass intro to ‘Horrorscope’ reignites the fire in the frenzied front rows. As anticipated, the show ends with an extended performance of their Subhuman’s cover ‘Fuck You’, and Blitz gets the crowd yelling the anthemic chorus-response “We don’t care what you say; Fuck you!”, provoking them by comparing their lacklustre initial attempts with those of their English counterparts the previous night. “I knew that shit would work”, Blitz jokes. As the track reaches its climatic finale, the guys customarily throw out their used sticks, picks and setlists to the deserving fans, and even tease them by pretending to pass out a guitar to the cluster of outstretched begging arms. Those fortunate enough to grab a souvenir leave the venue in proud possession of a little piece of history; of the first Irish Overkill gig. But hopefully not the last.
Photographed for State by Olga Kuzmenko.