One specializes in thrash and the other in death. But with 54 years of heavy metal between them, their specific genres didn't matter so much Thursday night at Alamo City Music Hall in San Antonio as did their mere presence. New Jersey thrash-metal veterans Overkill and South Carolina technical death-metal stalwarts Nile teamed up for an entertaining package of brutality before a fairly sizable crowd on a weeknight in the downtown venue.
Exactly one month earlier, Nile was supposed to sail as part of 61 bands aboard the seventh annual 70000 Tons of Metal cruise. But visa issues for bassist/vocalist Brad Parris leading into the subsequent U.S. tour with Overkill became complicated, and Nile had to drop off. Ironically, Overkill was named as their replacement and played two intense sets aboard Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas (coverage here).
On land, Overkill and Nile proved they're destructive joint forces on stage.
Having world premiered 18th studio album, The Grinding Wheel, discussing it with AXS on the voyage (more here) and releasing it to the rest of the public a week later on Feb. 10, Overkill original vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth brought his band back to the Alamo City and came out swinging. By opening with the new album's initial track "Mean Green Killing Machine," Overkill had already given the San Antonio audience a taste of what the sailors did not hear in a live setting on the ship just one song into its performance. Ellsworth, original bassist D.D. Verni and guitarists Dave Linsk and Derek "The Skull" Tailer then tore into 1985 debut-album favorite "Rotten to the Core," and a night of thrash was on.
As has been the case lately when Overkill swings through Texas, the band's long-time drum tech Eddy "The Mexecutioner" Garcia filled in for Ron Lipnicki behind the kit. A native of El Paso, Garcia was introduced by "Blitz" prior to another 1985 favorite "Hammerhead." The intro proved to be a good thing given that the dungeon-esque lighting of the venue made it impossible to decipher who had been banging out all of Overkill's tunes.
"Nice Day (For a Funeral)", "Infectious" (AXS footage below) and "Ironbound" were also on tap with new tracks "Our Finest Hour" and "Goddamn Trouble," the latter being Overkill's latest video but another song from The Grinding Wheel that was not played on the ship. The group's traditional closers, "Elimination" and cover of The Subhumans' "F--- You" incited the most active mosh pits of the night, which included members of local openers X.I.L. (see Overkill setlist in slideshow). Although Overkill shunned anything from 1987's Taking Over, which of course includes the band's signature "Wrecking Crew" along with "Deny the Cross," "Electro-violence," "Powersurge" and "In Union We Stand" (the latter was played on the cruise), merely seeing the group continue to grind along throughout a lengthy career is cause for celebration in and of itself.
Nile, meanwhile, unleashed brand-new guitarist/vocalist Brian Kingsland upon the San Antonio masses. Kingsland replaced Dallas Toler-Wade, who had been in the band for two decades, earlier this year. Bassist/vocalist Brad Parris, himself a newbie after joining the group shortly following the 2015 release of latest disc What Should Not Be Unearthed, served as the anchor to Nile's live show. But make no mistake, Nile flows as Karl Sanders goes. The group's lone remaining original member, guitarist and co-founder, carried himself on stage and played as if he was a kid again; belying the band's style of musical brutality.
Though death-metal is not for everyone, in particular, those who appreciate melody and don't want to have to read a lyric sheet to understand what the musicians are singing, Nile's own lengthy career speaks for itself. The group is unique in that it frequently employs both guitarists and its bassist as three sources of lead vocals within the same tune. Besides, how many groups do you know sing about Egyptian scriptures and hieroglyphics?
San Antonio has long prided itself on being the heavy metal capital of the nation, thanks to the late disc jockey Joe "The Godfather" Anthony, who gave many bands their first taste of American radio airplay in the early '80s. When bands such as Overkill and Nile continue to return, they're more than doing their part to keep that moniker alive. But with other media outlets from the city missing in action for two long-standing bands of metal, as well as being absent from other shows on occasion, that label is tenuous at best. The Alamo City's scene is a two-way street between musicians and those who cover them. One doesn't work well without the other and the artists can only do so much. The sooner the other side of the equation realizes the impact its absences have, the faster the scene can rise again to what it once was.