For all the years he has spent pumping up audiences with the intensity of his band's brand of thrash metal, Overkill
vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth may have outdone himself on the 70000 Tons of Metal cruise
. How? By thanking the crowds on the pool deck and inside the Alhambra Theater in multiple languages.
Whether he was bellowing Thank you, Gracias, Danke Schoen, Merci or any other form of appreciation, Blitz's signature style and stage presence were sights to behold on the seventh annual voyage as Overkill delivered two more crushing performances that also served as a preview for their March 2 appearance with Nile at San Antonio's Alamo City Music Hall (tickets here
Blitz, who spoke to AXS about that impending gig, the cruise and other topics prior to the theater showing (watch here
), and Overkill were marking the Feb. 10 release of 18th studio album The Grinding Wheel
a week early. Overkill world premiered five tracks for any of the 3,000 passengers from 74 nations aboard Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas who wanted to listen to them before anyone on land had a chance to do the same. The band debuted one of those songs on stage, "Our Finest Hour," which then gave way to 1985 debut-album classic "Hammerhead" (AXS footage of both here
Along with lead guitarist Dave Linsk, rhythm guitarist Derek Tailer and drummer Ron Lipnicki, Overkill charged furiously through a bulk of its career inside the comfort of the theater and out on the windy pool stage. Customary classics such as "Rotten to the Core," "In Union We Stand" and "Hello From the Gutter" mixed with newer offerings "Armorist," "Electric Rattlesnake" and "Ironbound." Slightly mixing up the second set from the first, Overkill played "Infectious" from 1991's Horrorscope
. For good measure, Blitz and bassist D.D. Verni, Overkill's two remaining original members, took part in the 90-minute All-Star Jam organized by Annihilator guitarist/singer Jeff Waters. Blitz sang Judas Priest's "Grinder" while Verni joined Anthrax's Scott Ian and Death Angel vocalist Mark Osegueda in playing Metallica's "Metal Militia" (AXS footage of both here
Surprisingly, the group omitted 1987 favorite "Wrecking Crew," which has long been considered a mandatory mainstay of its sets and which it played on the second cruise in 2012. It would also be nice if Overkill brought back "Powersurge" or "Deny the Cross," both also from 1987's Taking Over
. In fact, Overkill has so much staying power from its '80s and '90s albums, practically any more offerings from those decades would suffice. Still, as much as any band that has added to the playing-one-album-in-its-entirety train, Overkill has every reason to hop on that caboose but instead should be commended for continuing to put out newer material that complements its past.
Ironically, Overkill was the 61st and final artist announced for this year's voyage, replacing Nile, whose bassist encountered visa issues that would have allowed him to play on the boat over international waters but not on both groups' subsequent U.S. tour. And Overkill made the most of its cruise experience. Blitz was often seen walking around the vessel hand in hand with his wife. Linsk and Blitz often could be seen in the casino, where the former entertained passersby and friends by playing a robotic grab-cash game in which he attempted to steer a key into a hole that would take hold of a wad of $100 bills totaling $800.
For the record, Linsk didn't win.
Nevertheless, Overkill demonstrated once again that its power on stage continues to resonate after 32 consistent years of putting out molten metal. That aggressiveness was accompanied by versatility, as Overkill paid tribute to the late Thin Lizzy vocalist Phil Lynott by covering "Emerald" prior to "Ironbound" (AXS footage of both here
). And of course, the band's traditional closer and cover of The Subhumans never disappoints (watch below).
Although their classic material set the bar high back in the day, chalk Overkill up to thrash cruise-mates Testament and Death Angel among the bands putting out music these days that is just as much up to snuff as their yesteryear, if not better.
So get ready, Alamo City. They've been expecting you. You're on the verge of being next in the path of Overkill's rambunctious grinding wheel.