When casual fans of thrash metal music talk about the best bands of the genre, the usual names pop up; Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Exodus. Diehard fans of thrash know the truth—no other band of that era and genre has been as prolific and consistent as New Jersey’s Overkill. Founded in 1980 by vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth and bassist D.D. Verni, Overkill quickly made its name on the tape-trading circuit of the metal underground. In 1984, the group’s eponymous EP led to a record deal with Megaforce Records, the same label that released the debut albums Kill ‘Em All and Fistful of Metal by Metallica and Anthrax, respectively. Overkill’s 1985 debut, Feel the Fire, is still considered as one of the greatest early thrash metal albums of all time, and as a powerful a debut as those listed above along with Exodus’ Bonded By Blood.
This month, Overkill releases White Devil Armory, the band’s 17th studio album. Ellsworth and Verni continue to crank out relevant and inspired albums. Over the last 30 years they have never released a bad record, and have never taken longer than three years between albums. Along with drummer Ron Lipnicki and guitarists Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer, Overkill is currently enjoying its longest and most stable line-up. This continuity combined with Verni and Ellsworth’s growth as writers is showcased on the new record.
Unlike many of their thrash brethren, Overkill has remained true to their speed and punk infused brand of thrash. With the exception of 1993’s somewhat experimental album I Hear Black, the band has never really strayed from its basic formula. Over the course of 30 years, Overkill has provided fans with numerous standout records from Under the Influence and The Years of Decay in the 80s, to Horrorscope and W.F.O. in the 90s to 2010’s brilliant, Ironbound. While it is too early yet to assess White Devil Armory’s place among the canon of band’s work, it is certainly among the quintet’s most diverse offerings while still encompassing all the elements of the classic Overkill signature.
This week, Ellsworth chatted with AXS Entertainment about three decades of Overkill, his Ramones spotting years, and about the connective thread that binds White Devil Armory. Bobby also talks about the difference coming from the East Coast had on bands like Overkill and Anthrax that was different from the Bay Area thrash contingent of their era.
Check out the full interview with Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth above.