An integral part of the early 1980s thrash metal movement, New Jersey quartet Overkill were formed in 1980 by vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth and guitarist Bobby Gustafson, and also included bassist D.D. Verni and drummer Rat Skates (later replaced by Sid Falck). The band garnered a reputation for brutal, pounding speed and technique, but lacked the musical diversity to compete with heavy hitters like Metallica; still, Overkill built up a strong following in the metal underground with albums like 1985's Taking Over and 1988's Under the Influence. Gustafson quit in 1989 following the Years of Decay album, and was replaced by Rob Cannavino and Merritt Gant. The band recorded its most effective and varied album, Horrorscope, in 1991; drummer Tim Mallare took over on 1993's I Hear Black. Overkill's final major-label release was 1994's W.F.O, after which the band moved to CMC International. With a new guitar team of Joe Comeau and Sebastian Marino, Overkill recorded albums like 1996's The Killing Kind, 1997's From the Underground and Below, and 1999's Necroshine. Also issued in 1999, Coverkill celebrated the band's influences with renditions of songs by Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, the Sex Pistols, and others.
Overkill soldiered on into the year 2000 with Bloodletting and recorded the following tour for a live album, 2002's Live from Asbury Park. While on tour for their last two efforts, Ellsworth collapsed on-stage in Germany after suffering a mild stroke. It would prove to be a minor setback, however, as the band continued to not only put out albums, but also to refine its sound, starting with 2003's Killbox 13 and continuing on with 2005's ReliXIV and 2007's Immortalis. In 2010, Overkill really experienced a new resurgence with the release of Ironbound, which even found the band making an appearance on the Billboard charts. They followed up with another album of classic thrash in 2012 with The Electric Age. Ellsworth suffered another health-related setback the following year, having to cancel some tour dates after contracting mild pneumonia. He soon bounced back, however, and, riding their new wave of success, they plunged back into the studio to record another fan-pleasing album of breakneck thrash. Titled White Devil Armory, it was released in July of 2014 through Nuclear Blast. The following year saw the arrival of the mid-career retrospective Historikill: 1995–2007, and in late 2016 Overkill issued a single, "Our Finest Hour," in anticipation of the release of their 18th studio long-player, Grinding Wheel, which dropped in February 2017. ~ Steve Huey
- Old Bridge Township, NJ