On a rainy, bitter night, Overkill came to town and brought friends. The fans tolerated the chill and the dowsing with quiet fortitude, standing stoically in line awaiting their chance to pay tribute to the thrash legends and the crew they brought with them. This is the type of following and faith engendered by Overkill as they make headway in their fourth decade of writing and performing. Armed with their new album "The Electric Age," the Jersey veterans came to kick ass and chew bubblegum. You can venture a guess what they were all out of.
Diamond Plate, Chicago's up and coming thrash act, led the evening off with a bang. Combining their natural thrash disposition with an understated sense of theatrics and a dash of "just happy to be here," Diamond Plate engaged the willing audience with several cuts from their debut full-length "Generation Why?" Vocalist/bassist Jon Macak did not shy away from the front of the stage, asking the crowd for help with chants and headbanging, finding success each time. The crowd was willing and able to respond, as necks began to repeatedly bend during the exhibition of thrash on display, culminating in a fiery recitation of the title track. Diamond Plate continues to build their reputation in thrash circles, and if you haven't heard them yet, now is just as good a time as any to jump on the bandwagon.
Second on stage was German power/folk act Suidakra, a band which many in the audience confessed to not being familiar with. The Celtic-styled quartet came equipped with their own visually muted body armor in support of their 2011 album "Book of Dowth." Given only half an hour to make an impression, Suidakra crushed their set, winning the amenable crowd over with a few choice selections, not the least of which was the hammering "Wartunes." Led by Arkadius Antonik, the band's sound was not diminished by the lack of on-stage traditional instrumentation, deftly piping that in to fill out their mix. As the odd-style-out on this tour bill, the band had been met early with cautious skepticism, but by the end had elicited cheers from the newly-faithful, much as Diamond Plate had before. Gregariously friendly on stage and truly enjoying their time in front of an audience, Suidakra left the crowd wondering if there might be time for just one more before the meat of the evening began.
Raw, surging, unbridled power. These might as well be the epithets for the live performance of New Jersey's own God Forbid. Their ferocity on stage is matched in magnitude only by the wall of concussive sound that fairly leaps forth from the stacked amps and speakers to overwhelm the audience. For all the talent of Corey Pierce, providing an assault of percussion on which the band's signature sound is constructed, the true pulse of the band's virile stage presence rests in the capable hands of Doc Coyle and Matt Wicklund, God Forbid's tandem guitar duo. Wicklund is the newest member of the quintet, and in fact the only new member they've ever had, but he plays in seamless tandem with Coyle, weaving together their crushing tone. For his part, vocalist Bryon Davis completes the effect by transitioning effortlessly between the brooding harbinger promising punishment and the dedicated, professional screamer who can bend the crowd at his will. Whether playing songs new or old, God Forbid approaches each selection with the same honest single-minded nature; they are going to play the song loud and heavy, and the crowd will do their part by crashing into each other. The band brought their new release, "Equilibrium" to breathing life, smashing through singles like the thunderous "Overcome" and the album's opener "Don't Tell Me What to Dream." That said, their best signature moment came when they backward in the catalogue, crushing the uncovered but not forgotten single "Gone Forever." Fans responded equally to all of the band's material, which is a testament both to the consistency of the band over the years and the caliber of their live execution.
Overkill. The name rings loud in heavy metal as an emblematic example of the unchanging, underground face of the genre. Always a pillar of the thrash movement, Overkill has changed the least as the years have poured on, less even than undisputed thrash kings Slayer. Though the names in the lineup have changed, the attitude put on rails by Bobby Blitz and D.D. Verni never has. Overkill is the heavy metal version of AC/DC, the unwavering artist who will never throw fans a curveball or change their philosophy. Some would use those words as an insult, but after thirty years as a musical entity and twenty-seven years since their first release, it is the highest compliment. Overkill is one of the most confident live bands currently on the circuit, challenged only by KMFDM (the former's Dave Linsk and latter's Steve White have much the same presence.) They collective play their songs, new or old with effortless power and casual bravado. Where God Forbid floors you with their considerable force, Overkill draws you in, asking for more and more. I had convinced myself prior to the show that I would not go overboard with headbanging. Yet, Overkill provides you so many tempting opportunities to do so that even the most stalwart willpower can be eroded. Their magnetism, combined with the teeth-clenching (in a good way) execution of "Ironbound" whipped the crowd into a frenzy of movement and gyrations. Blitz remains the heart and soul of the performance, his quirky on-stage karate and running to and fro acting as his signature. The crowd is his, and his evident honesty and dedication to his craft, including the still wonderfully brittle screams of "Elimination," make him a personality that cannot be ignored.
If Blitz is the heart and soul of the band, then Verni remains the brain. The entire act is coordinated through his cues, leading the band into, out of and between each song. It is the combination of Blitz and Verni, as well as their erstwhile partnership thirty years into the game, that keeps Overkill ticking and viable. Inject some of Ron Lipnicki's pummeling kit work, and new songs like "Wish You Were Dead" sound just as impressive as favorites from days gone by, ranging from "Rotten to the Core" to crowd energizing "Hello from the Gutter" to something in between such as "Necroshine." Overkill's playlist this time around does an excellent job of mixing all of their eras into one delicious thrash stew that does not disappoint. Oh, and lest we forget, "Fuck You."