Wednesday, July 31, 2002 @ 11:56 PM
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"Evil Never Dies"… or so Overkill's been declaring for nearly 20 years. But frontman Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth put that motto to the test when he suffered a stroke -- albeit a "minor" one, but a stroke's still a stroke -- during recent a festival performance in Europe. But survive he did, and by all accounts, he's recovering nicely. Given Ellsworth's sudden health crisis, it's with eerily fortuitous timing that Overkill issued its new live album when it did, since it may be a while before the band is on the road again. Wrecking Everything, Overkill's second live full-length, was recording last March in Asbury Park, N.J.'s Paramount Theater at a show that also was filmed for an upcoming DVD.
The CD offers a 70-minute set that is fairly evenly balanced between more recent material and the band's first four albums from way back when. While Overkill easily could have called it a day at any time during the last decade -- given its constant line-up turmoil, the myriad changes that have rocked the marketplace (from grunge to nu-metal to fucking boy bands) and the fact that the band was never more than an underground act even when speed metal was popular -- it has soldiered on with head held high. And Wrecking Everything is proof-positive that the band is not merely going through the motions.
Like fellow thrash vets Testament (who've weathered an equal amount of roster troubles, commercial indifference and health problems), Overkill's stuck to its musical guns over the years and does what it does very well. And with Ellsworth and bassist D.D. Verni -- the lone remaining original members -- leading the charge, Overkill still tears it up onstage. Wrecking Everything gets off to a bit of a sluggish start with the mid-paced "Necroshine," but quickly kicks into high-gear on the back of Tim Mallare's frantic drumming with the brilliant "Thunderhead," easily the best and most bruising of the recent-vintage tracks showcased here.
Sufficiently energized, Overkill keeps things rolling with a foursome of fearsome older tracks, starting with the aforementioned "Evil Never Dies." "Deny The Cross" and "I Hate" are simply vicious and "Shred" definitely lives up to its name thanks to the monster riffing of Overkill's latest guitar tandem Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer and Mallare's assertive pacing. Linsk and Tailer's swaggering hooks and Verni's gut-punch bottom end allow the newer "Bleed Me" and "Long Time Dyin'" to hold their own against the more familiar older numbers. But the death-grunt backing vocals and pedestrian speed metal of "It Lives" and "Battle" make you wish the band would hurry up and start playing more older stuff again -- which, thankfully, it does. The reintroduction of "The Years of Decay" is a most welcome addition to Overkill's live set. As Bic-flicking power ballads go, "Decay" is a magnificent, if largely undiscovered, classic that scores big by never getting too pretty or cheesy and delivering some mammoth riffs. Though there are some rusty moments, since the band hasn't been playing it for years, its sounds great here.
After Sept. 11, "In Union We Stand" has been transformed into a patriotic anthem and, as such, it makes for the perfect audience participation song. The Paramount crowd needs no prodding to oblige, loudly chanting the chorus as the band pounds away, before kicking into the signature closing number "Overkill." ["Fuck You" is not included on the CD, but it may turn up on the DVD, we shall see.]
As this is a "heavy metal live album," it suffers from the usual heavy metal live album annoyances -- guitar solos, tedious crowd-baiting (Ellsworth's between-song raps are startlingly lame for a wily old pro), etc. But get past that and Wrecking Everything delivers nothing but good old school metal up your ass. And there's nothing wrong with that.
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