Overkill Soars into Orlando on Wings of War

The House of Blues, Orlando March. 10th, 2020

When you hear the words thrash metal, Overkill is one of the first things that comes to mind. Overkill has been a pillar in the world of thrash metal for forty years and tonight they were at the House of Blues in Orlando, completing the final leg of their Wings Over the USA 2020 tour. Maintaining longevity isn’t always easy, and there have been obstacles along the way. The band has seen numerous lineup changes, but that has failed to slow them down. The band’s current roster is stacked with skill, energy and bare-faced aggression. Overkill is comprised of Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth (vocals), D.D. Verni (bass), Dave Linsk (lead guitar), Derek Tailer (rhythm guitar) and Jason Bittner (drums).

As the set time grew closer, chants of “Overkill” began to emanate throughout the crowd. The house lights dimmed and most of the band took their positions. Finally, Ellsworth burst onto the stage and the reaction was not unlike throwing a match on gasoline. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially from a band whose front man is nick, named Blitz. The band launched into Last Man Standing from their 2019 album The Wings of War. Interestingly enough, this was the first song recorded with new drummer, Bittner. An elevated riser served as Bittner’s perch, where he held down the fort with ferocity.

Along with Ellsworth, Verni is the only other original member of the band. Not only is he a master of the bass, but he’s heavily involved in the band’s songwriting process. Clad in a patch-filled leather vest, Verni showed off his abilities while taking time to lead the crowd in frequent, fist-pumping chants. Verni’s unique style was evident during some of the band’s older songs such as Feel the Fire and Rotten to the Core from their 1985 debut album, Feel the Fire.

Tailer joined Overkill in 2002 after a stint with Dee Snider’s band S.M.F., and although originally a bass guitarist, he assumed the position as rhythm guitar. Tailer’s skill and stage presence are remarkable, although he can be mischievous at times. Several times throughout the band’s set, including during Hello from the Gutter, Tailer took time to pelt the photographers with guitar picks. This guy loves what he does and it shows.

Dave Linsk came on board in 1999, after leaving New Jersey thrash metal band, Anger on Anger. His brutal savagery on lead guitar was on display the entire night. From tearing it up on Electric Rattlesnake and shredding on Ironbound, make no mistake about it, this guy’s a beast. His unbridled guitar mastery, was instrumental in keeping the crowd circle going throughout the night.

What would a successful thrash metal band be without a charismatic front man? Overkill has never needed to answer that question, because Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth has filled that role since day one. Complete with his signature curls, high-pitched raspy vocals and a killer nickname, Ellsworth, is a driving force behind the forty year success of the band. The animated vocalist had fans slamming and crowd surfing all night, especially during the wicked performance of Mean, Green, Killing, Machine.

It was clear that the band’s twelve-song set wasn’t going to be enough. The five-song encore was exactly what the fans needed. The band was able to showcase Welcome to the Garden State which is from the Wings of War album. This song holds special meaning to Ellsworth, as its origin stems from growing up in New Jersey. The band finished off the night with a cover of Fuck You by the English punk rock band the Subhumans.

The night was a success, and the fans were treated to an evening full of thrash metal, the way it’s supposed to be played. You don’t put out more than twenty albums and thrive in the music business for forty years by accident. These guys have stayed true to their roots and have earned everything they’ve accomplished. The Wings Over the USA tour wraps up on March 14th in, fittingly, Montclair New Jersey…. the ambassadors of thrash metal have come home.

Photos & Review by Chris Pamatian