As a lot of rivetheads are aware of the roots of Overkill
and how they had been very instrumental in weaving some sections of the yarn called thrash metal, it was their sheer misfortune in the beginning that a lot of their early demos (including the tasteful “Power
in Black”) as well as the powerful self titled EP got covered in the sands of time. Owe it to bad management decisions or an unsupportive label, we don’t know. But the band was hungry for violence and vigorously rattling the heads of listeners all across this planet and hence they entered the arena with a debut whose impact can best be fantasized as the mighty “Sword
” baptized by both fire and fury. This was a young band out there to grab everyone’s goddamn throat and “Feel the Fire
” was their vehicle of world dominance.
As with every early thrash metal band of that era, the influences drew directly from NWOBHM which also included speed metal tendencies reminiscent of highly acclaimed acts Motorhead, Tank
. As a matter of fact the band took its name from the essential Motorhead song which directly attributes to their sound. This debut is not exactly the kind of thrash metal you would hear the band play on their sophomore efforts. On the contrary this is pretty much more in the speed metal vein with thrash riffs scattered around on a few tracks. The difference here is that even when the quartet is blazing away at a blinding speed, melody doesn’t elude the onslaught at any moment. With the absence of vocals and non disclosure of any information about Overkill
, a random listener could actually mistake this for Iron Maiden or Cloven Hoof
trying to churn out a thrash album.
When we talk about great thrash metal vocalists of all time, Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth’s name is one that is more than likely to come up. The man’s energy is downright unimaginable and the amount of work he puts in his singing is simply phenomenal. On this record however, his vocals are a lot more controlled yet aggressive and show no signs of the snarly approach he would eventually opt for later on. A frontman of this caliber required able musicians who shared similar ideas musically. The lineup is therefore completed by bass guru D.D Verni, seasoned east coast six stringer Bobby Gustafson and skin pounder as well as one of the co-founders of the band, Rat Skates ( Lee Kundrat). Many consider this the classic lineup that would also go on to perform together on “Taking Over”.
Most of the stuff on this full length was written a few years prior and as mentioned earlier, this is one of the earliest forms of thrash metal that has a very street ready feel. The production also helps in keeping the overall atmosphere rather raw. There are times when you feel that the drums are being overshadowed by the guitar, bass and vocals but good musicianship and songwriting make the save here. While most of this album is total speed metal mayhem, you’ll also get to hear some very epic, enchanting and folksy parts on some tracks. The middle sections of “There’s no Tomorrow” and the brilliantly written “Kill
at Command” are an absolute joy to listen to.
The anthem that would become one of their most heavily played popular live tracks is none other than the putrefying “Rotten
to the Core
” and “Second Son” are full of stomping riffs and slick vocal lines. In addition the first ever installment of the spine chilling and killer “Overkill
” saga comes at the near end of the album, one which would spawn four more tales of terror on later works. When Blitz hits those high notes at the end of the track, you can’t help but feel a sudden adrenalin rush throughout your body. The saga comprises of the some of the best songs the band has ever written.
Along with Anthrax
and Nuclear Assault
released a slew of thrash essentials during the eighties that helped shape the whole east coast thrash scene and this sparkling debut gave them just the start even though it should have been released 3 years earlier. It is a certified classic and certainly makes it to my top ten of best thrash metal debuts ever. You won’t find too many heavy metal albums as good as this. If you ever come across this at a record store, don’t waste your time head scratching. Just pick the damn thing up, load it up in your CD players, crank the volume higher and Feel the Fire