Overkill is the band known for their thrash metal style of music that also features hardcore punk. Formed in 1980 out of New Jersey, the lineup of Overkill has undergone many changes. D.D. Verni and Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth are the band’s only two constant members. In addition to Overkill’s current lineup are lead guitarist Dave Linsk, rhythm guitarist Derek Tailer, and drummer Jason Bittner. Despite the numerous names that have come and gone throughout the years, Overkill is one of the most successful East Coast thrash metal bands.
Thrash Metal Pioneers
Often dubbed as the “Motorhead” of thrash metal due to their unique music-playing style, Overkill credits punk rock and British heavy metal as their influence. Included with the band is their mascot, Chaly. Chaly is a skeletal bat, featuring a skull-like face, bony wings, green eyes, and horns. It has appeared on most of Overkill’s nineteen studio album covers. In 1986, Overkill was one of the first thrash metal bands to sign with a major record label (Atlantic Records). Alongside Overkill, the bands of Anthrax, Megadeath, Metallica, and Slayer pioneered the thrash metal genre during the mid-1980s. For Overkill, they first reached mainstream success with their second studio album (Taking Over) in 1987. According to the Billboard 200 charts, the album peaked at 191.
Overkill’s next five studio albums also reached the Billboard 200 charts:
- 1988 (Under the Influence)
- 1989 (The Years of Decay)
- 1991 (Horrorscope)
- 1993 (I Hear Black)
- 1994 (W.F.O.)
The albums, (I Hear Black and W.F.O.) both ranked in the top 10 of Top Heatseeker’s Chart. After this, Overkill split with Atlantic Records in 1995. They went through a series of record labels but managed to maintain moderate underground popularity, especially in Europe and Japan. Starting 2012, Overkill’s popularity rose again upon the release of three studio albums that each reached the top 100 spots:
- 2012 (The Electric Age)
- 2014 (White Devil Armory)
- 2017 (The Grinding Wheel)
10. Bring Me the Night
From Overkill’s comeback album (Ironbound), the song (Bring Me the Night) saw the band’s previous experimentation with groove metal was put behind them as they returned to what fans and critics agree they do best, which is thrash metal.
9. Electric Rattlesnake
A cult favorite among their fans, Overkill’s song (Electric Rattlesnake) comes from their 2012 album (The Electric Age). This album was the first from Overkill to crack the top 100 with the Billboard 200 chart, peaking at #77. Among music fans and critics, Electric Rattlesnake fits into their roster of cult favorites and is requested among radio stations that play metal music.
8. Rotten to the Core
Recorded live from their album (F&ck You and Then Some), the song (Rotten to the Core) has Overkill’s fan base admittedly “lose their shit” whenever they hear it. The album is a 1996 reissue of Overkill’s two previously released EPs from 1985 (Overkill) and 1987 (!!!F&ck You!!!).
7. I Hate
From their 1989 album (The Years of Decay), comes the song (I Hate). According to music critics and fans, this song, as well as the entire album served as the most progressive and diverse display of their musical talent as a band. Despite it not being officially released as a single, many fans of Overkill often place (I Hate) in their own top 10 lists as all-time favorites.
6. Time to Kill
From their 1989 album (The Years of Decay), Overkill’s (Time to Kill) quickly became a favorite among thrash metal music fans, as well as critics. The most common comment about the song (and album) served as the starting point for their major influence on the genre of groove metal.
Coming from the 1991 album (Horrorscope), the song (Coma) was released as a promo single. It quickly became a cult favorite among metal music fans, most of whom agree of the entire roster of 24 albums Overkill has released throughout the band’s career, Horrorscope has been established as their top-ranking and best-selling.
The guitar solo featured within the song (Horrorscope), which comes from their 1991 album of the same name. According to Billboard’s Top Heatseekers, the album ranked as high as 29th spot. While the title song was never officially released as a single for radio airplay, the music video served its purpose at MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball to make it a cult favorite.
3. Playing With Spiders / Skullcrusher
The album (The Years of Decay) placed at #155 on Billboard’s 200 lists in 1989. From AllMusic’s Jason Anderson, he gave it four stars out of five ratings. The song with the dual-title (Playing With Spiders/Skullrusher), seems to unofficially serve as an example how Overkill transitioned away from glam metal to thrash/groove.
1989’s (Elimination) was the only song released from (The Years of Decay) as a single, but it never appeared on the music audio charts. However, as a music video, the heavy rotation this song received from MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball proved it was a fan favorite. The August 2014 edition of Revolver Magazine rated this song, as well as the album it belongs to, at #14 of their “Thrash Albums You Need to Own” list.
First in Europe on January 29th, 2010, and then February 9, 2010, in the US, Overkill’s 15th album (Ironbound) and its song of the same title returned Overkill’s presence to Billboard’s Top 200 after 17 years. Within the first week alone, it sold over 4000 copies in the US. The song, (Ironbound) is not only marked as the ultimate comeback for Overkill but the clear favorite song of all time from them.