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LIVE REVIEW: Overkill, Cripper, Savage Messiah and Suicidal Angels Wolverhampton 24/2/10

March 25, 2010

Another stellar contribution from metal man Dave Yarwood. Please send me any articles to do with music and I’ll post them. If they are good. <domonhiscomputer@hotmail.com>

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Not renowned for its hard rock and metal pedigree, in recent years Wolverhampton has become a essential point on the map for the UK metal scene. While it may lack a bona fide stadium / arena tour venue (not withstanding the proximity of Birmingham’s NEC), its Civic centre and Wulfrun Hall have become reliable stops for some of metal’s bigger players – including Anthrax and Fear Factory. It puts arguably ‘higher esteemed’ Northern cities like Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle to shame.

In saying that it was quite a shock upon our arrival at the Wulfrun Hall to find we had been relegated from the main hall (capacity maybe 2000) to the back bar (at a squeeze 200) presumably down to poor ticket sales. A band with the 25 year history and consistency of Overkill really do deserve better. Latest release ‘Ironbound’ is already one of the most important albums of 2010, perhaps its only recent release in mid February meant it had not yet disseminated to the metal fan on the street.

As opposed to last year’s ‘Killfest’ supported by thrash titans Exodus, this year’s mini-fest lacked real recognised support and also contributed to a reduction in numbers and probably sidelined younger modern metal fans. This lack of support may have contributed to my gig partner’s late arrival meaning that we sadly missed support band’s Cripper and Savage Messiah‘s performances – sorry guys. If you will have doors at 6pm, I’d be surprised if anyone but Wolverhampton’s unemployed and student population saw them anyway!

Chief support came from Greece’s ‘Suicidal Angels’ – thrash metal up-and-comers who can probably be summed up in the phrase “crap name, good band”. Bearing slightly more than a resemblance to pre ‘Roots’-era Sepultura, I was initially preparing a piracy report (eh?- Ed.) until I realised I was thoroughly enjoying myself. Singer Nick’s grunt and chants may have been a little monotone (and Max Cavalera-ish), however they carried enough enthusiasm to support the solid thrash riffing and thundering double kickdrums that punctuated the majority of their set. What little I have heard on their myspace page is a fair representation of their early 90’s thrash/death sound however despite the initial likeness to Sepultura in the timbre, the songs do have a highly listenable freshness and variation (without going too far) to suggest that we may see these guys again very soon on bigger stages. My compliments to bassist Angel, who we spoke to afterwards – a nice guy both humble and driven whilst also aware of the work that will be required to crack the next level.

And so to Overkill, a band gracing a stage nowhere near big enough for them, yet making it all the more special for those lucky enough to be there. Opener and lead track from Ironbound ‘The Green And Black’ is an 8 minute juggernaut perfectly weighted to start the party and leave you feeling immediately satisfied. Overkill have always been a thrash band and have deviated little from this. Their guitar sound has lost nothing through the years and whilst other bands of the classic 80’s metal era have attempted – and sometimes been forced – to reinvent themselves, Overkill’s current sound is just an updated version as relevant today as its ever been.

Grinning and seething every word, frontman Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth’s is surely one of the best frontmen in heavy metal. A veteran he may be, but he houses an energy and chiselled 0% fat physique that any mortal man would be proud of. In his New York drawl/screech he spits, “I may be old but I can still knock you down boy!”, at the mere hint of any bottle throwing. His enthusiasm was impossible to ignore as he whipped the crowd into chorus classics like ‘Rotten To The Core’, ‘Elimination’ and ‘In Union We Stand’. New cuts ‘Ironbound’ and ‘Bring Me The Night’ fitted in seamlessly to a set containing absolutely no filler. Blitz aside the rest of Overkill’s current line-up have never been known for their onstage antics and I sensed that tonight they did seem a little muted by the small surroundings. Bassist D.D. Verni, although spot on with his backing vocals, did have the odd vacant stare in his eyes that I’m not buying as a new “I place bass so I’m cool” image.

Due to the mini-festival arrangement the band were only allotted 90 minutes and despite being treated to a blood-curdling rendition of ‘Necroshine’ in the encore, an Overkill fan is always going to be left wanting a little more: For example there was nothing from previous album ‘Immortalis’, no ‘Powersurge’, no ‘Coma’, and no ‘Rip ‘N’ Tear’ but the real sad thing for owners of the new album was that we were limited to just 3 tracks off it. Third from last track ‘In Vain’ feels like it was made for the stage, and if we’re not going to see it on this tour then its a fair question to ask, “Well when?”.

Customary set closer “Fuck You” can always be relied on to bring the house down – and it did not fail. Rabid fans all screaming profanities with middle fingers in the air almost made me think we were in the main hall after all, and then… an all too soon goodbye. Far be it for me to argue, inherently contagious and great fun it is, but is “Fuck You” really the right song for Overkill to finish with after all these years? Though they may not care what I say: its rabble rousing, protest shoutability factor could be much better suited to a mid-gig momentum surger (not that it ever dipped) whilst they certainly have enough thrash classics to replace it with at the end.

All in all a belter of gig from a band that sound as essential now as they ever did. Though playing a glorified bar rather than a real stage, production and sound quality was outstanding and the band didn’t miss a beat. Like their Motorhead name origins suggest – Overkill – the only way to feel the noise is when it’s good and loud!

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