As the doors of the Culture Room opened for last night's Overkill show, throngs of men and women donning faded black band shirts and surplus camouflage jackets filed in, all ready to catch the South Florida stop of the Killfest tour. Upon entering the restroom, I was confronted with the sounds of a man struggling through what I'm assuming was the night's first alcohol-induced purge, and I have to say, hat's off to you, oh, winning loser of the pregame! You managed to come undone before even a single note was played. How very thrash of you.
Chicago's Diamond Plate were the first band to take the stage. The band made it quite clear it was not screwing around with its extremely potent meat-and-potatoes classic thrash. The early crowd was very receptive to Diamond Plate, and the frenzy that had been steadily building throughout the band's set came to a boil when they unleashed the unmistakable dual-guitar intro of Metallica's "Seek and Destroy." While pulling out a cover from Kill 'Em All is a very "fish in a barrel" kind of move, it was still fun and met by the night's first circle pit.
Unfortunately, Diamond Plate was forced to perform with tour manager, Dan Valente, handling Jon Macak's lead vocal and bass-playing duties, as Macak had flown home to be with his mother as she battles a life-threatening illness. However, Valente did a fantastic job keeping the ship afloat, and had I not been made privy to the situation prior to the set, I would not have known he was a fill-in.
Following Diamond Plate's early Megaforce Records-influenced thrash attack, Celtic metal band Suidakra was up. The German outfit took the stage, chugging beefy open chords over a prerecorded introduction of uh... bagpipes. While the stodgy metal snob within me may hate to admit it, the Celtic twist certainly sets Suidakra apart from the countless other melodic metal groups out there, and is an interesting take on the style.
German bands love to play dress-up, and Suidakra was no different, wearing matching black vests -- complete with pleather inserts and shoulder pads. I don't quite get that bit, but the costumes didn't appear to affect crowd opinion, as everyone seemed to really dig Suidakra's seamless fusion of melodic metal and (simulated) acoustic-guitar-driven pub chants.
God Forbid was the last band to lay siege at the Culture Room before the headliners, and the band was in great form. God Forbid has been playing a dynamic mix of hardcore-influenced metal and soaring melodies since 1996, and the New Jersey-based outfit proved last night that its sound has weathered the years substantially better than most of its metal-core peers. Doc Coyle and Matt Wicklund's guitar acrobatics were a highlight of the set, and the band kept the energy up the entire time, making good on singer Byron Davis' promise to "fuck your brain until you're crazy."
By the time Overkill was prepped to take the stage, the crowd at the Culture Room had swelled a bit, a testament to the band's staying power and its ability to overcome the small-crowd curse of a weeknight show.
The crowd chanted "Overkill!" in unison until a series of blinding blue and green lasers broke through the smokescreen. Members of the legendary thrash group began to find their way onstage until frontman Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth finally exploded to the front, mounting a triumphant foot upon the monitor and letting loose his trademark shrieking metal onslaught.
The band's new songs have the same bite as the classics, and opening number "Come and Get It" (from 2012's The Electric Age) had all of the trademark East Coast stomp that this band has been dealing in since the mid-'80s. The mosh hurricane brewing in the Culture Room broke loose category-five style for "It Lives."
Though Ellsworth alluded to his age frequently throughout the night, he put on a great show and appeared to be in good shape, especially considering the fact that the man had a stroke onstage a few years ago. A highlight of the set was the ever-popular "Wrecking Crew," a song about the band's early days that has even provided the name for its website. Of course, Blitz's stage banter is always fun, as he referred to the crowd as "mudda fuckers" in his thick "Joisey" drawl and joked (?) about leaving the stage "to take a shit" after a brief intermission.
Overkill sounded very tight and proved yet again just why the early thrash era of metal was so much fun. Toward the beginning of Overkill's set, a fan wearing a Metallica Load shirt stumbled out of the pit, disoriented to the point of having to excuse himself from further mosh activities. I have attributed his mosh sickness to the t-shirt, and I think the moment sums up the night pretty well. If you're reading this, you're lucky that nice young man in the Kill 'Em All shirt found and returned your wallet to you!
Overkill set list
"Come and Get It"
"Bring Me the Night"
"Hello From the Gutter"
"Deny the Cross"
"Rotten to the Core"
"Fuck You (Subhumans)"
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