Overkill / Trivium / Fatal Order / Ion Vein / Cable

Joe's, Chicago - 4/17/05

by Dr. Abner Mality

It was 20 years ago that I first clapped ears on Overkill. 20 years ago that I first took flight with Charly the bat-winged skull of darkness. Yet tonight was to be the very first time for me to see the legendary New Jersey thrashers in the flesh. So you can imagine that the fires of anticipation ran thick and fast through my veins.

If I come across as a writer who has left objectivity behind, so be it. Overkill is a special kind of band and kindles a special kind of feeling in me. They are one of those bands that is an "archetype", that symbolizes the whole metal underground. They reach from 1985 to 2005 with a strong and inclusive grasp. They were going to have to screw up big time to get a poor review from me. Luckily, that was not a problem.

Before we dive into the meaty metal entree that is Overkill, we need to dig into some tasty appetizers. There was a pretty good selection of authentic metal hors d'oerves before the main course, including a band of up and comers who probably weren't even in the womb when the first Overkill album "Feel the Fire" hit the racks.

Cable kicked off the festivities. Now I don't think these are the sludgy/trippy rockers who have an album "When Pigs Fly" out now, despite having the same name. This Cable was much more of a classically inclined outfit, with deep metal roots. They played a kind of combo of Pantera-style groove and Priestish true metal. Their lead singer had some awesome pipes for sure, unleashing some ear-shattering screams. To prove their vintage, they tucked into a decent cover of Priest's "Victim of Changes" where the vocalist pretty much matched Halford's ball-shrivelling shrieks note for note. NOT an easy thing to do, ladies and gentlemen! The crowd gave Cable a polite response.

Ion Vein are a more well-known quantity. These progressive power metal freaks have been
on the Chicago scene for a long time and in fact, our own Joe Who? interviewed them right here at Wormwood. This is a professional, seasoned outfit that commanded the stage and showed they can stand with some of the best power metal here in the States. Their style can best be described as Queensryche with a speed metal emphasis. Once again, a charismatic frontman makes a difference.In this case, it's Russ Klimczak who helms the good ship Ion Vein. What a classy vocalist this guy is. If Geoff Tate really had his heart in heavy metal, he'd sound like Russ. I can also detect a lot of ex Iced Earth singer Matt Barlow in his approach. Russ and the rest of Ion Vein command the stage with the ease that only comes from a lot of experience. They cut loose with some classy but heavy cuts like "Enough", "Spiral Maze" and "Edge of Forever". I gotta give props to the guys who man the soundboards at Joe's...the sound was superb. Ion Vein got a good response and they sure deserve greater recognition.

The surprise of the night was next. Never heard of Fatal Order before and visually, they did not fit the profile of a heavy duty
true metal band. Ion Vein LOOKS like a classic metal band. Dunno what Fatal Order looks like, but it's not the shredding, energetic, 100% killer band that they actually are. Man, did these guys lay down! This is the way I remember metal from about 1984...a fact that Fatal Order is proud to embrace. Plenty of screaming guitar solos mixed with chunky, catchy riffs and smooth vocals. Lead guitarist and vocalist Tony excelled at both roles and fired up the crowd as well. He was the furthest thing visually from a guitar hero, but he sure as fuck was one, as he cut loose on traditional sounding cuts like "Spellmaker", "I Dream", and "Kicked in the Balls Again". He was pretty funny on the mike,too: "We've been around since 1966! We went on tour with Uriah Heep in 74, passed out in the dressing room and only woke up now!" They weren't quite THAT dated, but when they hit the first notes of Maiden's "Hallowed By Thy Name", the place came unglued. I will not lie to you...this was the best live cover I have seen by ANY band! They NAILED this cut and the whole room sang along with them. They're about as original as Duran Duran but Fatal Order rocks like HELL and brings back the old metal magic when they hit the stage!

You wouldn't think that Trivium, the latest critical darlings and new "saviors" of the American metal scene, would have a hard time following an aging local band with no real status on the scene. Well, a lot of bands would have had a hard time
following Fatal Order's set. These young lads were game for the task, though, and hit the stage running. They follow in the style laid out by other recent "New Wave of American Heavy Metal" acts such as Shadows Fall and God Forbid, but not to the extent of losing their individuality. There's a surfeit of lead guitar soloing going on...probably more than even Shadows Fall itself...and it is played with extreme dexterity and power. Lead singer/vocalist Matt Heafey simply looks too young and too emo to me, but his heart is in the right place as he belts out stuff like "Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation" and "Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr". I managed to give a thumbs up to bassist Paolo Gregoletto, yelling out the name of his great former band, Metal Militia, which he acknowledged with a quick grin. Trivium may indeed be the missing link between the classic metal of the past and whatever is coming in the future, but they need time to work on it. I get the impression they are being pushed way too fast.

Overkill can never claim they got pushed too fast. Every square inch of their turf, they fought for. Trivium was hopefully watching the N. J. Wrecking Crew in action tonight, because Overkill put every ounce of their experience, their sweat and their fire into this set. Why the fuck are these guys playing to 300 or so at Joe's while junk like Atreyu and Evergreen Terrace plays to thousands? Don't people know what real metal is anymore? They are much more entertaining than Slayer, who don't have half the charisma and who seem to think they are owed a huge response just by showing up. It makes me madder than hell to think that legions of so-called metalheads have probably never heard an Overkill song.

Kicking things off with "Within Your Eyes" from the new "ReliXIV" opus, they hit the stage running...literally! Bobby Blitz is just amazing. He's built like a pro athlete, lithe and lean, and uses every muscle in his body during his performance. When he is not singing, he will stand just offstage in a still, meditative posture. When it's time for him to scream again, he runs like a madman back to the mike, grabs it like he wants to kill it and yells into it with every bit of passion he can muster. You can see the veins popping on this guy! He takes on the physical character of whatever song the band is performing and transmits it to the audience. Blitz is one of the greatest frontmen in rock, bar none, and is as metal as you can get.

With 14 albums out, it's hard to pick a set that will please every one, but Overkill sure gives it a shot. Some of the highlights tonight included the anthemic "Rotten to the Core" from the very first LP, the surging "Nice Day for a Funeral" and one of the ultimate ass-kicking metal rockers ever, "Thanx for Nothing". From the new record we got treated to "Loaded Rack" and "Bats in the Belfry". Guitarist Dave Linsk is the latest in a long string of great Overkill guitarists but shows his worth. Every note he plays exudes the old thrash metal magic.

To go down the list of classic songs would be almost pointless. The band ended their first set with the delightful and bawdy "Old School", a punk rock type singalong that had just about everybody punching their first in the air and trying to sing along. It was a real transcending moment, as a feeling of metal brotherhood was in the air. The group encored with the unusual choice of "Necroshine" and the completely expected choice of "Fuck You", which featured hundreds of middle fingers stabbing towards the ceiling.

If you are a metal fan, a night like this is pure paradise. You just can't get any better than Overkill in a packed club. Come to think of it, I may like them better this way...they'd lose a lot of their blue-collar feeling in a stadium or Metro Centre. As Blitz himself said, "we're playing tonight in a room full of friends". Check out Overkill if you get a chance and join that circle of friendship.

Photos courtesy of Dr. Abner Mality