Support act: Soilwork & Xentrix.
Review by Yiannis (John) Stefanis
Photos by Yiannis (John) Stefanis
Two gigs in a row, with less than four hours of sleep in between – not a problem back in the day, but getting closer to celebrating my fourth decade on this planet doesn’t make it easy. I readily admit that if it hadn’t been New Jersey thrashers Overkill playing, I wouldn’t have been at the O2 Islington Academy on the 13th March. Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth is a man with enough energy to raise the dead, so I put my faith in him and his amazing ‘wrecking crew’ to keep me entertained for the night.
Prior to witnessing Overkill (one of the best live bands in general), we were lucky to be treated to another two bands’ performances that night. First formed in Preston in 1985, Xentrix were one of the very first UK Thrash Metal bands to be offered a contract by a major label, in this case Roadrunner Records.
Even though three really good quality albums came out as a result of that collaboration, the band never really managed to achieve a major breakthrough and, in 1996, sadly disbanded.
It was early last year that Chris Astley (guitars/vocals) and Co decided to bring the band back to life and tonight’s performance was a chance for them to thank their numerous fans for many years of loyalty and support.
With only half an hour and limited stage space at their disposal, the band predominantly performed material from the first two albums, with belters like “No Compromise”, “For Whose Advantage?” and “Crimes” executed with both technical precision and youthful energy, much to the crowd’s delight. “Balance Of Power” is a song that really influenced my musical upbringing and their choice to close with said gem offered the first highlight of the night.
Swedish melodic deathsters Soilwork are anything but strangers to these shores. Bjorn “Speed” Strid’s troops have accumulated a pretty loyal following over the years and with “The Living Infinite” still fresh in their musical arsenal, the Swedes were poised for making an impression.
Sadly this fell short, as a combination of a large amount of time spent readjusting the stage following Xentrix’s exit and the average sound quality provided to them somewhat undermined the momentum raised by their predecessors.
Kicking off with “The Momentary Bliss”, the band dedicated half its set to their latest offering, something that their fans didn’t seem to really mind, as they remained quite vocal throughout the band’s performance.
I was quite pleased to see songs like “Bastard Chain” and “Like The Average Stalker” featured in the band’s set list, however, the predominantly young audience warmed more towards latter day material and that is why both “Rise Above The Sentiment” and its more commercial-sounding follow up “Stabbing The Drama” received the warmest of reactions, following which the band left the stage.
It took the road crew at least half an hour to get the stage ready for Overkill and, luckily for them, no major complaints were expressed by the members of the crowd during that time. When New Jersey’s finest finally hit the stage at approximately half nine, a killer rendition of “Come And Get it” from 2012’s “The Electric Age” almost tore the roof of the building.
I have seen Overkill performing at the O2 Islington Academy quite a few times before and, even though the sound on this night was slightly below the venue’s standards, the passion and energy put into the set was enough to compensate us all for a few lost frequencies here and there.
More importantly, with the new album not being still in preparatory mode, the night’s set list included a number of crowd-pleasing classics such as “Hammerhead” and “Rotten To The Core” – songs that were brilliantly performed by the band and appropriately supported by its fans.
Bobby Ellsworth is without doubt one of the most charismatic front men of his generation. When not straining his vocal chords to the maximum or running to and fro on the stage like a man possessed, the fifty four year old legend spent a lot of his energy connecting with his audience and, like any orchestra conductor worth his salt, showed us what we, the audience, were expected to do in order to help make the show a truly memorable experience.
One a musical note, “Bring Me The Night” and “Ironbound” represented one of the most successful albums from the band’s latter stage career, whereas “Hallo From The Gutter” and “Coma” were performed at such neck-breaking speed that guitarist Dave Linsk had to replace his E string!
Slower in pace and groovier in sound, “Necroshine” is a song that has evolved into a real classic over the years and so it worked pretty well opening to the more up-tempo “Thanx For Nothin’” and “In Union We Stand” – songs which demanded and received further participation from the crowd.
A hyper-fast version of “Elimination” completed the band’s main set and, with curfew time fast approaching, the US powerhouse returned promptly on stage to finish off with an impressive rendition of “Horrorscope” and the customary cover to The Subhumans’ classic “Fuck You”.
Like good quality wine, Overkill’s shows seem to become better with age. Passion, commitment, energy, honesty…these have long become bynames for this Thrash Metal institution and I, as a long term fan, am glad to find droves of young metal heads being exposed to and appreciative of songs that became the soundtrack to my teenage years.
You may find this hard to believe, especially following a show as impressive and powerful as this one, but bands like Overkill are not going to be around forever so next time they play at a place near you, do go and pay them your respects – you will certainly not regret it!
Xentrix Set List:
- “No Compromise”
- “Back In The Real World”
- “For Whose Advantage?”
- “World Of Mouth”
- “Balance Of Power”
Soilwork Set List:
- “The Momentary Bliss”
- “Like The Average Stalker”
- “Parasite Blues”
- “Bastard Chain”
- “Rise Above The Sentiment”
- “Stabbing The Drama”
Overkill Set List:
- “Come And Get It”
- “Wrecking Crew”
- “Electric Rattlesnake”
- “Rotten To The Core”
- “Bring Me The Night”
- “Hello From The Gutter”
- “Thanx For Nothin’”
- “In Union We Stand”
- “Fuck You” (The Subhumans cover)
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