March 31, 2019

Diamond Oz of Metal Underground conducted an interview with frontman Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth of New Jersey thrash metal veterans OVERKILL prior to the band's March 21 show at Islington Academy in London, England. You can watch the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On how the band's latest studio album, "The Wings Of War", compares to 2017's "The Grinding Wheel":

Bobby: "First and foremost, production. I think it has a more bombastic audio approach to it. It was mixed by Chris 'Zeuss' Harris. 'The Grinding Wheel' [was mixed] by Andy Sneap. So two guys at the top of their game, with differences. I mean, obviously not 180-degree differences, but I think he [Harris] made this record a little bit more brutal. The other one was a little bit more refined in the production. I think the songwriting was unique on this record, too, because one of the things that I noticed early on when I started getting riffs that were skeletal demos, when it was starting to develop, all of it is heavy metal. It's just metal riffs. It was sounding like New Wave Of British Heavy Metal or sounding like traditional metal. Then you add [drummer] Jason Bittner to it, which has changed our chemistry, then we have this whole new configuration. So the traditional metal riffs that were embryonic all the way to Zeuss Harris, all these changes happened because our chemistry was different. I think that what we have out of it is something kind of unique. I'm not going to say it has totally broke the mold of 'The Electric Age' or 'The Grinding Wheel', but for sure, a step to the left and a step forward from what we've been doing since approximately 2010."

On fans knowing what to expect from an OVERKILL album:

Bobby: "That's really the key. At the end of the day, it has to have an OVERKILL stamp on it. For us, that's the vision or the end of the idea is that we're going to make it OVERKILL. Even if it's not OVERKILL 101 like 'Last Man Standing', which is a straight-out thrash song that kicks the door in once the record opens. Then there's also a much more traditional song like 'Distortion' with a swinging back-and-forth kind of a groove that is laced all over with melody. For sure, it's eclectic, for sure there's contrasts and shades of gray over the whole thing, but the key is getting the OVERKILL stamp on it."

On OVERKILL consistently releasing strong albums since 2010's "Ironbound":

Bobby: "I've heard comparisons with regard to certain things with us and MOTÖRHEAD, and, obviously, it's flattering, but I never thought we subscribed to the... I know that we do, but I know that MOTÖRHEAD did a lot of routine releases that were like clockwork. They would come out every couple of years. I think it keeps you sharp, first of all. We're not tortured artists; we're kind of like rock and roll, metal guys. We like fast cars and chicks. [Laughs] We like fun stuff and we've always subscribed to that lifestyle. We're not wondering why nobody appreciates our genius, we're just saying 'Give us another opportunity and we'll try to squeeze all the juice out of it.' That's probably our principle when it comes to that. Boy, I tell you, it's nice if somebody brings up: 'It reminds me of MOTÖRHEAD.' 'Wow, really!' I'm like blessing you on the inside. [Laughs]"

On whether there was any competition between American and German thrash bands during the 1980s:

Bobby: "I don't think it was necessarily competition. Things were happening simultaneously in a few places: U.K. being one of them and obviously a whole bunch of places. For sure, California, Bay Area, was birth of the scene, then the SLAYER guys out of Los Angeles and the Ruhr part of Germany where the industrial area was, Essen, that whole area was happening simultaneously. You couldn't really steal ideas because there was no internet. You had to tape trade and it would take 25 weeks to get the other guy's tape. We had a good rapport, but still I think a competitive nature as to not be number two. 'Oh, that's cool, but we still have to be number one. We still have to try harder,' kind of a thing. I recently told [DESTRUCTION frontman] Schmier the story that in 1984, I just purchased a car and D.D. [Verni, bass] and I and two other guys, with two cases of beer, drove from New Jersey to Montreal to see a gig called 'World War III' and it would be our first chance to see DESTRUCTION. It was also CELTIC FROST. POSSESSED was on the bill, [as was] VOIVOD. In any case, D.D. got to see them. I ended up meeting some girl on Saint Catherine street. He said, 'You missed the gig!' I said 'I missed the gig.' I said, 'I never told the story publicly.' He said to me, 'I knew I liked you. You had your priorities in order.' [Laughs] I have a great respect for the German bands. We've done the U.S. with KREATOR, did a co-headline swap with — I get along famously with [KREATOR bassist] Speezy [Christian Giesler]. He says, 'We're brothers from another mother.' I have a huge respect for what the country represents and a huge respect for what they offer musically."

"The Wings Of War" was released February 22 via Nuclear Blast. The album was recorded at Gear Recording Studio in New Jersey, SKH Studio in Florida and Jrod Productions with engineering handled by Verni and lead guitarist Dave Linsk. The album was produced by the band while Harris took care of the mixing and mastering. Travis Smith (NEVERMORE, OPETH, SOILWORK, DEATH) was again enlisted to create the artwork for the album.

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