October 2, 2014 Overkill Wreck Starland Ballroon Sayreville, NJ 9-27-14 W/ Municipal Waste & Prong
Its hard to believe that thrash metal as we know it has been around for over thirty years. It might be tempting to think that the best in Thrash has already been done, and long ago at that, leaving the twenty-teens to echo only shadows of that past greatness. For those lucky enough to be at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ Saturday September 27th, there is a good chance they will no longer support this jaded notion. Overkill was in town; back home in their own stomping grounds and they did not come alone. They brought a host of ass-kicking friends along with them, which altogether made for the promise of a very special night.
Starland Ballroom is one of the best venues around. Just spacious and fancy enough to feel good, but still intimate enough for the gritty camaraderie of a Metal show. A sizable crowd had already gathered when openers Apathy took the stage. A New Jersey band formed in 2005, they are no strangers to the Starland crowd. As they tore through an all too brief set, Apathy showed a penchant for mid to late eighties Slayer, doing it harder and faster and possibly even better than a lot of those bigger names in the Thrash Metal game. A big, sweaty circle pit followed their every note, as Apathy engendered all kinds of emotion from those in attendance. The world needs to hear more from this band.
Midnite Hellion seemed to come and go very quickly. Their music was well-received by the growing crowd, combining some very melodic elements to a Hardcore Metal sound that did not seem to stay within any one camp. Energetic and competent, they delighted the audience with a nice rendition of Metallica’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls.” If there was one negative with their set, it was the generic, paint-by-numbers stage banter of the singer; sounding like every other Hardcore/Metalcore singer coming off slightly cliched. This gripe aside, Midnite Hellion possesses a lot of skill, chops, and they certainly had the admiration of the crowd, who cheered exuberantly after every song.
Next up to the stage was the unsung, underrated vets from New York City, the mighty Prong. Tommy Victor and company boast a highly celebrated discography of forward-thinking crossover Metal going all the way back to 1986. Influential, unique, and always a treat live, Prong did not disappoint. In front of a stoked crowd of headbangers already excited by the openers, the band ratcheted up the groove and pounded out the rhythms like they owned the place. Classics like “Cut-Rat” and “Beg To Differ” sounded as cutting edge as they did upon release, although for the first few songs the sound mix was not quite right. Way too much bass and not enough vocals can ruin a good set, but luckily the problem was swiftly resolved. “Unconditional” and some other newer cuts churned the pit into a frenzy, but it was closing classic “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck” that almost took the roof off the joint; another classic performance from a classic New York area band.
The crowd at Starland Ballroom this night encompassed a wide range of ages, with kids sporting back patches from bands whose seminal albums were wrought long before any of them had been born. The youngsters stood shoulder to shoulder with thirty, forty, and fifty something’s – the very people who were there when it all began. As Prong came from the old days, Municipal Waste could be seen as the flagship band of the new Thrash generation. Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, these party Thrash maniacs know how to have a good time. With fast, ripping tunes and a D.R.I., crossover appeal worthy of manic Skate-Punk bands as well as the Nuclear Assault’s of the world, Municipal Waste bring the humor, the shout-along verses, and the killer riffs to cause riots whenever they play; good-natured, happy go lucky riots of course. Starland Ballroom could have tilted the earth off its axis, so intense was the circle pit during the set. Playing songs like “Beer Pressure” and “Thrashing of the Christ,” anyone not familiar with Municipal Waste before this night could not possibly forget them now.
It was a bit of a wait before the lights went down for the night’s esteemed headliners. Old Bridge, New Jersey’s own Thrash kings Overkill emerged onto the stage bathed in the sickly green light of their iconic bat skull. After a quick intro, D.D. Verni and company stormed the stage to the delight of all, as a press of humanity surged to the front. Bobby Blitz then burst out from stage left, flinging himself into his mic stand and launching right into “Armorist,” the first song off incandescent new album White Devil Armory. It does not matter how long he has been doing it, Overkill’s larger than life frontman is one of the best in all of Metal. Each verse gets its own set of gestures; each scream gets an evil grin. He is without a doubt a “one man army and a warring nation.” It is impossible not to get lost in the green haze of Thrash done the Overkill way. Moving right along, the band aired out such stormers as “Electric Rattlesnake,” “Wrecking Crew,” and “Rotten To The Core.” Each one whipped the crowd into further frenzy, and Metal faithful seriously have to wonder how and why this band was never considered one of the Big Four of Thrash. Although this is an argument for another discussion, it is hard to point to an original Thrash outfit that is still making music this consistently strong in 2014. Despite the strength of their latest album, only “PIG” was played off of it after the opener, as the band brought out some oldies and live rarities. Playing in front of a deliriously delighted hometown crowd, Overkill busted out classics such as “End of the Line,” “Hello From The Gutter,” and during a quick, furious encore, they played “Bitter Pill,” “Elimination,” and the old Subhumans cover “Fuck You.”
Overkill may be one of the longest tenured bands around, in thrash or any other genre, but age has only sharpened their attack. Live, they are a juggernaut of speed, thrills, and flawless execution. That Saturday night Metal celebration was no exception and Starland Ballroom will reverberate with the scalpel sharp riffs of the bands that tore off its roof for a long, long time.