October 15, 2015 Overkill & Symphony X Shred Through Marquee Theatre Tempe, AZ 10-7-15
Thrash Metal has long been a popular genre. Rising to a peak in the late 1980s, the genre was led by bands such as Anthrax, Slayer, Megadeth, Testament, and of course Overkill. One of the most successful East Coast Thrash bands to have risen, Overkill possesses a catalogue of eighteen studio albums, some reaching spots on the Billboard charts. As a band that is still selling records, the number of over 16 million records sold since 2012 is impressive. Consisting of mainstays Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth (lead vocals) and D.D. Verni (bass, backing vocals), as well as Dave Linsk (lead guitar, backing vocals), Derek “The Skull” Tailer (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), and Ron Lipnicki (drums), this group knows how to make music they love and the fans want. With that said, Overkill teamed up with New Jersey neighbors, Progressive Metal titans Symphony X for a co-headlining North American Tour which kicked off September 18th and winds down on October 17th. With plenty of ground to cover in a month period, these two fine Metal bands found their way to the Marquee Theatre in Tempe, Arizona on Wednesday October 7th. With the Thrash styling of Overkill and the Progressive nature of Symphony X, this night was one to not miss.
Even for a midweek show, the Marquee Theatre was packed with fans wearing Overkill and Symphony X shirts in anticipation for the show to begin. As stated, Overkill and Symphony X have been around for many years, and they have left indelible impressions in the world of Metal. As a result, they have accrued fans all over the world and influenced other musicians far and beyond their own respected styles. Since there were no opening acts, the night was completely dedicated to these two bands as a pure c0-headlining experience.
Symphony X took the stage first, setting the tone for the evening. Since the band’s formation in 1994, the New Jersey based Progressive Metal band has garnered attention with their symphonic melodies, odd timings, and neo-Classical influences. To date, the band has produced nine studio albums, of which their most recent album, Underworld, was released in July of 2015 via Nuclear Blast. Consisting of Michael Romeo (guitar, backing vocals), Michael Pinnella (keyboards, backing vocals), Jason Rullo (drums), Michael Lepond (bass guitar, backing vocals), and Russel Allen (lead vocals), the band came out ready to rock Tempe.
From the moment Vocalist Russell Allen walked onto the stage singing the band’s first song, “Nevermore,” he had the crowd’s attention. Most often singers struggle to sound as good live as they do in the studio, but that was not the case with Allen who has showcased a wide range of ability from his time with Adrenaline Mob to performing with Trans-Siberian Orchestra. His vocals were consistently strong, and he sang with emotion that resonated with the music. Throughout the entire show, he was always moving, so much so at times, that a few pieces of jewelry fell onto the stage. Regardless, his stage presence complemented the music. He deftly incorporated props such as a cane and a theater mask.
Guitar virtuoso Michael Romeo also stunned the crowd with melodic riffs and intricate solos. Romeo’s demeanor was relaxed and friendly. He smiled at the audience as his fingers nimbly shredded the fret board. Romeo’s solos were some of the show’s highlights. In addition, Pinnella added even another layer to the theatrical quality of the music with his beautiful melodies, while Rullo and Lepond matched the energy with powerful and precise playing. The combination of all the instruments and Allen’s lyrics and vocals created an atmosphere akin to the theater. The overture especially added to this sense of drama.
The crowd’s reaction was a mixture of excitement and awe. Symphony X’s music is beautiful, but it is also very complex and full of nuances. Their set list mostly included songs from the band’s latest album Underworld, though they played songs “Eve of Seduction” and “Set the World on Fire (The Lie of Lies)” from their 2007 album Paradise Lost, as well as mixing in 1997’s “Of Sins and Shadows.” Wasting no time, the band rarely stopped in between songs, but twice, Allen expressed his appreciation for the fans amidst all the music. When the band finished the show, everyone raised their Metal horns, and to their delight, Symphony X returned for an encore performance with “Iconoclast.” With a handful of shows left on this run, Symphony X will soon turn their attention to a lengthy European tour, but do not distress, they will be back on American soil soon.
When the members of Overkill took the stage, the atmosphere in the venue immediately shifted, preparing for the thrashing ahead. The audience knew they could expect fast-paced, aggressive guitar riffs and a frontman whose stage presence is nothing less than magnetic. Since the 1980s the New Jersey Thrash Metal band have captivated Metalheads with their distinct sound and Punk Rock presence. All these years later, Overkill continues to perform all over the world to positive support. Though their sound has evolved and gone through changes, the band has never abandoned their East Coast Thrash Metal roots.
When the stage went dark and bright strobes illuminated Lipnicki, the fans pushed against the rails, raising Metal horns. The other members joined Lipnicki, opening with “Armory.” With a band name like Overkill, the crowd could expect nothing less than high energy and intense riffs. Blitz took command of the stage, always moving and engaging with the audience through songs like “Hammerhead,” “Rotten to the Core,” and “Bring Me the Night.” Even with all the physical exertion, Blitz never appeared to tire and his voice always rang out clear and with a lot of power. Occasionally, in between songs, in true Blitz style, he spoke to the crowd and poked fun at his New Jersey roots. With that said, for a musician who has become a recognizable figure in Heavy Metal, Blitz seemed very approachable, and the rapport between him and the fans was obvious. Mixing the set up with new and old material, “End of the Line” and “Hello From the Gutter” came before “Bitter Pill” with an equally ruckus reaction from the crowd. During parts of the songs, when Blitz was not singing, he gave the stage to the other equally charismatic band members such as his long-time partner in crime, Verni.
Speaking of Verni, he and Tailor were high energy all night long, showing good chemistry on the stage. Tailor was playful with the crowd, tossing guitar picks out into the audience, which only made the crowd wilder. Opposed to Linsk who was more laid back, but no less exciting to watch as he shredded every solo with ease and precision. The levels for all the instruments were ideal and there was no muddiness in the sound, making it easy to hear everyone.
The heavy guitar riffs and fast pummeling drum beats of Lipnicki got the crowd riled. It was not long before the fans started a sizeable mosh pit, which went on for the rest of the concert. Every song the band played seemed to be a favorite with the audience including “Ironbound.” When they finished their set, the fans clamored for more. Answering their call, the band returned to the stage for a three-song encore, which included “Playing with Spiders/Skullcrusher,” “Elimination,” and the traditional Subhuman cover of “Fuck You,” which had everyone chanting along.
Overall, Symphony X and Overkill are two highly recognized bands with very different styles. Yet, the pairing could not have been more ideal. Each band created their own unique experiences, which only made the concert that much more exciting. Symphony X entranced the audience with a musical odyssey, and Overkill raised the energy with their fast-paced songs and over the top personalities. With only four dates left, Overkill and Symphony X will be wrap up their trek in their own backyard of NYC at Terminal 5 on October 17th, so do not miss it.