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Regardless of who you consider the "first" thrash band or all that nonsense, it cannot be denied that Overkill is one of the best groups to play the genre. Whether it's viciously shrill vocals, riffs down yer throat, or a rhythm section to rival anybody else, Overkill rules. Their famous debut, Feel the Fire, gives a heaping helping of classic speed/thrash that is chock full of awesomeness. Compared to the other big thrash debuts, Feel the Fire has an overall faster tempo, speed metal rooted riffs, and a thick wall of low end provided by DD's good 'ol Ricky. No matter how highly one thinks of this record, its awesomeness cannot be denied.
Feel the Fire's sound can be described as a very early thrash metal album with significant speed and punk influences, as the members of Overkill were quite experienced playing classic punk music. The production is decent, but a bit dated. Bobby G's ill-fated guitar tone might not be visceral enough for most thrash maniacs, but it definitely gets the job done; I also happen to enjoy the classic sound that this album has. Feel the Fire possesses a burning energy in each of its tracks that makes for a driving and exciting listening, and all of the riffs are sufficiently heavy while also being quite memorable - all excellent attributes of a thrash metal (or might I say blood metal!!) debut.
Even at this early stage of their career, Overkill brings a vicious set of songs to the table with the likes of "Raise the Dead", "Rotten to the Core", the title track, and "Overkill" being outstanding cuts on a consistently strong album. "Rotten to the Core" is a fan favorite, and one of my first Overkill songs, featuring a riveting main riff and some spine-tingling vocals from Bobby Blitz. The galloping excellence of the title track makes it my favorite on the album (DD's bass in this one is just too cool). The chanting of "Higher! Higher! Feel the Fire! She burns at the stake like a witch!" is just totally as freaking awesome as it gets. The catchy and vicious riffs of "Second Son", "Raise the Dead", "Blood and Iron", and pretty much most songs on the album are all complete winners. The album is also chock full of interestingly unique thrash breaks that never sacrifice speed, but rather amp it up. While this isn't the thrashy brilliance Overkill would make a name for themselves with a bit later on, this album truly does force you to feel the fire.
The musicianship is pretty beastly, with each band member offering a energetic, instrumentally effective, and creative performance to the table. Gustafson handles all guitar duties single-handedly, and he does an excellent job - including some fantastic solos - showing early on that he was to prove himself as one of the 80's thrash movement's best guitarists. DD is one of my absolute favorite bass players, and he brings a consistently sturdy, steady, and rock-solid bass foundation for the rest of the band to play on. He plays a Rickenbacker, but he uses it in the opposite way most Ricky players would. DD uses a pick with a hollow and deep bass tone, rather than using using a gritty, punchy Rickenbacker tone played with his fingers. The bass sounds badass, and it is interesting to hear how he went from using this bass-heavy technique, to using his famous BC Rich equipped with a destructive mid range punch.
Rat Skates is one of my favorite metal drummers, as he doesn't waste time on fancy beats or boring rhythms; he pounds away with technical excellence combined with a straightforward punk edge that kicks ass. His drum fills are always blazing and forceful, and his technique is just straightforward enough to be interesting without ever overdoing it. Bobby Blitz is no doubt one of the most riveting metal singers of all time, as his soaring highs and blood-curdling screeches are really in a league of their own. His voice is much cleaner here than it is on, perhaps, The Years of Decay or Horrorscope, but his aggression and energy is definitely full-force. His awesome vocal attack goes hand-in-hand with the style of the music, and he makes for a wicked front man.
Feel the Fire is a very competent, and extremely enjoyable metal album. Whether or not you consider this thrash, speed, a mix of both, or whatever (blood metal!!); this album is fantastic. The unique aggression that this showcases is truly unique, and the seeds that Overkill planted here would continue to grow on the following albums. I never gave a crap about who would've had the biggest influence or who was really the best band of this style, but it's clear to me that this band rules - and it all started on Feel the Fire. This is definitely recommended to fans of thrash and speed metal, and pretty much most metal fans, you'll be glad you came.
Higher, higher, feel the fire, she burns at the stake like a witch!
Cut her, slash her, slit her throat, there's nothing I despise more than a bitch!
Burn her tonight
Run, hide from the Demon's fate, too late, the fire is lit!!
Come in a sit for a while, come in and feel the fire
Feel the heat, feel the fire, fire of desire!
Fall in! Fall in! Ahahahaha!
Feel the fire!
Arguably, Metallica might be the earliest thrash group, though back in the early 80’s there was another band which there is no need to introduce called Overkill that put out some refreshing demos that crucial 1983, when Ulrich & friends released their acclaimed debut. So Blitz & co. were also one of the pioneers of that challenging fierce sound, they could’ve achieved the same recognition of ‘tallica if they’d have released their debut Feel The Fire a couple of years before, as Lemmy always said it all depends on doing the right thing at the right time. 1985 was another splendid year anyway, vital albums we all admire as Slayer’s Hell Awaits and Exodus’ Bonded By Blood consolidated the identity and nature of the subgenre in those good old times when you could easily find honest unadulterated music in the underground scene, no matter how predictable certain topics were. So Overkill could do no wrong and joined the elite of thrash with this memorable debut.
The record starts with a couple of truly raging tracks, “Raise The Dead” and “Rotten To The Core”, both obeying the indispensable standards of the subgenre with really dynamic tempos and loose devastating riffs - what else, very insistent aggression executed without much complexity or ambition, yet lacking no attitude or passion. Actually, these guys proved their greater musicianship and potential than most of their peers on that early stage of thrash, technique and complication ain’t extraordinary but the band configures structures with variety and coherence. Riffs aren’t modified constantly or progressing notably, the arrangements ain’t advanced or particularly meticulous, the music is basically constructed with sense, achieving admirable continuity and revealing competent breaks, bridges, certain precise tempo shifts and solid pickin’ parts. Some cuts are clearly straight and intended to thrash hard without much pretention as “Hammerhead”, whose rhythm is very energetic and frantic with vocals getting specially repetitive and persistent, while other numbers like the homonym one and the title-track show bigger variety of structures and instrumental modifications developed with inspiration and grace, demonstrating the admirable skills of the group. Intensity and vigor are intensified on “Second Son” and “Blood And Iron”, featuring once again explicitly simple schemes focused on speed & aggression exclusively, though reaching a decent technical level on those few concise instrumental sections. In the beginning, their subgenre mates were lacking discipline, precision and experience, elements they would gain after releasing 2 or 3 records, in contrast with the already refined abilities and rigor of Blitz & co. The hyperactive velocity that determines the nature of their music is surprisingly controlled and performed accurately, Skates’ double bass-drum kicks ain’t chaotic or out of tempo, while the remarkable consistency of Gustafson’s solos, which are elaborated and developed with taste and originality, make a huge difference with the common crazy unfocused shredding of most thrash leading guitarists of those days.
So this is pure thrash deprived of the experience and sophistication the band would reach later, occasionally stuck in the usual clichés musically and immature lyrics, yet the results are superb for an unpolished debut. It was all about the energy, the aggression and the speed by the mid-80’s and Overkill satisfy the humble demands of this early phase of the subgenre completely, as I mentioned the concept of this music determined obvious limitations in the beginning. These great musicians could conceive something superior and technically advanced, but as most of thrash groups around, they had to go through this primitive stage to define their own sound and identity, no other way. However, these titles might not be inventive or amazingly original but they don’t get repetitive or topical either. Gustafson’s riffing is very versatile and solid without offering continuous variations, rhythms are only focused on speed, while vocals have nothing really deep or fascinating to talk about, it was the attitude, motivation and fresh ideas what made this straight simple music so special and far from generic. Another particular characteristic you can find here is Blitz’s voice, a guy who doesn’t have a spectacular voice, whose charisma and stage presence on other hand made Overkill’s music undoubtedly unique and distinct. Rhythm section is very professional too for a group who used to play raw punk; the discipline and control on those nearly impossible rapid tempos weren’t common and should be highlighted. So the band is formed by great performers, no doubt about it, also great song-writers are behind these compositions, conceiving focused efficient structures without notable difficulty, following a clear direction and satisfying the requirements of enthusiastic thrash audiences of those times for simply heavy straight stuff. Fortunately, their music wasn’t ruined by the typical bad production of most mid-80’s metal debuts; this material is competently engineered without denying its true relentless underground essence.
Feel The Fire meant the beginning of a vast discography catalog of honest thrash by one of the most respected icons of the subgenre, who still offer refreshing music to this date. Overkill like most of their peers started as a primitive group that would achieve greater musicianship and refinement record after record, though as usual these lovely clichés and patterns concentrated on brutality and velocity are elements that made this music unforgettable, the magic of the old school days and the passion of these promising young musicians is materialized on each title. Still nowadays countless bands are ripping-off these riffs and trying to emulate the attitude of early Overkill, that gives you an idea of how essential their music has been for thrash during many decades.
Overkill are one of the most iconic thrash bands to ever hit the scene among their contemporaries. They have made their mark like so many other bands: most notably the Big 4. Released in 1985, Overkill's debut Feel the Fire reigns as one of the best debuts by any metal band, right from the first notes of "Raise the Dead" to the final ones on The Dead Boys cover "Sonic Reducer". Vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth and the rest of the band craft a record that is fueled by powerful guitar riffs, angry lyrics and intense musicianship. Blitz has an awesome vocal performance, and with standout songs like "Rotten to the Core", which is an Overkill fan favorite and "Kill at Command", "Raise the Dead" and the title track, he delivers an intensity that hasn't been matched by other frontmen in the thrash metal genre.
The songs on Feel the Fire are fast, aggressive and memorable. Even the weaker tracks are good and the band hammer through them with confidence, almost as if they have something to prove to the other bands in the genre. Aside from Blitz's gritty vocals, guitarist Bobby Gustafson has a skillful approach to the way that he plays and I felt that his guitar sound is one of the standout aspects of the album, and he managed to display an edge to his playing that makes this album memorable. The album has some great tunes, and the band have a knack for writing fast, aggressive, yet melodic riffs that make the album standout among other releases in the thrash genre.
Feel the Fire has a raw power to it, one that adds more depth to the songs, and in turn gives the record its unique sound. Overkill are one of the few bands that really stand out because of their intensity that is present on the album. The weaker songs on the album are good as well because they retain that fierce vibe that the band is going for. Throughout their career, Overkill has always stuck to their guns when it came to writing good heavy metal songs, and on Feel the Fire, we get a good dose of a band that has a no nonsense attitude about their music. Most thrash bands have soften their sound at the turn of the 90's, but not this band. With this standout album, the band would burst onto the scene and carve their niche in the metal world.
Released at least a year later than the band would have desired (and in that forever fanning the flames of the argument of who "thrashed" first), Feel the Fire manifests itself as a throwback to primitive speed metal laced with Ellsworth's venomous delivery and the wherewithal to slow down and gather atmosphere when necessary.
A portion of the album's primitive appeal is definitely a direct result of the poor production values. Gustafson's amplifier blew up prior to recording, so he had to improvise. The end result is a very thin, wobbly wall of distortion that while passable, pales in comparison to the group's later albums; save for maybe Under the Influence. A lone guitarist in a field that usually employs two, he plays with zeal and fervor, weaving the twin guitars' sonic assault into a cohesive whole, giving Feel the Fire a consistent atmosphere of rotten evil. Conversely, Rat Skates' performance is a bit of a mess this time around. I mentioned in my review of the Feel the Fire demo that his performance there was more sure of itself than on here. He flies off the handle on many occasions, losing control of the double-bass and honestly barely holding things together. How rushed was the band that they had to settle with these takes? Skates proved that he could play passably on material prior to this, so I remain confounded.
Ellsworth is just all over the place on here, and the best comparison I can make to his performance is the similarly off-the-wall vocal assault from The Killing Kind. The operatic tone he uses here would soon be dropped and rarely visited again thereafter, so this gives Feel the Fire a unique appeal even amongst Overkill's earlier material. His demonic cackling and soaring highs are interspersed with all kinds of vocal and lyrical tricks; you just never know what to expect next. The under-produced, clangy nature of the mix gives Verni a chance to show what he is capable of. His performance isn't technically groundbreaking, but I almost wonder if the band's now-legendary inclusion of loud bass was actually a fluke the first time around due to the sound they ended up with here, and they just went with it.
Just like on The Years of Decay, we have three instant classics. "Rotten to the Core", "Hammerhead", and the title track are all as good or better than anything the band has written since. The riffs are at their incendiary best here, but what really rises these tracks to greatness is Ellsworth. "Blood and Iron" and "Kill at Command" also have their moments, the latter actually featuring a slower, more moody section that is a welcome break from the relentless speed experienced up to that point of the album. The remaining tracks are all actually pretty forgettable, and this is what keeps Feel the Fire from edging out Taking Over or Horrorscope in my eyes.
Finally, and as a personal nitpick, I kind of wish the band would have included "The Beast Within" instead of "Raise the Dead" as the opener, as that remains one of their most impressive tracks from the early-era. It would have fit nicely in the procession, serving as a more punishing opener. Despite all of the revisionist foolishness, history has already been made and when the smoke clears I am adamant that Overkill will be the last one standing. Ride high, ride tall, Overkill will never fall.
Well here it is, Overkill’s debut album “Feel the Fire”. Just like the mighty Exodus these guys had been around since about 1979 or 1980 but didn’t get around to releasing an album until 1985. This meant that they had a lot of time to write material for this album. In fact, 7 of the songs from this album had already been released on demos or the infamous “Overkill EP” in 1983 or 1984. As a result, this album is more speed/thrash than straight up thrash and there is a keen sense for melody in the leads throughout most of the album. There are two original songs on this album that were not previously released, “Hammerhead” and “Blood and Iron”. These two songs are much heavier than the others and feature some really straight forward riffing.
Riffing is one thing that Overkill is definitely known for and here you can see why. The first 5 songs are all fast thrashers with the exception of the classic track “Rotten to the Core” which has this really nice thrash break in the middle. Then “Hammerhead” comes along and all hell breaks loose. I mentioned earlier how this song wasn’t written until later and it definitely shows. This song sounds like a thrash song from ’85 than one from ’83 like the rest of this album. This song also has some awesome lyrics too (“I know your name and I know why you came, you’re a fucking hammerhead!!!”).
Melodic riffing is exemplified on this album by the title track. For the most part this song is quite midpaced but it moves along at an efficient speed and it’s not slow enough for me to call it a “slow” song. There’s a nice melodic Priest-style solo on this song, which is one of the reasons why I liken this album to Slayer’s “Show No Mercy”, they had the melodic thing going on with that album too and works for both bands marvellously.
Now what Overkill review would be complete without mentioning the vocals? Blitz is one of the most unique vocalists in thrash and probably in all of metal. Even here, on their debut album, he still has his distinctive wail and still does his insane screams. He’d go on to perfect the screams on later albums but here they’re incredibly raw and intense. My favourite vocal performance by Blitz on this album is probably the last song, which is a Dead Boys cover. It’s a song called “Sonic Reducer”, I have no clue what it’s about (a time machine or something?) but I love that song. I think I even prefer it to the original, and of course there is awesome melodic soloing present as always.
The drums and bass aren’t really too interesting on this album so I won’t mention them much. I will say, however, that they work to keep the rhythm and pace and really, that’s all they’re for. The main reason you can’t hear the bass very well is because the production isn’t as good as it would be on future Overkill releases. Heck, if you want an Overkill album with loud bass listen to W.F.O..
In conclusion, this is quite a strong debut and it doesn’t really have any bad songs. The riffs are interesting, the solos are amazing and melodic and as always Blitz is a great vocalist. It’s just a bit of shame that this album didn’t come out until so late. If this had come out in 1983 or 1984 then Overkill would get a lot more respect in the metal scene, respect I feel that they deserve. I would recommend this album to any Overkill fan or to anyone who’s even remotely interested in thrash or heavy metal in general.
Perhaps one of the most appropriate soundtracks for a preteen waiting for his balls to fully drop, Feel the Fire was mine own introduction into the realm of the New York/New Jersey's incendiary Overkill, and after 25 years of nearly constant annual touring and studio productivity, it remains one their most poignant and effective statements. And, strangely enough, not a day fucking older sounding than when I first listened to it. Granted, this wasn't a unique trait for the classic recordings of the 80s and their timeless, tireless, youthful vitality, but I'd also add that this might just be my favorite singular performance by Bobby 'Blitz' Ellsworth in the band's entire career. That's not to say that the 'whole package' here is necessarily a match for its more potent and menacing successor, yet even for its few flaws and inconsistencies, and the opinion that it slightly paled next to a share of other 1985 records, I've got little but fond memories of this full-length debut.
Where the East Coast was largely recognized for its prominent hardcore scene, from which many of the emergent thrash acts took a shovelful of influence, Overkill seemed to mirror early Anthrax in that they drew more heavily on a slew of NWOBHM influences like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Motörhead. I'm sure they rubbed elbows with a lot of punk and NYHC groups at gigs and by the virtue of their native geography. Clearly they enjoyed the stuff, since several of them came from underground punk groups and their stage names were often tributes to that field. They also included a cover of the Dead Boys' "Sonic Reducer" as a finale, but rarely on this album do I feel like the influence leaves too much of an imprint. Most of the chord progressions, triplets, and leads seem to be hail directly from across the pond, and while there's a bit of a hardcore surge behind a tune like "There's No Tomorrow", they don't integrate such aesthetics as consistently as, say, Nuclear Assault. Then again, the band's violent and inspirational lyrics and relative street savvy ensured that they could be taken seriously by either the longhairs or the skins, because they simply oozed the sort of urban unrest city dwellers could relate to.
Strangely enough, it wouldn't even matter all that much to me what most inspired the guitars, because despite the fact that Bobby Gustafson had some killer riffs and fun leads across the first four records, it is the vocals and bass that have always stood out to me as the most prevalent elements in Overkill's sound. Bobby 'Blitz' chews this terrain up like a hellfire-powered garden tiller, evincing more personality out of his performance than you'd hear out of a half dozen other singers. I suppose a baseline comparison might be drawn to Bruce Dickinson, in terms of the operatic angst in his mid register, but where the Iron Maiden front man always favored solid, climactic melodies, Ellsworth zips and zags like some passive/aggressive lunatic let off the leash at your local madhouse. He screams, he laughs, he mock the listener like some capricious, petulent imp that even the devil wanted nothing to do with, booting the critter on up to mortal purgatory. In any other situation besides an energetic explosion of thrash, you might wanna strangle Blitz, but in the context of Overkill it makes for genuine, enthusiastic entertainment.
In particular, I'd point out the scream near the end of "Raise the Dead" or the barks of "There's No Tomorrow", as examples of such unrestrained, feral inflection, but he's also pretty good at retching out these more melodic, unnerving lines as with "Kill at Command", and Overkill are no stranger to using backups, gang shouts and chants like a horde of thugs about to go at you with switchblades, broken bottles and spiked chains. Perhaps his most common technique is to instantly shift pitch within a line, like an agitated housewife having a meltdown on her significant other when he gets home from work. Add to this the volatile and unapologetic mesh of horror, street wisdom and domestic violence in the lyrics and you've got a beating you will not soon forget. The line in "Feel the Fire" where he shouts 'there's nothing I despite more...than a bitch!' gets me every time...chilling and hilarious in equal measure.
D. D. Verni also makes his mark on this thing with a clearly Steve Harris-inspired bevy of blunted bass lines which pop and bounce along at about the same level of power as the rhythm guitar. Similar to Dan Lilker, he ensured that his generally underestimated instrument would retain a voice in this niche, and it really adds a course and clamoring power to the proceedings (like the buzzing fills in "Feel the Fire" itself), even though this is not the best produced of their records. The guitar tone, admittedly, could have used some more meat on its bones, an issue I also have with the s/t EP, but when multiple tracks or leads are implemented it does seem to improve. In general, though, even where Gustafson mixes it up between surgical chugging patterns, chords and tempos, the riffs here are not one of the album's strongest points. They rule in a classic like "Rotten to the Core", "Second Son" and "Hammerhead", but elsewhere they feel like mere reconfigurations of the writing off earlier British records. That said, the processed distortion of the guitar, which reminds me also of early Savatage, at least feels fresh and punchy.
I could go either way on Rat Skates' drums here, which are solid, snappy and belligerent but occasionally a bit of a mess (like the intro fill before "Raise the Dead" kicks in, it just never sat well with me). Once the band gets rocking, he sounds fine, but I think they might have been mixed a little loudly throughout and the tom fills often detract from the guitars. In all, the production to this record doesn't evoke the same level of nostalgia in me that other dirtier speed/thrash records of this period did, like the Canadian trifecta of Razor (Executioner's Song), Exciter (Long Live the Loud) or Piledriver (Metal Inquisition) that also came out in 1985, but Feel the Fire is still pretty authentic and dark. I also like the touches of atmosphere the band incorporated to create a cheesy 80s horror miasma, like the percussion and heart beat leading off "Raise the Dead" or the 'creepy' riffing and wind that heralds the first chapter in their eponymous saga "Overkill".
All told, pretty great fucking record. I don't enjoy all the songs or individual riffs equally, but anchored by the storming and maniacal presence of Bobby 'Blitz', this is an album that spent several years in rotation in the tapedecks of myself and numerous friends. Personally, I prefer Taking Over for the more face ripping and explosive chorus sequences, not to mention the more muscular production and construction of the guitars, but I'd certainly take this over anything the band has released beyond the 80s. My attention was drawn more towards Hell Awaits, Bonded By Blood, and those Canadian speed metal records I mentioned above, not to mention Fates Warning's The Specter Within, quite possibly the greatest East Coast metal record of that decade, but Feel the Fire was wholly reliable to stir the blood and help induce puberty.
The aren't too many bands out there that I find truly perfect. I'm damn nitpicky, and I occasionally pick apart songs that most enjoy, even if I may give a full album a decent rating. The only band I truly believe is more or less perfect on some hard-to-describe level would be Judas Priest. Hell, it's 96 songs and counting from them on my Walkman. However, Overkill comes a close fucking second, thanks almost totally to "Feel The Fire". Holy jumping Tipper Gore on a dildo, does this album fucking rule!
Overkill was more or less the first thrash band, creating a sound and performing it live before others before guys like Slayer or Metallica even began the writing process. Unfortunately they were too late to hit the CD rack, but still undeniably left their mark on the genre. The rough production encompasses elements of thrash mixed with speed metal, NWOBHM, and punk, giving Overkill a distinct sound that often gives some folks the reluctancy to label them as a thrash band. Still, don't fucking look me in the eye and tell me that this band sucks. Bob Gustafon blazes on his guitars, which are so crunchy that, if not prepared, one may well get their puny mortal brain crushed by such a sound. DD Verni's brutal bass is as almost as loud as the guitar in this mix, and even crunchier! Together the two team up from a barrage of speed-induced solos filled with cracking time changes and unforgettable riffs. The drumming of good ol' Rat Skates is also fast as fuck, relying mostly on your typical "bass, snare, bass, snare", but he's creative now and again too, usually coming up with some killer fills to keep the songs from staying quiet. And of course, there's Bobby fucking Blitz Ellsworth singing. It's hard to accurately describe this man's awesomeness. His big, harsh screams are immense, cool, and so genuinely angry-sounding that you'd think this guy was ready to actually kill someone during recording. Oh, and when I said about singing; yeah, next to his untamed screaming, the guy can genuinely fucking sing his ass off too. They all kill.
The songs all fucking rule, no questions asked. Some are admittedly slightly more sub-par than others, but that's like saying getting a blowjob is slightly more sub-par than having sex. The album starts proper, and never lets up, with "Raise The Dead", with its spooky intro, uncontrollable guitars and Bobby's manic vocals. This is immediately followed by the fantastic "ROTTEN...TO THE CORE!!!", a song with such a simple yet addictive chorus you'll lose $10,000 trying to get it surgically removed from your brain, so better to just give in. The slaughter continues with badass numbers like "There's No Tomorrow" or the deliciously bass-heavy "Hammerhead", until we strike pure gold. "Feel The Fire" is one the best songs you'll ever hear, even if you haven't hear it yet. If you don't like it, I'll be right back; gotta get my magnum, long cold barrel glistening! From it's monstrous intro to near-shredding guitars to immense solo and some unnervingly scary Blitz vox, this is truly the tune to beat the fuck outta haters to. We shoot through "Blood And Iron" and the cool "Kill At Command" until the gold is struck again. The band's horror movie-influenced self-titled anthem ends the album (or it would if it weren't for that damn Dead Boys cover). "Overkill" has some of the harshest riffing on the album, some of the best main riffs, badass lyrics, and possibly Ellsworth's finest screams, culminating with a truly spine-chilling set of shrieks, drums and guitars. You'll never think of the word "kill" the same way again!
Overall, buy it. Fucking buy this album, right fucking now. What the hell are you doing?! Don't just sit here with your head up your ass! This thing is too damn awesome to pass up! Throw it in the nearest disc player and get ready to FEEL THE FIRE!!!
As a lot of rivetheads are aware of the roots of Overkill and how they had been very instrumental in weaving some sections of the yarn called thrash metal, it was their sheer misfortune in the beginning that a lot of their early demos (including the tasteful “Power in Black”) as well as the powerful self titled EP got covered in the sands of time. Owe it to bad management decisions or an unsupportive label, we don’t know. But the band was hungry for violence and vigorously rattling the heads of listeners all across this planet and hence they entered the arena with a debut whose impact can best be fantasized as the mighty “Sword of Damocles” baptized by both fire and fury. This was a young band out there to grab everyone’s goddamn throat and “Feel the fire” was their vehicle of world dominance.
As with every early thrash metal band of that era, the influences drew directly from NWOBHM which also included speed metal tendencies reminiscent of highly acclaimed acts Motorhead, Tank and Raven. As a matter of fact the band took its name from the essential Motorhead song which directly attributes to their sound. This debut is not exactly the kind of thrash metal you would hear the band play on their sophomore efforts. On the contrary this is pretty much more in the speed metal vein with thrash riffs scattered around on a few tracks. The difference here is that even when the quartet is blazing away at a blinding speed, melody doesn’t elude the onslaught at any moment. With the absence of vocals and non disclosure of any information about Overkill, a random listener could actually mistake this for Iron Maiden or Cloven Hoof trying to churn out a thrash album.
When we talk about great thrash metal vocalists of all time, Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth’s name is one that is more than likely to come up. The man’s energy is downright unimaginable and the amount of work he puts in his singing is simply phenomenal. On this record however, his vocals are a lot more controlled yet aggressive and show no signs of the snarly approach he would eventually opt for later on. A frontman of this caliber required able musicians who shared similar ideas musically. The lineup is therefore completed by bass guru D.D Verni, seasoned east coast six stringer Bobby Gustafson and skin pounder as well as one of the co-founders of the band, Rat Skates ( Lee Kundrat). Many consider this the classic lineup that would also go on to perform together on “Taking Over”.
Most of the stuff on this full length was written a few years prior and as mentioned earlier, this is one of the earliest forms of thrash metal that has a very street ready feel. The production also helps in keeping the overall atmosphere rather raw. There are times when you feel that the drums are being overshadowed by the guitar, bass and vocals but good musicianship and songwriting make the save here. While most of this album is total speed metal mayhem, you’ll also get to hear some very epic, enchanting and folksy parts on some tracks. The middle sections of “There’s no Tomorrow” and the brilliantly written “Kill at Command” are an absolute joy to listen to.
The anthem that would become one of their most heavily played popular live tracks is none other than the putrefying “Rotten to the Core”. “Hammerhead” and “Second Son” are full of stomping riffs and slick vocal lines. In addition the first ever installment of the spine chilling and killer “Overkill” saga comes at the near end of the album, one which would spawn four more tales of terror on later works. When Blitz hits those high notes at the end of the track, you can’t help but feel a sudden adrenalin rush throughout your body. The saga comprises of the some of the best songs the band has ever written.
Along with Anthrax, Whiplash and Nuclear Assault, Overkill released a slew of thrash essentials during the eighties that helped shape the whole east coast thrash scene and this sparkling debut gave them just the start even though it should have been released 3 years earlier. It is a certified classic and certainly makes it to my top ten of best thrash metal debuts ever. You won’t find too many heavy metal albums as good as this. If you ever come across this at a record store, don’t waste your time head scratching. Just pick the damn thing up, load it up in your CD player, crank the volume higher and feel the fire!!!!
Have you ever looked up the definition of the word 'overkill'?
o·ver·kill - 1: an excess of what is required or suitable, as because of zeal or misjudgment.
How about perfection?
per·fec·tion - 4: a quality, trait, or feature of the highest degree of excellence.
Flip those two around and put them together, what do you have? "Perfection overkill". And that is EXACTLY what Overkill has released with their fast, ballsy and explosive debut. Not something that is merely perfect, something that is in EXCESS of perfection! And I'm not exaggerating either; this album is mother-fucking beyond perfect.So how can I prove this outrageous claim? By reviewing it god damnit! So here I go!
To begin with, I'll paint you a picture of how everything sounds (so I guess I'm reviewing the production). The guitar sounds very metallic, but at the same is warm and inviting. It's not grating or overly heavy, but is right there in the middle, pumping out badass riffs (which I'll get to later!). D.D.'s bass is very prevalent in the mix, which is great, since if you know D.D.'s bass, you know he plays like a maniac and doesn't let his instrument be relegated to the backseat like it does in most metal. Drum-wise, this is perfection! The bass drum is powerful and far from the clicky noise that many bands have these days (somethingOverkill are guilty of in their latest album, even), the snare is sharp but not so loud and hard that every time it hits you grab your ears for a second.
Of course, the highlight of any Overkill album is Blitz' madman vocals, and he was at the height of his high pitched madness on 'Feel the Fire'! One interesting thing is Blitz' vocal tics (I guess that's what they are), such as when he just mangles the words or pronounces them in alternate ways. You might think they're a bit annoying, but I find them quite entertaining in fact! It gives the music a down-to-earth and human feeling, and it's you can't help but sing along with him when he's shouting "ROT ROT ROT ROT ROT ROT ROTTEN TO THE CORE!".
Getting to the arrangements and riffs, we find something quite interesting: Overkill's sound on here is a true marriage between thrash metal and NWOBHM! The galloping rhythms on 'Feel the Fire' and the fantastical and epic themes in 'Overkill' are just two examples, but this album is full of NWOBHM tendencies. The riffs are punky but light-hearted, some of my favorites being in 'Hammerhead' and 'Rotten to the Core'. And speaking of those two songs, this album has some of the best choruses I've heard in my life: from the thrasher's anthem in 'Rotten' to the sublimely catchy 'Sonic Reducer' (although that is a cover). Overkill even excels lyrically, singing about moshing, witchcraft, rebellion and violence. Of course, those 4 topics sound pretty lame and cliched right? Well, not if you're Overkill! They throw in random lines that seem to have nothing to do with the song, but when you read them, you can't help but smile a bit. I mean, just look at this line from 'Feel the Fire':
"Round 'n' round spins a forty-five,
Is it vinyl or a bullet?
One to kill one keeps alive,
Get on your knees and suck it!"
What the hell does that have anything to do with hell or burning witches (the primary focus of the song)? NOTHING! But the pun still manages to fit in and it's a great example of how Overkill manages to be serious, witty and humorous at the same time. As for the drum fills and beats, this is (once again) perfect! Rat Skates knew his shit, and he throws in fills at just the right times in interludes to spice up the music. The beats are pretty complex but fun too, and you can hear them alone at the beginning of 'Hammerhead' or after the ambient intro to 'Raise the Dead'.
Ahh...that was the sound of the last track ending, and I have to say that Overkill is probably one of the most original thrash bands out there; they manage to combine the attitude of punk with the harmonies of NWOBHM and crushing guitar & speed of thrash metal, and the result is a wondrous, mind-blowing, headbang-inducing record that takes no shit and gives no shit! If you can't feel the fire from this album, you don't love metal, it's that simple! This is god damned beyond perfection, and EVERYONE should own it!
Feel the fire, bitches!
Feel the fire is one of those albums that got me into metal, There's nothing Jaw droppingly awesome about this album except the fact that from start to finish, This album is an absolute blast and does not disappoint, Overkill would go one step further in their next album putting out something with a little more substance
and structure but this album is a must have for any thrash metal fan. Just like the other thrash metal bands, this is a pretty good start, It lacks polish but more than makes up for it with it's attitude.
The one thing that's the most unique feature here is the vocals, You'd be forgiven to think that this is Bruce dickinson singing, The high pitched vocals are unlike most other underground vocalists, The vocals may take time getting used to but will get you hooked, The guitar play is for the most part solid if unremarkable, The drumming is good but they overdo the same drumming beats, Simple but good patterns. None of these stand out among the others but the overall product is great to listen to.
The album is repetitive, Most tracks are 3-4 minutes of length, featuring the same drumming and riffs with a little bit of variation here and there, mostly minimal. Bobby's vocals are interesting, you cant help but sing the chorus along with him, The first track "Raise the dead" is a decent opener, A good indication of what's coming up. "Rotten to the core" is a good introduction song, The catchy chorus will make you a fan of the band, 'Hammerhead" is a song about metal, similar to bonded by blood, whiplash or rattle head and is sure to make the metalhead happy and "Leave all posers behind", "Blood and iron" and "Overkill" are the two best tracks on this album, They're blisteringly fast with great riffs and some of the better solos off the album. Bobby's vocals shine through all the choruses, The lyrics aren't the best but the unique singing style makes them very likeable. The best way to describe the album is "Overkill", A little too much of the same. There's no big difference between the songs, There's no real change of pace. There isn't simply anything that would make you jump out of your seats and lose your pants, But that doesn't necessarily make it a bad album.
This album is rotten to the core. For the most part, it is solid, There is simply nothing that is outstanding, The best part is the vocals, It could make or break this album for you. This was a great start to Overkill's career, They hit greater heights
after this with "Taking over" and "Horrorscope" but this album does still have plenty of Overkill, Just get it and don't over analyze it, Just enjoy the album. This isn't the work of a genius and it certainly doesn't feature the most outstanding musicianship but it does give out a good thrashing time and isn't that the most important thing?
Overkill is one of the hallowed names of thrash metal and probably one of the most adored bands playing that genre that ever existed. They are constantly being called as one of the pioneers of the genre (many claim they have released thrash songs before Metallica even released their last demos and debut) and one of the most consistent metal bands, releasing lots of classic records. Feel the Fire is, together with Taking Over and especially Years of Decay, one of their most praised albums. In my opinion, it's no thrash masterpiece but still a nice listen.
So, we begin with “Raise the Dead”, and, Gosh, this song represents perfectly well the band. Fast, but still melodic (by melodic, I don't wanna compare Overkill to those “melodic”modern crappy metalcore bands) guitar work, with lots of intricate soloing. Bobby's vocals are very high-pitched and you can't compare his style with the style of the majority of the thrash singers out there. He's closer to Joey Belladona and Dan Doty than to Tom Araya and James Hetfield. His shrieks are very well done, but he's no Halford, remember that. The drumming is very average, standard thrash metal drumming, you know what I mean, the guy plays the same fast beats throughout the whole album.
Feel the Fire lacks variety though, all the songs following the same tired, simple structures. Well, not all the songs, in fact there's a true big stand-out here which is the title track, possibly the most ambitious track of this opus. “Rotten to the Core” is also killer, awesome vocal lines and that chorus is just infectious (I just used to spend hours singing along to it, together with my brother, some years ago). Not quite chaotic as Dark Angel or Slayer, but still a pretty raw thrash tune. “Hammerhead” follows the same path, containing also some interesting riffs. Two other honourable mentions: the cover, “Sonic Reducer”, a punk song perfectly turned into a thrash metal monster, and “There's no Tomorrow”, which carries a catchy chorus (“There's no tommorrow, for all of yooooou! Yaaah”).
So, an interesting and powerful thrash album, albeit a bit on the under-developed and simplistic side. Really, there are better thrash albums released during this period (Dark Angel and Metallica released far better albums than Feel the Fire, for example), but if you're a big thrash fan, this is a must have. On the other hand, if you prefer your thrash complex, intricate and a bit more on the prog side, get Years of Decay instead: that one is a truly powerful thrash piece.
Best Moments of the CD:
-the choruses of “Rotten to the Core” and “There's no Tomorrow”.
Overkill are an important band in thrash metal. They along with Metallica have pretty much created thrash metal, and it is often debated which band made the first thrash song. Whether it was Metallica's Hit the Lights or Raise The Dead which is one of the best songs on this album. This band is also very important to me, as they were one of the first thrash bands (outside of the big four) that I have gotten into, and thus I often have a soft and almost nostalgic spot for them. God damn, I still blast this album, even two years after I had gotten it, and I still love it. It's that fucking awesome!
Bobby Blitz is one great singer, and his voice never gets old. He has the attitude of Paul Baloff and Sean Killian of Vio-Lence while having the talent of Bruce Dickenson, well not quite, but still.
The bets songs on here have to be Raise the Dead, Rotten to the Core, Hammerhead, the title track and Kill at Command. Hammerhead especially has the attitude of early Exodus, and is similar, as it's about killing posers which is totally metal. Especially that part when Blitz says "LEAVING THE POSERS BEHIND!!!" That's a highlight right there! Rotten to The Core has one of the best riffs and choruses that I've heard in thrash metal as well. It slays from beginning to end. Overkill is also pretty awesome as well, and is a great part 1 to the now 5 part Overkill series.
This is an important album in thrash history, and it also Overkill's best album, just merely beating their other masterpiece, Years of Decay. You cannot call yourself a true fan of thrash metal unless you own this album. So either get it right away, or FEEL THE FIRE, and burn! Overkill will never die! nuff said.
Back when my knowledge of metal was at its bare minimum, when I heard the term "thrash" the only bands that really came to mind were Metallica and Megadeth. Metallica has never really done anything for me personally and while I've enjoyed a lot of Megadeth's albums, they didn't make me "click" into this genre. Over time thanks to Yahoo's Music Jukebox I was eventually randomly recommended this album. Overkill? Feel the Fire? The cover? It all looked and sounded more than promising, then I started streaming it and well, I felt the fucking fire!
One of the greatest aspects of this album is hands down the aggression especially considering its time. Vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth is definitely one of the biggest factors here when it comes to their tough image, you really can't describe this guy. Hardly anyone out there sounds quite like him and while he's more on the melodic side of thrash vocalists, this guy sounds like he just found out his girlfriend was sleeping with another guy or something. He sounds so pissed off and so incredibly convincing it makes this overly enjoyable for the vocals alone. No matter how many times I hear the screams off the track Feel the Fire at 3:28 to 3:54 nothing but chills strike down my spine. There's hardly anybody out there who can scream like this guy does.
Bobby Ellsworth isn't alone on this forefront however, as the rest of the band easily goes above and beyond as well. Bobby Gustafson's guitarwork is downright insane and this is arguably Overkill's fastest album. The riffs are blazing fast riddled with some of the catchiest rhythm's the band has ever written, Gustafson never seems to let go and shreds till no tomorrow. And the originality of his work is easily unprecedented, its nothing but streams of brilliance. D.D. Verni shatters concrete walls with his incredibly thick bass that just sounds pure evil. Last but not least is Rat Skates on drums and man does this guy hardly take a break himself. The drumming is very diverse and fearfully demanding. Topped off with an odd but excellent production even the drums manage to steal the show from time to time. The production itself definitely makes this album what it really is, raw speedy thrash. It might not be up to par with grade A quality albums of the mid 80's, but who wants a nice boring and crystal clear sound to their thrash anyways? Its intense, raw, and absolutely heavy. Every instrument is easy to hear and nothing overpowers anything else.
To many Overkill is essentially one of the earliest thrash bands of all time and one of the first bands that created this sound and style. However, the facts are out and it doesn't take much to say this is definitely a slight step behind what thrash was becoming in the mid 80's. This can easily be seen when you compare this to Exodus's Bonded By Blood which was released in 1985 as well, its like a totally new world when heard back to back with this debut. The truth is Overkill's debut here is filled with material they had already written and were playing in the early 80's years before. Because of financial issues and problems with recording labels, it took the band quite awhile to finally release a full length album. Once you take these facts into consideration, if you could just imagine Overkill releasing this a year or two before, they would have been way ahead of their time and would probably get a lot more recognition than they do to this day. But hey, they -were- ahead of their time! So they deserve a lot of credit.
So history lesson aside, the style here can be seen as an odd one. The traditional/NWOBHM influences are definitely abound but there's a lot more raw intensity and speed here than your average heavy metal band of the 80's. Not to mention the aggression is pretty over the top. You can call this melodic thrash, speed thrash, or whatever you want. But in the end this is the beginning of a thrash evolution.
Feel the Fire instantly pulls you in and the quality is so superb from the start you know you're in for a ride into classic territory. As good as the first handful of tracks are, this album does the unthinkable and the quality just seems to climb up more and more with track after track. It just continues to get better and never lets up, easily one of the most consistent albums I've ever heard (and catchiest!). All in all this is the album that fueled my passion for thrash. I wasn't a big fan of the genre but after I dwelved into this relic, I just -had- to hear more. After this I went on to discover bands such as Heathen, Laaz Rockit, Artillery, Realm, and I was eventually convinced that thrash was and is to this day, one of my top favorite genres. While I went on to discover some thrash bands that I liked more than Overkill, I will never turn my back on this masterpiece that started it all for me, my Bible of thrash. Not to mention Overkill is definitely one of the most consistent bands in metal history. If you're a thrash fan and somehow missed out on this one, then what are you waiting for!? Or if you're unsure of what you may think of thrash this album just may do it for you. Start with this album and if you like it, you're probably going to enjoy the majority of Overkill's discography as well!
HIGHER! HIGHER! FEEL THE FIRE!
Back in the days when these guys first pioneered the thrash genre, riding off the coattails of the more aggressive punk rock bands and injected with a powerful guitar driven sound that married the punk spirit with the NWOBHM, I had not yet been born. But if you fast forward about 9 years after the release of this album, you’d meet a young teenager with limited guitar capabilities, who had just had a day of reckoning when his musical idol (Kurt Cobain) shot himself and ended a rather short-lived time at the top. After inheriting a mass of audio cassettes from my older broth, who was old enough to remember the early 80s, I went hunting for my first ever metal CD. I found this one sitting on the front row of the used CD section of a local store in Baltimore, and bought a magnum opus for a mere $4.
Although my first introduction to metal were a collection of albums by MegaDeth, Metallica, Anthrax, and Judas Priest, this CD blew me away. I immediately took them to my guitar teacher and told him that I wanted to learn all 10 of the songs on here, note for note, and within a year I had the chops necessary to handle them. This album gave me the capability to handle pretty much any form of music that I encountered in every band since, so in addition to being an amazing thrash album in and of itself, it is one that holds a special place in my collection as one that made me the lead guitar player that I am today.
From start to finish, this album is a relentless assault of memorable thrash riffs, crazy pentatonic shredding, double bass drum beats, and a rather impressive set of rough yells and banshee screeches. In addition, we get an early taste of what would become doom metal in the intro to “Raise the Dead”, which is otherwise a straight-forward thrasher. My pick for best solo section on here obviously goes to the title track, which was originally conceived between 82 and 83, long before it became commonplace. “Overkill” has an instantly recognizable main riff, as it is a variation on the theme from the Halloween movie. “Rotten to the Core” and “Kill at Command” are both loaded with incredible thrash riffs and drum work, not to mention more flashy solos.
But the absolute highlight of this album, the end all be all of galloping guitar lines, and the song that nearly made me give up the guitar because I struggled like hell to get it fast enough to match the recording, is the riff monster “Hammerhead”. This fucking song rivals anything ever put out by MegaDeth or Anthrax, and takes my pick as the best song ever recorded by this band. If you want to hear some great rhythm guitar playing, in addition to some glam ripping lyrics that make James Hetfield’s look like a candy-asses pansy, this is the song for you.
In conclusion, this is essential listening for any fan of thrash. Hell, I’m a damned Power Metal guitarist in a band that writes music similar to Gamma Ray and Freedom Call, and I know something with some real meat to it. Pantera called themselves a thrash band and released one album that could really be considered good in this genre. These guys have released 14 full length albums and show little signs of tiring, embodying the very definition of musical credibility. Bang your head and enjoy.
This is Overkill's debut - finally, after 6 years of existence and tearing up the clubs of New York, they get around to releasing an album. It's kinda sad that financial problems and lack of record label interest condemned them to releasing this album late, since most of this material was written by about 1983 (if not 1981), and if it had been put out then, it would have definitely made waves, and Overkill would've gotten far more credit - after all, they ARE the first thrash band!
As one can expect, the album sounds more like a 1983/4 thrash album, than one from 1985. It's comparable to Show no Mercy at times, with the use of lead guitars more in an NWOBHM/power metal style than in the brutal thrash that was being released by the likes of Slayer and Exodus. The songwriting is very solid, and all the songs are quite memorable and varied.
Highlights include Overkill (part I), Rotten to the Core, which has a really nifty New York styled thrash break (i.e. the type Nuclear Assault and Anthrax would make famous), and also the title track, which has a set of blazing guitar solos, and also some monster riffs (again, the "mosh riff" in the middle that Anthrax would make famous... Overkill was playing that sort of thing by 1983).
The bonus track, Sonic Reducer, is pretty interesting in that it's a punk cover, but sounds definitely like a thrash song. I present to you in the interest of science, the fact that that song was in the Overkill setlist in 1979. Draw your own conclusions.