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Stopping would be fatal. - 80%

Diamhea, January 22nd, 2014

Interesting little piece of history here. The band wisely picked the most impressive cut out of their quickly-expanding setlist with the soon-to-be title track from Feel The Fire. There are a number of minor differences, some of which actually add to the appeal of an already classic track. First off, Ellsworth's vocals are drenched in reverb and definitely take center stage more than on the original. While his performance is nearly identical to the album version, there are some minor differences in intonation and his demonic cackle at the very end of the track is less potent here. Regardless, even in stripped down environs such as here, his talent and potential is indisputable. At this point in the timeline, he obviously relies on his operatic inflection for the lion's share of the vocal approach. There is also an echoing effect used in strategic points like during the line "There's nothing I despise more, than a bitch!" and it comes off as a bit excessive and unnecessary, which its removal from the album version would prove anyway.

Gustafson's leads are also slightly different, there are a number of notes missing during the later solo, and his tone is so high-pitched it is almost earbleed inducing at times. Being a demo many of these production imbalances are easy forgive in light of what came after it. Verni is buried for the most part, only popping out in two or three places with his vehement tone. Most surprisingly of all, however, is that Rat Skates actually performs better on here than he does on the album. The bass drums are snappy and unconvincing sonically, but he is definitely tighter here than he was on the full-length.

The demo is rounded out by two live tracks. The mix is passable, but Ellsworth is a bit buried and ebbs and flows in and out as the songs wear on. Conversely Gustafson is clear as crystal and even here in very early '84 he delivers a near-flawless live performance. The tracks chosen are okay, but I would rather have "Rotten to the Core" or "Hammerhead". Regardless, "Kill at Command" is clearly the superior of the two choices here, featuring a great slower mid-section that really showcases the dissonant, Sabbath-esque angle the band was experimenting with during their early years. Ellsworth's commentary between tracks is pretty humorous, and man does this show how far the band has come as a live act.

In the end, an interesting snippet of Overkill's less-than-humble beginnings. Worth it for completionists due to the presence of the first track alone and its place in thrash metal history. Blood metal forever!

The final word on blood metal! - 95%

TheExodusAttack, December 27th, 2010

Overkill has always wholly represented the entirety of the heavy metal genre to me. Really, they’ve got everything you look for in a classic metal band: a bunch of young, frizzy-haired kids pounding away at their worn-out, hand-me-down instruments in small, sweaty, overcrowded clubs every night, never quite getting the respect or dues they deserve but by god, they keep at it because they truly have a bit of that glorious heavy metal spirit in their hearts. Overkill have the thrashy riffs, the perfectly palatable traditional metal harmonies, the brain-crushingly consistent drumming, and of course, the wild and energetic vocal acrobatics befitting of some sort of combination of Eric Adams and a rabid weasel. Overkill simply has it all.

So if Feel the Fire is to be looked at as the paragon of heavy metal (in both terms of music and aesthetics), this brief little demo is just that: a rough demonstration of everything that is going to be. Younger, perhaps more virile but quite obviously less trained, here you’ll find three classic metal tracks set to appear on Overkill’s debut, each with a bit less flair and a bit more “aw fuck, what song were we playing next?”-styled oomph to them. The production throughout is rather tinny; “Feel the Fire” is the one studio track, and it combines the simple but recognizable guitar tone of the album with a bit of the rawness of the Overkill EP, all thrown down the shitter a bit more. The bass is clangy and the drums reverberate loudly, but everything can be heard well and the uneven production simply adds charm to an already-charming band. The two live tracks are less tinny and have more of a warbly tone, perhaps with a bit more of that crunchy chainsaw attack befitting of thrash metal.

Music-wise, this recording presents Overkill nearing the peak they would reach with Feel the Fire. In regards to the songs, everything is all there. The title track still opens up with that high-pitched bit of feedback, erupting into D.D. Verni and Rat Skate’s instantly recognizable drum and bass galloping attack. Bobby Gustafson’s guitar chugs along at a happy pace, perhaps a bit faster and more hectic than the studio version proper. “Feel the Fire” is a masterful song in all aspects, and even this demo version is awe-inspiring. Best of all is the unforgettable middle bit, where the song descends into a dirty mosh riff and then Bobby Blitz openly makes a grand declaration on his displeasure with the female kind, all of which are subject to the spectacular conflagration of his whimsy. Gustafson’s guitar cuts like a razor here, settling into a massively tense single-note pattern until THE FIRE IS LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!!!! The following guitar solo is the highlight of the song and the demo entirely; it mimics the trade-off twin lead mannerisms of Overkill’s idols Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, and I’d declare it as a defining metal solo, rising into a brilliant climax that corresponds with the stop-start drums underneath.

Next, we have some live tracks. Two songs which would later make their appearance on Feel the Fire and be somewhat forgotten afterwards: “Second Song” and “Kill at Command.” “Second Son” has always been a personal favorite early Kill song of mine, so it warms my heart to know that it was performed at some point in the band’s career. The band runs through the song’s jagged riffs with plenty of attitude; Bobby Blitz’s vocal rhythms and particularly well-written evil-ish lyrics are of note here too, very memorable stuff. The man’s vocals are caught between the powerful Dianno/Dickinson glory that approached shortly after this demo and the animalistic, weasel-worship snarling and shrieking of the early years. There’s still a bit of “The Beast Within” in his voice, which provides a nice counterpoint to the later recordings of these songs. “Kill at Command” is excellent as well, with its memorable riffset and rather unexpected power metal “woaahhh-wooaahhhhh-woahhh-woooahh-WOOOAHHHH!” part before the final solo (which is, again, spectacular). I suppose it’s no surprise that during the crowd banter Blitz thanks radio DJ “The Maniac” for playing Manowar and “the whole fuckin’ shit.”

All in all, the Feel the Fire Demo is an excellent look at the early Overkill of the “blood metal” days maturing into the excellent speed/thrash/power metal they would become known for from 1985-9. Sounding like a glorious mixture of Priest, Maiden, Motorhead all presented with heaps upon heaps of Overkill’s own vicious attitude, this is one of a select group of demos that I regularly listen to. Short, sweet and to the point, it offers just the kind of thrash that I like to hear in a raw and unrestrained manner. This demo is just one of the many reasons why Overkill is one of the hallowed names among heavy metal greats. TURN IT FUCKIN’ UP!