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This odd (and rare) little EP is a great glimpse into the future of Overkill. Before this we had the rough, corrosive punk-infused demo tape, "Power In Black", which offers a look into the beginning of Overkill. While the tape was raw and heavily infused with hardcore punk, there was just something that left me wanting more. Maybe it was the production qualities. Maybe it was just showing a band beginning to hone their craft. I cannot pinpoint the exact source, but the following year Overkill released this four-track EP with a simple black cover and band logo (eat that Metallica).
The Music contained is raw, heavy and under-produced. We kick things off with a somewhat different, rawer version of the Overkill classic, "Rotten To The Core". This is a perfect example of how the band honed in on the perfect balance that was on prominent display from 1984 until about 1995 when things began to fall apart, but that is beside the point. For those albums, the band scraped away the "fat", creating a lean, mean, thrash metal monster that all began with this EP. "Fatal If Swallowed" is my least favorite Overkill song of all time, and this version does not do much to make me like it much more. "The Answer" is a slow, Sabbath-influenced track that I actually really enjoy. Then we are treated to a slightly slower, and somewhat inferior version of the band's namesake track, "Overkill". This version just does not have the same intensity as the following version on their full length debut, "Feel The Fire" the following year.
Overall, there is just not enough to wet my thirst for Overkill on this EP to make it a frequent listener. I would rather go to the impressive "Feel The Fire" to hear superior versions of the tracks I like on this EP, but overall it is a decent launch pad for one of the best bands of thrash metal. The production is raw and unpolished, which sometimes gets a little irritating. The drums sound like they were recorded in cavern, as they echo and boom every time a little too much pressure is applied, but I cannot complain, It is great for what it is worth, but leaves me hungry for more Overkill.
Just a year before “Feel the Fire” came out, Overkill released this EP. According to them it’s their first album, according to everyone else it’s their first studio release but it’s not a real album. However you look at it, this is an incredibly influential EP. Three of the songs on here would go on to be re-recorded for subsequent releases: “Rotten to the Core”, “Overkill” on “Feel the Fire” and “Fatal If Swallowed” on “Taking Over”. The fourth song, “The Answer” is not only the one song from this EP that was not re-recorded but also the only song on this EP to not appear anywhere else in the Overkill discography. They didn’t record a demo of it or even record it live for a live album. This is surprising to me because, at 8 minutes long, it’s the longest song they had written up to this point and the most unique.
What makes “The Answer” so unique is its overall pace. Here we have a thrash band playing a doom metal song, and they do it damn well. I’ve actually always found that my favourite Overkill songs are the slow ones (“The Answer”, “Feel the Fire”, “Drunken Wisdom”, “Skullkrusher”, “Horrorscope”, etc.). They do the slow-fast thing really well and this song does pick up a bit around 5 minutes in for a solo section. This song also has some rather epic lyrics, especially with that pause for “And I’m…. The Devil’s son!”
“Rotten to the Core”, in all of its incarnations, has been the highlight of every Overkill release it has been on. Be it here on the “Overkill EP”, on “Feel the Fire” or on any live recording. Here it is certainly a force to be reckoned with. The raw production of this EP gives it a primal energy that “Feel the Fire” fails to achieve, and “Feel the Fire” is a great album. This whole EP is like that. The production isn’t bad per se but it gives this the feeling of a live recording, even though it isn’t.
Talking about primal energy, a youthful (25 at this point) Blitz gives one of the most energetic performances of his whole career on here. He sings, screams, and shouts his way through these four classic songs with such passion but at the same time sounding completely evil. The screams Blitz pulls off here are absolutely insane and, aided by the raw production, are unbelievable vicious.
Overall, this EP is historically significant and is a great listen. Perhaps not as essential as their official debut but is worth getting. If you’re an Overkill fan chances are you’ve heard the first three songs before on other releases, it’s still worth buying for the intensity the production brings and for “The Answer”.
In retrospect, fate has not been the kindest to the original, eponymous Overkill EP released in 1984, but then one must recognize that it's no more than a demo recording later pressed as an 'official' issue. Three of the four tracks available here would be later recorded for the first two, classic full-length records, and the entire EP is reprinted on the !!!Fuck You!!! and Then Some compilation which came out in 1996. Tracking down an original copy of this thing is undoubtedly a dire prospect which is best reserved for wheelers, dealers and collectors, so most fans today will have heard it alongside the 1988 Fuck You EP, and probably after they already heard the constituent tracks on Feel the Fire and Taking Over in all their brazen, hostile glory...
To put it into a proper perspective though, Overkill was admittedly a fairly bad ass introduction to one of the East Coast's longest enduring thrash bands. One of the East Coast's longest enduring metal bands, period. It features two of what I'd consider the group's greatest ever tracks in "Fatal if Swallowed" and "Rotten to the Core", and it arrived early enough in the scheme of its sub-genre's evolution that it certainly deserves a cult respect. That said, every time I come back to visit it, I can't help but feel my time would be better spent listening to the later recordings of the material. The group's youthful, hostile energy is coursing through all the important tunes, and it's no wonder why they were able to shortly pick up a deal through Megaforce and Atlantic; but the production, while still clear enough to deliver each riff and chorus with appreciable impact, leaves something to be desired. Not that Feel the Fire was all that amazing in this department, but the recordings of "Overkill" and "Rotten to the Core" there remain the 'default' renditions as far as it concerns my own listening habits.
Then there's the fact that "The Answer" is just not one of their best songs. It's a bloated, 9 minute 'epic' coursing along at a doomed pace, heavily inspired by Black Sabbath where the faster tracks cull more of a Judas Priest/Iron Maiden aesthetic gone street lethal. Many listeners in the late 80s, 90s or 'oughts always seemed to mention how the band would tear off into tangents involving more groove or doom elements, but in truth the band has always played this hand as both a tribute to one of its influences and to help vary the pacing of their records. "The Answer" is perhaps the early example of this, but despite the fact that Blitz' charismatic inflection lends itself well to the more ominous, sluggish walls of riffing, the actual architecture of the guitars is quite predictable and dull to carry 9 minutes. There's a pretty good reason this was left off the ensuing full-lengths, for at best it would have been mildly curious filler which wears out its welcome after about 2-3 minutes...
Elsewhere, though, the EP was certainly a cause for some excitement. The guitar tone is choppy and not quite as bold as I'd have liked, but then that wasn't destined to happen until Taking Over. Also I felt like there was a lot of nuance in the vocals on the later versions, where here he seems more shouty. The actual patterns are largely identical, and he pulls off some nice screams, but Feel the Fire is far stronger in terms of his delivery. And that's sort of how I feel about this recording in general. Important for its formative value, but easily supplanted by the full-lengths throughout the 80s, and "The Answer" providing the only tangible exclusivity here is hardly a boon, especially as it represents about a third of the content. However, if you're a total sucker for primitive recordings or you don't wish to acknowledge the existence of metal music beyond the mid-80s, I cannot say that Overkill's bound to disappoint you.
Man, do the Overkill boys have improved a hell of a lot or what? The production here is certainly better than "Power in Black" and the "Feel the Fire" demostration tape. Musically speaking, the band has matured a bit, but the venom is still there. Even in their pre-full lenght years, this guys had a lot to offer to the mass of hungry metalheads.
This demo EP begins with the thrash anthem "Rotten to the Core". It is catchy and fast enough to keep you headbanging without snapping your neck. Also, who can forget that chorus? "Rotten to Core!!!". The two following, "Fatal as Swallowed" and "The Answer" are even better. While the first relies on crushing fast and slow thrash riffs and another catchy-as-fuck chorus to keep you glued and attentive, the latter offers some new musical grounds to check. While Overkill already explored the posibilities of eerie chord riff patterns in a brief manner on the "Raise the Dead" song from "Power in Black", "The Answer" exploits the idea to the full. The song begins with a VERY set of slow riffs reminiscent to "Black Sabbath" (the song), but turning the doom ideal into total thrash. VERY slow thrash, but i'll be damned if that doesn't work. In the 4:19 mark the song goes at a more midpaced tempo and then faster, then goes through the rest of the song alternating tempos, but never loses the ominous atmosphere of the beggining. What a great tune. Finishing the EP comes the re-recorded version of "Overkill", played a bit slower and more "controlled" compared to the PIB version. Good one, but personally i stay with it's more vicious sounding counterpart.
Now, why you should get this? I always encourage people to never overlook demos, some of them are, IMO, as essential as the band's LPs. This is no exception, fortunately is rather easy to get in the "Fuck You and then some" compilation. You shouldn't wait any longer, get this and get the other Overkill demos, if you're lucky enough to find them!