OVERKILL vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth recently spoke with "The Classic Metal Show".
On the band's preference to release a new album every other year:
Bobby: "You do this because you like to do it. I also think that it keeps our stuff fresh. To some degree, you can kind of gauge how you evolve. I know OVERKILL's not a progressive band or [that] there's been huge evolutions, but for sure, we see chemistry changes from year to year. If the material's going to be fresh, it's got to be recorded fresh, so the two-year routine always seems to work for us, and if it's not broken, we're not going to try to fix it."
On the band's musical consistency:
Bobby: "I don't think it was ever a conscious thought. I know that other elements have crept into our music, whether it be groove that we injected into our style of thrash in the '90s, but it wasn't to necessarily go in a distinct, different direction, but enhance the direction we were headed in regardless. We had groove in the band as far back as 'Horrorscope', so there was never a discussion, for instance, about this. I remember a conversation with D.D. Verni — it was back somewhere in the '90s — and we've been friends first for longer than even partners in writing songs. We've always been pretty straight shooters with each other — I mean, we're both Jersey guys — and I said, 'What are you thinking for the next record?' He goes, 'What are you talking about? We're going to do what we always do, right?' I said, 'Yeah, all right.' He said, 'We're not going to reinvent the fucking wheel, right?' I said, 'No, we're not.' He goes, 'Let me tell you something, Blitz — there's nothing more dangerous than two guys from Jersey with nothing to lose.' Somewhere in there, I think to myself, there was never a reason to change. We understood it. I think there's something to be said about not having an identity crisis. [If] you're having an identity crisis [and] keep looking at yourself in the mirror saying, 'Who am I?', you're going to waste a lot of time trying to figure that out. It's very easy for me. I think now for 30 years, most days that are under 80 degrees, I pull on motorcycle boots and a pair of Levi's. I know who I am. It's not a matter of trying to having to waste my time by trying to find other things. Obviously, exploration is great, but in our case, what's worked is consistency — dedication to a principle — because we got what we wanted when we understood who we were. It kind of freed us up to be able to keep that routine that we do — to go every couple years, to be visible, to tour, to do stuff we like to do. It's worked. We never criticize somebody else's way of doing it, but the way that we've done it has worked for us, so that's the most important thing."
On new album "The Wings Of War":
Bobby: "You know what I think this record has? Sure, it says OVERKILL at the end of the day, but there's a difference in it. A little bit of a template was broken on this record. I think that we had a template that was kind of set from the 'Ironbound' record. I don't think it was a conscious template, but for sure subconscious when I think of the records that followed it. I think what broke this template was changing chemistry. Jason Bittner was inducted into the band as our drummer — a full member of this band — and we knew that would change us, but we had the luxury of touring with him for a year. Sure, we knew what he's done [and] we knew what his abilities were — he's a top-notch drummer, maybe one of the top five in the genre, and I'm only saying that with regard to being humble. I think he's the best when he comes to this. But we embraced that chemistry on the road for a year, so we saw that this was changing the band. It was different for me after the first show I did with him in Moscow. It's not markedly different, but for me on the inside, I noticed the differences. By the time we were recording with him, everybody was used to that chemistry change and had already embraced it and became part of that change, so what I notice on this record is sure, at the end of the day, the OVERKILL stamp is all over it. There are bat wings and green all over this record, but the point is that it gave us the opportunity to feel as if we were doing something different within our own mold with this new member in the band and his excitement and his ability."
On the tempo changes found on the new album:
Bobby: "This isn't a band where it's run by one guy. It's a band where ideas are always welcomed. I think that one idea spawns another idea, which spawns a vision. D.D. Verni's really good at the tempo changes, but having somebody like Jason to work with him, I think it brought it out to a higher level by having somebody who's used to doing that with the sticks and with the feet. The idea of having those tempo changes, sure, they're to be shocking, but not to be unnatural. If they were unnatural, it could ruin the song."
On the new song "Head Of A Pin":
Bobby: "Some of the most brutal drums that we've ever had are contained on 'Head Of A Pin' — the patterns that were being played and the tempo changes, going from mid-tempo all the way up to pretty close to breakneck on the musical interludes in between the singing. The song is totally infused with melody. It's all a sing-along, but it sounds like... my god, it sounds like a massacre with a sing-along to me. This showed instant diversity to me — the tonality of the guitar mixing with where we put the tempo. When the song came in, it sounded like BLACK SABBATH on great meth — BLACK SABBATH on 'Breaking Bad'. That, to me, was what the diversity was about — not that all things are just the same, [but] all things are the same and all things are a little bit different each time. At the end of the day, 'Head Of A Pin' still says OVERKILL. It's something I think we're very proud of, to be able to show some diversity and the fact that we've been doing it for this long."
On the band's longevity:
Bobby: "As serious as we are about our music, we don't take ourselves that seriously, and it's probably one of the other reasons that we've been around this long. We're kind of leather-skinned at this point — we'll do what we want."
OVERKILL's 19th studio album, "The Wings Of War" will be released on February 22 via Nuclear Blast. The disc was recorded at Gear Recording Studio in New Jersey, SKH Studio in Florida and Jrod Productions with engineering handled by bassist D.D. Verni and guitarist Dave Linsk. The album was produced by the band while Chris "Zeuss" Harris took care of the mixing and mastering. Travis Smith (NEVERMORE, OPETH, SOILWORK, DEATH) was again enlisted to create the artwork for the album.