Overkill & Symphony X – September 18, 2015 – The Palladium, Worcester, MAFriday, 25th September 2015
Skulls were crushed and necks were wrecked, as Overkill and Symphony X kicked off their co-headlining tour at The Palladium in Worcester, Mass., on Friday, Sept. 18, transforming Massachusetts into Thrashachusetts. Both bands delivered top notch performances and showed why each has had such a lasting impact and longevity in the genre.
Before the New Jersey tandem leveled The Palladium with thundering riffs and shredding solos, the smaller stage upstairs provided a showcase of five talented local openers for those who arrived early and couldn’t wait until 8 p.m. to get their thrash on.
Shortly after 5:30, Boston progressive rock/metal duo Audiated kicked things off. Consisting of guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Burton and drummer Dan Hoffman, who also plays electric key bass at the same time, the band opened with two instrumental numbers that got some in the audience picking up their air instruments and miming along. The experimental nature of the band’s sound, mixing heavier chords with more subdued melodies, along with Burton’s impressive fretboard work and Hoffman’s technical skill to handle two instruments simultaneously, called to mind Cynic. The final two songs featured vocals, with Burton utilizing both death growls and melodic cleans. Audiated’s instrumental-heavy material served as a great way to get things started.
The six-string acrobatics didn’t stop there, as Boston party thrashers Sonic Pulse were next to take the stage. Sonic Pulse is all about playing fast and having fun. Concocting a recipe that takes equal parts Megadeth and DragonForce, with a bit of Municipal Waste, the band’s in-your-face riffs whipped the crowd into a frenzy, with heads banging and horns raised. The guitar duo of Mick Mayer, who also handles lead vocals, and Nick Petrino possesses the skills and chops that would make Herman Li and Sam Totman sit up and take notice, while bassist Sam Peterson plays more than just a supporting rhythm role with his own intricate playing, and drummer Kyle Larkins keeps things anchored and on pace with speed and power. The set included “Defenders of the Good Times” and the shredfest known as “Jerkoffagus” from their Adventure Metal EP, as well as “Bong Zombies.” It’s always a party when Sonic Pulse take the stage and this night was no different.
The thrash continued with Black Trip, another Boston-based band. Black Trip had a heavier sound than Sonic Pulse, as their thrash combines elements of death metal. Immediately noticeable was Sergio Arocha’s double bass drumming, which along with David Walker’s bass, set a heavy foundation for the group’s deaththrash. Although lead guitarist Daniel Martinez Del Campo was a bit low in the mix, and at times tough to hear, the slamming riffs he and guitarist/lead vocalist Gennaro Ammendola provided, along with Ammendola’s aggressive growls, kept the heads banging, the fists flying and the horns raised throughout their energetic set.
The next band, Epicenter, traveled all the way from New Hampshire for the show. The high-energy modern thrash outfit’s sound features infectious, stomping riffs and sizzling solo work. One of the more unique aspects to the band is the fact that vocal duties are handled by drummer Zak King. King’s vocals are more on the clean end but still with some grit. With King taking care of vocals, it leaves bassist Steve Foley and guitarists Jared Towne and Ryan Burke free to move about the stage, whether running from side to side or jumping up to the front and getting in the faces of the crowd. The riffs came fast and furious, and if new song “Running with the Wolves or Running from the Wolves” is any indication of the next album, it’s one you’ll definitely want to pick up.
The final band to take the stage upstairs was power metal quintet Thunderforge, out of East Longmeadow, Mass. Thunderforge infuse their power metal with rich melodies and fast tempos. Adam Morini’s soaring vocals lead the charge, clean, melodic and full of power, while guitarists Christian Morini and Jules Conroy dole out catchy melodies and dazzle with intricate solo work. Although Conroy was absent due to fulfilling some side project duties, the band didn’t miss a beat or lose a step with the more than capable Chris Eriquezzo, of instrumental progressive metalists Writing in the Skies, stepping in. One of the aspects Thunderforge has become known for with its live performances is interaction with the audience. Christian took plenty of opportunities to jump off stage and mix it up with the audience, while Adam ran off stage and upstairs to the second level, literally singing from the rafters. Drummer Zac Curylo and bassist John McLaughlin kept the energy flowing on stage with intense playing and active crowd interaction. It was a fitting end to the second stage performances, which sufficiently warmed up the audience for Symphony X and Overkill downstairs.
As I made my way downstairs and found a spot on the floor, it wasn’t long before Symphony X hit the stage and ripped into a searing set of progressive metal. Opening with “Overture” and the incredibly catchy “Nevermore” from the recently released Underworld, the set continued with the title track, the ballad-like “Without You” and the faster-paced “Kiss of Fire” from the same album and I started to think we would get to hear it in its entirety in order. While that was not the case, I was glad we got to hear seven songs from Underworld before the band delved into some classics with “Of Sins and Shadows” and “Set the World on Fire (The Lie of Lies).”
Decked out in sunglasses, Russell Allen stalked the stage and delivered a commanding performance. Hitting all the highs and singing with conviction, he used his power and projection to reach those at the very back of The Palladium, which while not sold out was still quite packed. Michael LePond and Michael Romeo provided a master class in Shred 101, while keyboardist Michael Pinnella injected shimmering melodies and drummer Jason Rullo provided the backbone. Following “Set the World on Fire,” the band left the stage only to return for one final song, “Iconoclast,” with Allen sporting a face mask this time around. Allen said the band was happy to return to The Palladium after a lengthy absence, and judging by the crowd’s reaction, the feeling was mutual.
I’ve had the good fortune to see Overkill a number of times over the years, but never have I heard them sound tighter or deliver a more intense set than the one they unleashed to kick off this tour. D.D., Dave, and Derek pounded the audience with riff after monster riff, Ron Lipnicki kept pace behind the kit and Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth was a man possessed. With his signature snarl, Blitz won’t be winning any singer of the year awards anytime soon, but his limitless energy and charisma put him in the conversation for top frontmen. Constantly running off stage only to burst back on just in time to resume the vocal verses, he was full throttle from the start.
The band was on fire, as they tore out of the gate with “Armorist” and “Hammerhead.” In addition to set staples such as “Rotten to the Core,” “Hello from the Gutter” and “Elimination,” we were treated to some deeper cuts, including “Powersurge,” “In Union We Stand,” “End of the Line,” “Overkill” and “Skullkrusher,” which was played live for the first time since 2011. With the circle pit in full swing and bodies going over the barrier at a rapid pace, it felt like the 1980s all over again. As commanding as he is on stage, Blitz also establishes great rapport with the audience, whether he’s renaming Massachusetts as “Thrashachusetts” or bringing up the fact that the Red Sox are in last place, there was never a dull moment with him on the mic.
Overkill closed the show as they always do, with The Subhumans cover “Fuck You.” With only lights, some strobes, and fog, Overkill showed they could stand toe to toe with any of the Big Four and made a definitive argument for being the tightest and hungriest veteran thrashers going these days. Do not miss this tour when it rolls through your city!