OVERKILL - Ironbound: A Track-By-Track Blitz

January 13, 2010, 9 years ago

by Mark Gromen

overkill feature

Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth, wisecracking frontman of the legendary New Jersey thrash outfit, gave BraveWords.com his thoughts and some insight into the construction of the forthcoming Ironbound disc. Debuting for Nuclear Blast overseas, E1 (formerly Koch) will handle it here in North America. So why not stick with the mighty Nuclear machine? Was it them or you who balked at a global dominion? ““We got the worldwide offer, that wasn’t an issue. To survive you have to think outside the box, there’s a great responsibility that comes with different contracts. We have the responsibility to deliver something like Ironbound and the label has to promote it. When you diversify, you put yourself in a better position, if just by the old adage, ‘Don’t have all your eggs in one basket.’ E1 had a huge interest, even when they were Koch. It made it the right thing to do. They’re also a huge promotional machine. Maybe not as specific as a metal label, like Nuclear Blast, but they handle metal bands and know what to do with them. Our position was, ‘Let’s not get in a position to garage sale ourselves. Let’s raise our value on each continent.’ You just have to know what to do, when to do and where to do it. It’s gotten us more shows. We’ve been a touring band throughout or existence. Even Immortalis: two US runs, two European runs. Pretty good in this day and age. (The two labels) working in conjunction only enhances, you get better videos (because there’s more money involved now).”

OK, down to the music:

‘The Green And Black’, long been the official OverKill colors, so I assume the lead track is a dedication to the fans? “Quite honestly, I can tell you where I got it (title). I’m a big Jersey Devils (ice hockey) fan. They start off their commercials with, ‘In the name of those who bleed the red and black.’ I thought, ‘That’s too good to not steal!’ As time passes, the value of what this band has done weighs specifically on the shoulders of (fan) support than necessarily just what we create. It becomes a combination of the two and it’s always good to give a nod to the cheap seats.”

'Ironbound': Can’t get away from writing about Jersey cities, eh. First ‘In Union We Stand’ now the section of Newark that houses the new Devils hockey arena. (laughs all around). Seriously, the title has a metal inference, was that the allure? “Sure. Figuratively or literally, I think we've spun literal geographics into figurative symbolics. They say that neighbourhood in Newark looks as if it is ‘tied to the earth by metal ribbons’: railroad tracks coming out of the port. I do feel a connection of ‘tied’, but obviously without complaint. More so with regard to life's work, to the core of the ore.” (Cackles) But you mention ‘the green & black’ as lyrics, within the song ‘Ironbound’ too. “There’s a difference between repetition and style or vibe. I’ve always liked to paint living colors, with regard to lyrics. At one point, it was down to ‘The Green And Black’ and ‘Ironbound’ as the album’s title. Ironbound won out as it was more broad, whereas the other is more specific.”

The title cut contains a surprising, subtle section, an anti-breakdown, if you will. “Before songs get lyrical content, they’re titled according to their musical personalities. I walk into the studio and I see ‘Mellow Middle’! It kinda blew my mind when I got the rough (demo version) of that, with regard to the song being assembled. It’s bombastic from the beginning to the mellow middle. One of the things we learned, with respect to past song writing successes, is hills and valleys. It’s something we’ve even tried to do in our live set, hit them really hard, bring it up and drop it off the edge of a cliff. That kind of a dynamic makes for ‘noticeable-ness’. I was going to put a vocal over that, but it really doesn’t need it. It’s so anti what the song is prior (to that section), then going back to it, being book-ended front to back by that original Ironbound riff, I just love the arrangement. I love the fact DD (Verni, bass) doesn’t have any fear, this many years later, to do that. He’s not formulized. It’s great to be able to say, ‘You’ve been in this business for 25 years and still have a set of nuts on you, to do something like the mellow section of Ironbound after it’s probably one of the heaviest songs on the record.”

‘Bring Me The Night’: first single/video “Performance, big, lots of lights. OverKill live. The song is kind of a new wave of British heavy metal (sound). It shows the band come from an era, but at the end of the day, it still has the OverKill stamp on it. We think it’s a great representation of what was, what is and what might be in the future.”

‘The Goal Is Your Soul’: For whatever reason, the opening reminded me of METALLICA. I’ve known you guys a long time and can recall all the grief you took in the '80s, accused of copying Lars and Co. (even down to petty shit like Bobby Gustafson’s choice of guitar). How satisfying is it that metalheads around the globe acknowledge you guys never ‘sold out,’ remaining loyal to yourselves, the music and fans? “There’s a lot of dignity in that. That’s one of the factors that makes OverKill what it is. (Metallica and us) were both originally born of the same cloth, but one has turned to fine silk and the other is burlap (laughs). They’ve re-defined pop music, which is a huge accomplishment. When I hear the bridge to that song, I hear the eerie openings with regards to the ‘OverKill’ trilogy. If its part of your repertoire, there’s nothing wrong with going back and reinventing that also. We’re putting ourselves in 2010 by using elements that made us recognizable in 1987, with or without the Metallica reference.”

‘Killing For A Living’ and ‘Give A Little’ both showcase an "Ellsworth style" different from the OverKill days, perhaps more of The Cursed creeping in? How did you decide to use the almost spoken delivery on the first one and (what I’ll call the) DANZIG crooning on the later? “Killing actually reminds me of the ‘Gasoline Dream’ / ‘WFO’ approach: textured and peppered with darkness. But...yes to some degree The Cursed was a learning experience and in a few cases applied to Ironbound. Even the ‘deathy’ approach in ‘The Head & Heart’ is a newer approach for me. It's all about creating interest, using what you have.”

‘Endless War’, the twin guitars sound very MAIDEN-ish to these ears. How much influence, in the writing do the guitarists (Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer) have at this point? “That was entitled ‘Maiden’, when I came to the studio. One of the first interviews I did for this record, the kid said, ‘It’s amazing. Maiden doesn’t even do those harmonies anymore!’ Dave Linsk had a lot to do with where the guitars went on this album. He’s got the talent and this album proves it. Well, the others did too, but I think Ironbound gave him the foundation to weave all sort of feels through it. I think his input gave the record that one additional characteristic that takes it over the top. It’s a thrash and bash and beat ‘em up, with fearless arrangements and great heavy riffs, but Dave’s guitar line has so many different feels that it almost makes the record sound, to a degree, progressive. Iron Maiden is obviously an early influence of ours. I think we were actually covering the entire Killers record at one time. It was something that was so ingrained in us. If I walk into a bar and there’s a band playing and they say, ‘Will you step up and do Maiden with us?’ I tell them, ‘Anything off the first two. Anything.”

‘The SRC’, stands for Subterranean Resistance Cult, is that a veiled reference to the metal crowd? “It’s revolution in general. When I was lyrically writing this, I was thinking back. You may have read (elsewhere) that when I got DD’s riffs for this (record), I called him up and said, ‘What kind of vitamins are you taking? You sound like you’re 19 years old again, with these riffs!’ When I heard where the riffs were coming from, from a guy who I’ve known for thirty years, I believe we’ve always resisted the norm. Sure, there’s a formula with regard to metal, and being in the scene, but what OverKill is, what the scene is and the people who hold that scene up… they resist. I think it’s about the original revolution. In 2010, I see a new wave of resistance, revolution, for a lot of the same reasons that it began with Metal Up Your Ass and how that became world changing for many people who became part of the season. There’s some of the same social reflections between the 80s and 2009-2010, some of the same political situations, world situations, so when you resist, you show strength. One of things that this has done, be it OverKill, that audience, or that scene, has shown strength when it’s most needed. As much as it seems pinpointed, ‘This is the SRC’, it incorporates a lot of different people. There’s been a lot of great releases from bands that have been around for two plus decades: TESTAMENT with Formation, the last DEATH ANGEL record, the last EXODUS one, MEGADETH and I feel we fall into that same category. Obviously there are a Big 4, but let’s say there’s an influential Ten! A lot of that energy comes from re-visiting that revolution. The younger bands are flying the flag of angst. You can’t forget where you came from.”

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