Thrash Legends Overkill Explain the Military Inspirations Behind 'White Devil Armory'
Published Jul 23, 2014Some bands have a hard enough time getting motivated to write a second album, never mind album No. 17. So when New Jersey thrash metal institution Overkill started writing the newly released White Devil Armory, their 17th full-length since their formation in the early '80s, they found inspiration in a simple thread.
"I suppose the motivation is looking for that new sliver of song, lyric or a generalized entire feel for a record, and then trying to find that," vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth tells Exclaim! "It's always going to be Overkill, but I think the idea is that if we push ourselves we'll come up with something like White Devil Armory, which is not [2012's] The Electric Age, but it feels like its cousin, like 2014's version of what Overkill is about after this many years."
Ellsworth says the meaning behind the album title came from an idea that bassist D.D. Verni, the only other original member, brought to him around the concept of armouries from around the world. Ellsworth took the theme and built imagery and lyrics around it from there.
"We need a thread when we start writing, and the thread this time was 'armoury.' It came out of D.D. He was writing with that word in mind, and there were Google pages and images he was sending of different armouries around the world," recalls Ellsworth. "I said, 'I like it, but I want to go somewhere with it,' and D.D. said, 'Do your worst!'"
Undeniably Overkill, the album combines the band's full-speed-ahead thrash metal mayhem, complete with Ellsworth's patented high-pitch scream and Verni's rollicking bass lines, with some songs that look back on the band's more traditional metal influences. It's an album that Ellsworth and the rest of the band are proud of, he says.
"We got that punky vibe out of the song 'Pig,' we got that breakdown version out of band with 'Bitter Pill,' which sounds rooted in 1990, but presented in 2014. Thrash is still number one with a song like 'Armorist' or 'Where There's Smoke,' but also the New Wave of British Heavy Metal rears its ugly head, and so does traditional metal," explains Ellsworth. "So I'm proud about the fact that it contains all of the elements that make up Overkill, as opposed to one or two elements."
Once again self-produced, the band then brought in mixer Greg Reely (Devin Townsend, Fear Factory), who produced their previous album. Having the creative vision all the way through an album's process is important to the band, says Ellsworth.
"Well, yeah, we're selfish bastards, right? It's really that simple," he laughs. "You like to have hands-on; it's part of the work ethic. In production, it's really about being satisfied with your tones and staying organized. It's understanding that your best performances and your best executions have to be there."
As far as where White Devil Armory falls within the band's extensive back catalogue, Ellsworth says, while it's too early to tell for sure, he believes the album fits within the new phase of the band, which he says began around 10 years ago when drummer Ron Lipnicki joined the fold, adding "a new hop" to the band's sound and bringing it up another level.
"When you look at records like [2007's] Immortalis or [2010's] Ironbound and The Electric Age, White Devil Armory seems like it's the next step. And the beauty of Overkill is that there are chapters so, sure, it's 17 records, but it's probably four or five chapters over those 17 records. Within this current chapter, this album becomes the next step. So I can't put it in the pecking order of 17 just yet, but I'd say over this last chapter that it stands as tall, if not taller, than anything else."
White Devil Armory is out now on eOne. You can check out Overkill's upcoming tour schedule, which includes a few Canadian dates, over here.