Classic Albums: Overkill – Taking Over

I first got into Thrash Metal with METALLICA, ANTHRAX, and MEGADETH in 1987. Why the Hell I’d resisted up to that point is beyond me, but eventually I was pulled in and couldn’t get enough of those bands. Then all of a sudden I stumbled upon the video for “In Union We Stand” from OVERKILL and that was it. I was in hook, line, and sinker. Who was this Thrash band from New Jersey?? I wasted no time finding out, because I was soon on my bike headed to Busy Bee Flea Market and handing over my money for a cassette of the band’s second album Taking Over. Obviously it went immediately into the trusty Walkman for the ride home. Boy oh boy, I had no idea what I was in for. Oh hi! Welcome to another episode of Classic Albums.

When “Deny the Cross” hit my ears I was catapulted into what felt like another dimension. Sure I was a big fan of what the other thrash bands were doing, but this just felt so much more angry, raw, and primal. Especially when “Wrecking Crew” kicked in. Fuck me running, this is one of THE all-time best OVERKILL songs, and that is unassailable fact. Bobby Gustafson’s riffs were Hell bent on destruction, and Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth had/has a voice like no one on the planet. He is still untouchable 32 years later. Factor in the crushing rhythm section of bassist D.D. Verni and former drummer Rat Skates and this was a sonic bomb ready to explode. When the band plays it live now I still get damn near whiplash!

“Fear His Name” is a song that always brought to mind that scene in The Terminator where the tank treads were crushing human skulls while “Use Your Head” is one of those tracks designed to rile up the masses and get the mosh pits going hard. An almost tribal drum beat gets “Fatal If Swallowed” started before it takes off full throttle and the band opens up a can o’ whup ass. Side Two opens with “Powersurge”, which also happened to be the show opener when I saw them for the first time back in 1990 at Sundance (The last stronghold of rock ‘n’ roll…right, Steve?). It’s a killer tune that knocks your dick in the dirt and it was the perfect way to kick things off. It still sounds awesome live to this very day!

And now we come to THE song. The anthem that started it all. The reason I became an OVERKILL fan and became a member of the Wrecking Crew…”In Union We Stand.” That buzzsaw guitar riff and soaring hook cemented my fandom back then, and when they include it in their current setlists I feel it hit me in the chest Every. Goddamn. Time. Gustafson goes off during the solo, Blitz issues the battle cry, and the band is just on fire. “Electro-Violence” is pure gold from beginning to end, and it’s a powder keg of acid and venom ready to fucking explode. Closer “Overkill II (The Nightmare Continues)” is seven minutes of evil darkness, and I loved every second of it.

When it was over I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I also couldn’t wait to flip the tape over and go again! This was Thrash Metal unlike anything the other guys were doing, and I loved it. I still do. OVERKILL is my favorite Thrash Metal band on the fucking planet and I will say that till the day I die. 46-year old me loves them every bit as much as 15-year old me did when he first discovered them. And whenever they choose to play songs from this landmark album live, I become that starry-eyed kid all over again. Such is the power and timelessness of Heavy Metal. And THAT is why Taking Over from OVERKILL is one of my favorite Classic Albums.   ~dc

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