Overkill @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US)

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OVERKILL / SYMPHONY X

Date: 24th September, 2015
Venue: House Of Blues Chicago
Ticket: $41.55 / €37.50
Promoter: n/a


Hands down, this was a most interesting package, combining the sheer power of the forever young OVERKILL with the groove of the Progressive Power metallers SYMPHONY X. So, I was expecting (at least) a close to a sold-out show that night at House Of Blues although I knew deep inside me that those days have sailed. Still, the venue was filled really nice and one could feel there was some sort of a divide between the Thrash and the guitar-shred lovers. For me, it was Metal either way, so I was pumped up to have tons of fun with the two bands whose shows are always characterized by lots of energy and - of course - sweat. To be honest, I was kind of relieved that there was no supporting act because if there was one, I am sure it would have been something rather out of place.

Following the schedule to the letter, the lights went out and the intro brought drummer Jason Rullo first onstage and soon enough Mr. Michael Romeo who was welcomed with a loud cheer. I strongly believe that Michael is one of the most modest guitar virtuosos in Metal, performing dexterity and stamina. And this was (also) showcased that night and I am quoting the words which belong to Russell Allen “he figuratively and literally bleeds Metal”. The literally part had to do with the fact that Michael’s signature white Dellinger-M3 MJR guitar was covered in blood coming from a cut in his fingers. And this was the only mishap of the SYMPHONY X set because the guitarist never left the stage and even though I am not a guitarist, I can still tell that he did not lose a single beat.

SYMPHONY X’s performance was simple perfection and once more I have to acknowledge the band's wise decision to start writing simpler songs meant to be played live (this started happening with “Paradise Lost"). No, I am not saying that the Progressive elements are gone but there is more groove in the rhythm section and - of course - on top of everything, Russell’s dominating singing. The moment “Nevermore” had kicked in, Russell assumed his position at the center of the stage and started singing with his powerful voice and really it seemed that the band had just skipped warming-up. Russel’s ADRENALINE MOB looks (he looked like a member of the Mafia) worked extremely well so it was not surprise that the audience reacted with super enthusiasm. Sure, the two fast setlist openers, “Nevermore” and “Underworld”, quickly set the party mood on, but I think the slower “Without You” struck harder. This is the type of songs were SYMPHONY X really shine; the clean guitar arpeggios combined with the killer bass lines and the amazing vocals go back and forth with melody and heaviness in a way that has become a trademark for this band. By the way, I love the guitar solo on this one and it’s awesome how Michael makes it look that it’s something everyone can do (yeah, right). The faster “Kiss Of Fire” restored the Heavy Metal balance and it was headbanging time during the riff-driven groove, while the symphonic parts were perfectly delivered by Mr. Pinnela (the third Michael of the lineup), proving how much difference it makes when the pre-recorded parts are performed by an actual keyboardist.

It was time to use some theatrics, so during “Charon”, Russell showed up wearing a red mask and occasionally he was virtually paddling his way towards Hades like a modern edition of Greek mythology’s Charon. Still, the mosh-pit during the bridge was a nice twist, so extra kudos are in order to the HoB audience. Just before “Of Sins And Shadows”, Russell took the chance to greet Chicago and introduce SYMPHONY X before crediting OVERKILL by saying OVERKILL inspire us every night”. The band didn’t want to spend too much time into talking, so without further ado, “Serpent’s Kiss” got us back to action (and to singing along). Yeah, the SYMPHONY X steamroller kept going and dropped the curtain with the amazing “Set The World On Fire (The Lie Of Lies)”. Looking back to previous SYMPHONY X shows, I believe in this one Mike LePond was more active onstage and made me take back what I said in the beginning about not having an opening act because his SILENT ASSASSINS would have been a killer treat (you should check them out).

The band left the stage but after a couple of minutes and some cheering returned with Russell saying “let’s fucking go” as a short (and effective) introduction to the powerful “Iconoclast” (the guitar / keyboards intro is amazing). And that was it; SYMPHONY X did their co-headlining part but I’d say left us wanting for more because eleven songs are simply not enough. On the other hand, OVERKILL were up next, so I was already sure the gathered momentum would be maintained (if not increased).

SYMPHONY X setlist:

01. “Overture” (intro)
02. “Nevermore”
03. “Underworld”
04. “Without You”
05. “Kiss Of Fire”
06. “Charon”
07. “To Hell And Back”
08. “Of Sins And Shadows”
09. “Serpent's Kiss”
10. “Eve Of Seduction”
11. “Set The World On Fire (The Lie Of Lies)”
12. “Iconoclast”
13. “The Imperial March” (outro)

SYMPHONY X

Symphony X @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Symphony X @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Symphony X @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Symphony X @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Symphony X @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Symphony X @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Symphony X @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Symphony X @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Symphony X @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Symphony X @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Symphony X @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Symphony X @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Symphony X @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Symphony X @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Symphony X @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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Of course it took more time than usual to get the stage ready for OVERKILL because the backline had to be replaced and all the props had to be installed. Even though I knew there would be no major deviations in the setlist from the last time I have seen Blitz and his gang, I was prepped for another kick-in-the-teeth show from a band with a name that is equivalent to high-quality-and-lots-of-sweat Thrash. The faces occupying the front rows were replaced by some old-school-looking thrashers and the moment the intro “XDM” had kicked in, all the frustration from waiting things to get ready was down the drain. The band stormed the stage with a powerful sound and seconds before the vocals Blitz rushed towards the mic-stand (like he does every time) and set the Thrash mood taking no prisoners. No matter if you are an OVERKILL fan or not, it’s impossible to resist the energy surge hitting your heart and veins watching DD, Dave, Derek and Ron delivering the wall of sound under the characteristic green lights. Oh my goodness, the galloping riff of “Hammerhead” sounded the charge for mosh-pitting and headbanging like there will be no tomorrow. OVERKILL have been on the road for quite some time and really there were no signs of wear and tear, so I hope the younger bands are paying attention on how things should run when you are onstage. “Fuck yeah Chicago motherfuckin; Illinois, it’s good to see your smiling faces. Don’t disappoint me, are you ready?” asked Uncle Bobby before plugging in the “Electric Rattlesnake”. You see, OVERKILL do not rely solely on the oldies and keep writing music that carries the old-school sound and then some more... I mean, you can feel in your bones the Punk-based Thrash with the characteristic bass lines and the entire-band doing the backing vocals “electric rattlesnake!” You don’t need to be psychic to visualize how things went down during the guitar-driven break somewhere close to the middle of this one.

Considering this was a co-headlining set, there had to be a mix between the old and the new while keeping the classics in the set. So, after the fists-in-the-air “In Union We Stand”, it was time for Bobby to state that “The windy city is rotten to...” giving the perfect assist to the hard-hitting “Rotten To The Core”. Don’t you love the opening scream and the following guitar chords on this one? It’s moshing time, every time during this adrenaline shot of a song. And to back me up on how the old is perfectly mixed with the new, OVERKILL stormed their way with the double-bass drumming “Bring Me The Night” that set the pace for more crowd surfin’.

“Do you want more of this? We played this in 1988 when we were supporting MOTÖRHEAD was a short history lesson that also introduced “End Of The Line”. But this was a well-educated crowd, so the Thrash festivities kept going uninterrupted and it is always fun to see a big circle forming in the center of the arena to host all the running and pushing around. “Did I tell you that’s good seeing you motherfuckers?” asked Bobby before admitting “I’m buying time until my breath comes back - I'm not perfect but at least I'm being honest”... sure, if this is how an old guy looks like, then I hope I will be like him when I reach his age. Anyway, “Hello From The Gutter” was next and HoB was in full Thrash mood and there was no stopping. The New Jersey boys kept hitting us with “Bitter Pill”, “Overkill” and “Irobound” which Bobby introduced by saying: “We have history, now and forever we are ironbound” because after all, we are brothers in (Thrash) Metal. And before we knew it, OVERKILL ended up their set highlighting how fast time flies when you’re having fun. Of course there was more starting up with “Skullkrusher” and with the Thrash-on-steroids “Elimination”. Don’t you love the squeaky vocals on this one?

The set ended with the crowd-pleaser “Fuck You” which didn’t have the long singing-along game, something completely understandable because it was already late for a show downtown. In any way, it’s always fun looking everyone giving the finger to everyone who is giving us a hard time for no particular reason (pssst, you know who you are).

It would be a crazy person’s talking if I’d say I had a single complaint from that show and billing. Both bands met the standards they have set and, to be honest, I hope to get an encore from SYMPHONY X and OVERKILL with two full headlining shows.

“if I had just one more day
I'd turn it all around
I'd make a play of good, clean livin'
and dig me out of the ground
and if I had just one more day
I'd say it to your face
pull the plug on everyone
eliminate this race
we want to cure
and we want it now
reissue hope
we don't care how
you're makin' a mess
diseasin' a nation
runaway train to elimination”

OVERKILL setlist:

01. “Armorist”
02. “Hammerhead”
03. “Electric Rattlesnake”
04. “In Union We Stand”
05. “Rotten To The Core”
06. “Bring Me The Night”
07. “End Of The Line”
08. “Hello From The Gutter”
09. “Bitter Pill”
10. “Overkill”
11. “Ironbound”
12. “Skullkrusher”
13. “Elimination”
14. “Fuck You”

OVERKILL

Overkill @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Overkill @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Overkill @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Overkill @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Overkill @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Overkill @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Overkill @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Overkill @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Overkill @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

Overkill @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

Overkill @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Overkill @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Overkill @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Overkill @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Overkill @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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