There’s times when going to a metal show can seem like a tedious affair, often being subjected to three, four, sometimes maybe even five opening acts you couldn’t care less about seeing before finally reaching the headlining act you came to see. Last Tuesday night’s show at the House of Blues in Orlando was by far the exception, where each band on the bill was worth their weight in their own respective rights, as Overkill, Exhorder, and Hydraform stormed through the H.O.B. with as much fury humanly possible (and allowed) in Disney Springs. Concert goers had other options that night in central, FL as well; just down the I-4 corridor, pop star Billie Ellish was playing at the Amway Center. But the dedicated metal maniacs of the region showed up in droves to support the music they love.
Colorado-based newcomers Hydraform were first up on the bill, and immediately I was reminded of Queensryche (albeit a heavier version of them). I only caught about half of their set (admittedly, I had arrived fashionably late), so I can’t really give a full, fair assessment of their set, though what I did catch seemed like a tight progressive rock band with a promising future.
Exhorder were up next, and I have to admit, my knowledge of their catolog prior to the show didn’t go past a handful of songs. The crowd definitely seemed to be into the New Orleans-based grove rockers as they trudged through the likes of “Slaughter in the Vatican,” “(Cadence Of) The Dirge,” “Legions of Death,” “Hallowed Sound,” and “Desecrator.” Also of interest worth noting; lead vocalist/band founder Kyle Thomas is also doing double-duty as the current front man for classic doom metalheads Trouble, and current bassist Jason Viebrooks did also time in the band Grip Inc.
And finally, the mighty Overkill took over. I’ve seen many bands from my home state of New Jersey (The Misfits, Skid Row, etc…), but for whatever reason, Overkill has escaped my radar up until now (although they were on the same bill as Megadeth the first time I saw them in 2006, but missed their entire set, again due to arriving late). I always knew we were destined to cross paths eventually; not only did we both emerge out of the gutters of NJ, but we were each born around the same time (with Overkill beating me by just a year, forming in 1980). At one point, lead vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth even asked the audience who was from NJ, then proceeded to jokingly taunt the crowd with both fists in the air, claiming “I’ll take all of you motherfuckers on!”
The band did not disappoint. Neither did they rely on only their ‘classic’ material, as they kicked off their set with a hard-hitter, “Last Man Standing,” off their latest studio album Wings of War. Another semi-recent number, “Electric Rattlesnake, followed, before the band packed a 1-2 punch that included “Hello From the Gutter” and “Elimination.” From then on, it was a mix of old and new tracks alike (some obviously more effective than others), including “Bring me the Night,” “Head of a Pin,” “Necroshine,” “Under One,” “Bastard Nation,” and “Mean, Green, Killing Machine.”
A short bass/drum solo lead up to an epic, nearly 10-minute rendition of the 1985 classic “Feel the Fire” (arguably the best performance of the night) before closing things out with “Ironbound.” There was no doubt the band held the stage captive that night; core members Ellsworth and bassist D.D. Verni (the band’s two remaining original members) have held complete control of their vision for over four decades now, and showed absolutely no signs of slowing dow.