Band History and Discography compiled by Patrick
Joe Carducci, the former co-owner of SST Records, wrote in his book Rock and the Pop Narcotic that "Any band whose singer lights his balls on fire in performance is perhaps not destined to survive long, but Overkill did leave behind one heavy headstone of an album and they kicked any and all ass privileged to witness their spontaneous combustion - an early organic convergence of punk edge and heavy metal ambition." While Carducci's view maybe be slightly biased - Overkill recorded for SST and Carducci, himself, mixed their LP - they were one of the first bands to mix punk and metal, resulting in one excellent EP and a decent LP before they fell apart.
Overkill was formed in late 1980 by drummer Kurt Markham and bassist Ron Cordy. Kurt, the group's main songwriter, was originally the guitarist but moved to drums in an attempt to lure friend Felice LoCoco, a guitarist, to join the group. Felice, a metal fan, wasn't interested in joining a punk band, though, and instead Jeff Dimick was added on guitar. The group played their first gigs with a singer named Joe, and their mix of hardcore and pre-thrash metal caught the attention of Black Flag and SST Records. SST wanted to put an Overkill record out but the band was tired of Joe, so they dumped him. At the suggestion of Greg Ginn, Overkill added Merrill Ward, a close associate of Black Flag and a sometime member of SST "super" group the Nig-Heist.
In late 1981, Overkill recorded their first EP with Spot, after which Jeff had left the group. Upon hearing the songs from the EP, Felice LoCoco had changed his mind about playing in a punk band an joined the group. The EP, titled Hell's Getting Hotter, was released in mid-1982. The group had also started recording their first LP that year. The new recordings reflected the group's move from the all out metal-tinged hardcore of the first EP towards a more hardcore-influenced hard rock. Ego problems had also begun to cause tension between Merrill and the rest of Overkill and he was given the boot in the spring of 1982. Intervention by Greg Ginn and Chuck Dukowski on behalf of Merrill had no effect.
The firing of Merrill Ward, along with the band's decision to pursue heavy metal cost them much of their punk audience. Merrill's replacement, called Scott Kidd, did little to help the situation with his inability to write decent lyrics and his onstage cock-rock posturing. Thrash metal was also on the rise but Kurt Markham, who wrote much of the music, refused to follow that route, causing more tension within the band. In 1983, Ron Cordy quit to play bass in metal act Bitch and Overkill officially came to an end. SST released Overkill's LP, Triumph of the Will, with vocals by Merrill, posthumously in 1985.
Overkill's short lifespan and early transition into hard rock left them to be one SST's more overlooked early bands, but they still have one footnote in hard rock/heavy metal history. In late '82, Overkill played a gig in San Fransisco with Bay-area metal act Trauma. The gig is famous because it was where Metallica's James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich got their first glimpse of Trauma bassist Cliff Burton, who they then recruited to join their band. Members of Overkill claim that Lars Ulrich visited them backstage after their set and congradulated them on being one of the few bands following the same route as Metallica.
Overkill's name has also been a source of confusion for metal fans for a number of years. In the early '80's, another Overkill formed in NY. This Overkill, a thrash metal band who released their first record in 1984 and still continue to this day, ended up copyrighting the band name. Some fans of NY's Overkill were disappointed upon their purchase of Triumph of the Will, thinking they'd discovered some long-lost album by their thrash metal heros (despite the LA band's line-up listed on the back cover) only to discover an entirely different band. SST retitled CD copies of Triumph of the Will to read "Overkill L.A." in the '90s to end the confusion.
Despite the fact that they seem largely forgotten, the members of Overkill have talked about reuniting several times, although nothing has ever panned out. Merrill Ward finished out the '80's singing for Chuck Dukowski's post-Black Flag act SWA before embarking on an acting career. Ron Cordy also carried on in Bitch for the rest of the decade, although big-time success alluded that band. Kurt Markham was the original drummer for Dez Cadena's post-Black Flag act D.C.3, although he dropped out early on.
KILL FROM THE HEART Home