The band underwent a more groove-oriented stylistic shift with I Hear Black in 1993. Since then, they have dropped the groove metal elements and returned to their earlier style since Ironbound in 2010.
Overkill were formed in New Jersey when a previous D.D. Verni/Rat Skates (real names: Carlos Verni and Lee Kundrat – the stage names were tributes to favourite punk bands, the Ramones featuring Dee Dee Ramone, and the Damned, featuring Rat Scabies… Bobby Blitz was taken from The Dead Boys’ Johnny Blitz! project) punk band called The Lubricunts, broke up in 1980 (there’s a picture of the Lubricunts demo cover in the Wrecking Your Neck liner notes). D.D. quickly wanted to form a new band, so he put out an ad which was answered by guitarist Robert “Riff Thunder” Pisarek(who came up with the name Overkill), but he was quickly replaced by Dan Spitz and Anthony Ammendola.
Early covers (especially those done under the Virgin Killer name in the very very early days) were punk songs for the most part, including selections by the Ramones and The Dead Boys. By 1980, they had recruited two guitarists (names forgotten over time) and the set-list included songs by Motörhead (“Overkill”, half of the Ace of Spades album, and others), Judas Priest (“Tyrant” was their closer for awhile), and later Iron Maiden and Riot V, as well as a smattering of punk covers which were played with extra distortion, intensity, and concentration on riffs.
In 1981, guitarists Dan Spitz (later of Anthrax) and Anthony Ammendolo left the band and Rich Conte entered with Mike Sherry. At this point, they started writing originals, including “Grave Robbers”, “Raise the Dead”, “Overkill”, and “Unleash the Beast Within”. More originals would follow, including “Rotten to the Core”. Somewhere around this time Rich and Dan left and Bobby entered with Joe somebody on guitars. The band became a staple at New York and New Jersey clubs around 1982 and soon Bobby lived up to his “Blitz” nickname, earning an ejection from the band for a few days in 1983.
Around this time, the fluorescent green logo was adopted; it was specifically chosen to stand out on a poster with lots of red logos of other bands on the bill.
The line-up would stay consistent until 1987 when “Rat” Skates left the band. He was replaced by Mark Archibole for a few gigs and then on a permanent basis Sid Falck, previously of Paul Di’Anno‘s Battlezone. Bobby Blitz once said that the only former member he misses is co-founder Rat Skates. Then in 1990, Bobby G. left and was replaced by Rob Cannavino and Merritt Gant (Faith or Fear).
This line-up lasted until 1992 when Tim Mallare came in on drums. Rob and Merritt both left the band in 1995 (Rob became a motorcycle racer and Merritt formed several other bands), being replaced by Joe Comeau (Liege Lord) and Sebastian Marino.
Joe left in 1999 to become the vocalist for Annihilator and the Coverkill album was recorded with new guitarist Dave Linsk. Sebastian left to spend more time with family, so Linsk played all the guitar parts on 2000’s Bloodletting album. Joe Comeau helped out as the second guitarist on the tour for this album, which D.D. Verni missed part of after his wife gave birth. Derek Tailer stepped in as the bass player and was later added permanently to the line-up as the rhythm guitarist, though the band have recorded as a four-piece since then with Tailer, only recording backing vocals and performing live. Tim Mallare left Overkill on his own accord in 2005 after 14 years with the band.