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Saturday, February 07, 2009

CD Review: Evile - Enter the Grave Special Edition

Evile - Enter the Grave Special Edition
2009 Earache Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

America, feel humbled. You have to understand how special it is when a British metal band chooses its roots in Bay Area thrash instead of its domestic NWOBHM bands, not that this writer will quibble in either case, so long as the material is respectful and brings something to the table.

In case you haven't heard them yet, England's Evile are something like classic Metallica, Exodus, Slayer, Obituary, Forbidden and Death merged into a post-modern thrash entity where yeah, you've heard every tomahawked lick, every scorching shred line, even their symmetrical bloody ode to Julius Caesar as you hear on Enter the Grave. Familiarity has its advantages, however, in Evile's case. When you have former Metallica producer Flemming Rasmussen in your corner, some of that old speed elixir magic is going to rub off in your favor. Ripping their tunes on Enter the Grave with precise dexterity and an inarguable love for the original source lends every ounce of thrash-addicted charm to this project.

What's particularly fascinating about Evile is how easily these young bucks translate the vintage sound. Had they come around as a unit during the rise of thrash in the mid-eighties, they would've at least been sitting on the same tier as Heathen, Deathrow, Atrophy or possibly Death Angel in the latter's formative days. Even more striking is the way vocalist/guitarist Matt Drake executes his voice with bare strenuousness. Tom Araya is obviously his god since the issuance of his words are an exact facsimile of Araya's snide pentameter, though Drake almost never makes the effort to elevate his octaves. Nor does he need to.

This allows Matt, with his brother Ol Drake, bassist Mike Alexander and drummer Ben Carter to stamp down on the thrusters of their limitless mosh propulsion on songs such as "Thrasher," "First Blood," "Armoured Assault," Killer From the Deep" and "Schizophrenia." The concentration of Enter the Grave is veritably upon Evile's capacity to nearly tear the strings from their frets as well as punch a hole into Carter's protesting snare receptacle. The fact Matt Drake emits just the bare minimum vocal projection necessary to guide the already explosive tempos is refreshing, since his singular tones are clear and defined, whether he's in the studio or onstage. He serves the base of the songs with even-kilter, gravelly rasps instead of trying to determine the highest octaves or deepest grumbles to undermine the album's continuously punchy rhythms.

Structured like Metallica on the title track beginning Open the Grave, Evile goes for the throat instantly thereafter and seldom unseizes their chokehold. Even the tempered metal marches like those dominating "Bathe in Blood" and "We Who Are About to Die" are still smashed down with protesting thrash.

Speed junkies to the core, Evile's 2007 debut Enter the Grave is well worth chasing down, particularly this special edition which further endears the band to the old school which effectually gives Evile a reason for being. Inside this repackaging of Enter the Grave are three demo tracks, an accompanying 2 hour DVD as well as a guitar pick and denim band patch, all in the name of bridging the generation gap into a united force Billy Milano crooned about on Speak English Or Die.

The DVD is particularly fun as it mixes footage of Evile on tour supporting Megadeth with live studio renditions of all ten of the album's songs, plus interviews and on-the-road shenanigans. To be their ages with such focused talent on a major package like Gigantour across Europe... You see why they were selected through the onstage scenes as Evile can more than handle themselves onstage and there's a bit of a spectacle watching the nimble fingers of the Drake brothers and Mike Alexander move fluidly together. Stay tuned for an amusing story involving Alexander and Lee Altus of Exodus who are kindred spirits of the bottle, shall we say...

Most bands attempting to replicate even one bar of Bay Area thrash almost need to baptize themselves in the San Franciscan waters courtesy of a cannonball leap off the Golden Gate in order to gain a realistic sense of how it's done. Evile's Enter the Grave masterfully bonds its new blood to the old ways when labels such as Combat and Megaforce served as birth canals to some of the fiercest music being served up in its day. Hell, the main album selection is fun enough and proves this band has done their job honorably, but listening to the blazing demo tracks "Sacrificial" and "Darkness Shall Bring Death" proves how scary good Evile are.

Rating: ****


Metal Mark said...

I heard this when it came out in late 2007. They are tight, but it just lacks much emotion or any ideas of their own. That applies to a lot of the retro-thrash bands as well. It's odd that the NWOBHM bands influenced a lot of American and German thrash bands yet the UK never had a real big thrash scene. I think Onslaught were the real deal. Sabbat had a following, but they were just okay and after theose bands not much. Maybe it was just a different tastes.

metalman777 said...

I love this album! The song "We Who Are About To Die" is just thrash/speed metal at its best. Great workout music!

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

well, Mark, I'd have to say that you and I come from the time period from which it was born and loved all of those bands of the past, so we'll be a little more discriminating...Evile, however, I'm not sure what it is that strikes with me, but if they're this strong on their debut, I can't wait to hear what's next, particularly since they say on the DVD they want to move into a different direction the next go-round

Metalman, Hail Caesar! Thanks for coming by