(TheMadIsraeli reviews the latest album by the UK band Evile, which was released in April by Napalm Records.)
I think the story going on with this album and band right now is pretty cool: Matt Drake stepping down from Evile due to health issues, only for his brother, who’d left the band previously to pursue other endeavors, to come back and keep the band going.
Matt and Ol Drake both worked hard on this band. Evile is undoubtedly at the absolute top of the thrash resurgence hierarchy if ever a band deserved it. Their immaculately calculated mix of technicality, precision, speed, melody, chaos, and brutality is something a lot of their contemporaries just lack in some form or another, Moreover, Matt and Ol Drake are one of the most comprehensively synergistic guitar duos in modern metal. Ol Drake is, frankly, probably the only shredder in the modern thrash metal space worth paying attention to right now.
So, considering what just happened — the Evile we knew didn’t unify; it just changed forms again with only half of the core that defined the band still present — what do they do from here?
They write the best thrash metal record of 2021, past, present, or future.
And they also did that while reexamining whether the old Evile identity was worth preserving, cutting out and excising the fluff, and doing everything they could to deliver something violent, torrential, and highly disciplined. They did it by removing all the more epic and melodic aspects of their music, cutting out all the Metallica and Forbidden in their sound, and isolating it down to the Slayer and Sepultura DNA that’s always been in the background of what they did. In a lot of ways, Evile’s Hell Unleashed is as compact, perfectly executed, concisely written, and nonstop adrenaline spiking nasty and unrelenting as The Haunted‘s debut record.
It’s odd because, on a surface level, it sounds like I’m saying Evile is somehow doing less and is somehow better for it, but that wouldn’t be far from the truth. Where they lost the melodic elements and the more refined songwriting elements, an increase in technicality and speed has come in to replace those.
All that you really need to hear to be sold on this is that opening section of “Paralyzed,” the album’s opening track, and definitely the best thrash album opening track of the year. I absolutely LOVE the descending pedal point riff run that bookends this section, really driving the momentum forward.
The next thing that greets you, aside from a verse riff that feels like an automated sonic bone-saw removing your arm with a pure lack of soul, are the vocals of Ol Drake, who, unlike his brother previously, takes a much harsher tone. It’d be fair to say he channels Max Cavalera on this record a great deal, maybe even hits a few notes of Peter Dolving from time to time; it’s a more aggressive tone that perfectly fits this new Evile sound.
The seamless pre-solo section slowdown into a more melodic section is another really nice touch on this track, so much so that I think most people won’t even catch onto it. The solo reestablishes Ol Drake as the premiere shredder of the modern thrash movement as well.
This kind of precision-oriented, technical, endurance-pushing riffing, driven by a madman in a straight-jacket yelling and a relentless drum attack that’s like being simultaneously subjected to Chinese water torture and beaten with 2×4’s, is what defines Hell Unleashed. The second single and second song on the album “Cult” is just fucking relentless. What the fuck do you do when confronted with that song’s verse riff except get knocked the fuck out? The playing on this album is so tight and controlled, while the mix and guitar/bass tone is so massive, it’s overpowering, really.
“Incarcerated” is probably a top-three song on this album for me. It brings back around a little bit of that Evile songwriting drama they engaged in before but mixes it immaculately with this new hyper aggro borderline deathrash direction. I think I really just like atonal and diminished non-palm-muted 16th note picked riffing; it’s probably the Vader lover in me, but I fucking LOVE the riff that hits on the speed increase after the song’s intro. I also love how they iterate on this riff and change it around a bit to emphasize the song’s momentum. I’m also completely into the transition into a very Beneath The Remains-era two-step power-chord chug-heavy section before the solo—definitely a moment of wearing influences on your sleeve.
I really don’t feel like there is a single iota of wasted musical space on Hell Unleashed. “War Of Attrition” fills an excellent role as a song about just breaking your skull with fast as fuck riffs with this sense of pulsating hooks to them. Evile plays a lot on this album with ideas of rhythmic nuance; lots of tiny details in how the riffs are constructed on this front lead to the album’s high degree of memorability. The verse riff of “War Of Attrition” exemplifies this pretty well, as does the riff after it. They use simple, effective melodic concepts and extrapolate them through the use of rhythmically diverse attacks.
I also ABSOLUTELY adore the Voivod-esque noodly introduction of “Disorder,” an almost more deaththrash kind of a song in a Vader vain. The riffs are biting and weighty. The verse riffs emphasize accenting open power chords amidst a Meshuggah-esque syncopated riff combined with the bits of technical noodling, which calls to mind the afore-mentioned Voivod, Watchtower, or Coroner, and that’s a real treat and a nice deviation from what’s been the album’s modus operandi until now.
Evile has always had a bit of an affinity for looking back at the ’80s and its impact on music and media in general. “First Blood,” for example, was literally about Rambo. I kind of found it funny they decided to just straight-up call a song “The Thing (1982)”, but this song actually fucks. It’s the fastest song on the album and just feels like a celebration of everything enjoyable about the more extreme end of thrash metal as a whole. It’s got an absolutely killer groove in the middle, some of the best solos on the entire album, and is definitely what I’d call a “fun” song. Probably one of my favorites on Hell Unleashed.
“Zombie Apocalypse” is a weird song, especially in the context of this album. It’s the only song that’s down-tuned compared to the average on the album, and it has a pretty death metal quality about it. It might even be fair to say it’s a death metal song, the vocals aside. The song is literally just two riffs drawn out over a two minute thirty second period. The main riff really drags and gets you moving in that effective Pantera/Crowbar-esque kind of away, so it’s definitely effective. There’s a big burst of speed and a traditional tremolo-picked open note style old school death metal riff. It’s a fascinatingly minimalistic song on an album thriving on technicality and endurance-pushing.
“Control From Above” is a nice penultimate track that engages in some slightly progressive, more dialed-back ideas. This song is all about dark melodies, an almost black ‘n’roll rhythmic foundation in the majority of the song’s riffing, and a nice back-to-business outro that revisits the fast as fuck thrash the album was built on. I think it sets the stage appropriately for the album’s closer, the title track.
“Hell Unleashed” as a song is about as much of a victory lap as you could write. It takes all the best aspects of the album you just listened to and bundles them all into one song. Razor-sharp, intelligently written riffing that also requires tremendous physical endurance and dexterity? Check. Atonal solos of virtuoso technical proficiency? Check. Chunky, groovy midsection that breaks up the relentless speed and sets up the solo nicely? Check. It’s a phenomenal song, and it sits well as the closer to a fantastic record.
I still think the Evile name carries an association with the absolute pinnacle of modern thrash metal writing and craftsmanship. While the band’s sonic identity has definitely seen a significant shift and reorganizing, that perfect intersection of the technical display, songwriting prestige, and relentless album flow is still here. I fucking love Evile and this album. To repeat, Hell Unleashed is, in my mind, the best thrash metal album of 2021, past, present, or future.
While I do appreciate that Evile didn’t call it quits, I think Evil Unleashed is far from being the best thrash metal record of 2021. It’s certainly very good, but IMO Demiser, Paranorm, Cryptosis, Enforced, and Nekromantheon all put out much better records. I think Ol Drake still needs some time to get used to being the vocalist as well as the lead guitarist, but this album shows that he’s well on his way to doing so.
We’ll be getting to Cryptosis. I thought they were amazing too but it didn’t hit me the same way.
“Zombie Apocalypse” is a Mortician cover.
Oh wow I didn’t know. That’s fucking weird because even on the CD sleeve it never says anything about that.
That IS weird. I looked up the song because I felt like it was probably a cover, and sure enough, it was. On Evile’s Metal Archives page, it does say Mortician Cover in parentheses.