Evile - Hell Unleashed review
|Release date:||April 2021|
02. Gore [feat. Brian Posehn]
04. War Of Attrition
06. The Thing (1982)
07. Zombie Apocalypse [Mortician cover]
08. Control From Above
09. Hell Unleashed
This is Evile's dark and gritty reboot.
People might be surprised to see me review a thrash album, as the genre by and large does nothing for me these days (with Sylosis a glaring exception). However, the genre's heavyweights were in large part my introduction to metal, which occurred just as the thrash revival scene was gathering momentum. One of the leading bands in that scene was England's Evile, a band that followed the 80s Bay Area thrash template to the letter, but did so in a very convincing manner at a time where the sound hadn't yet been (re-)done to death. Early momentum generated with the likes of Enter The Grave and Infected Nations, albums that received regular rotation on my part around 10 years ago, gradually dissipated with the diminishing returns of their subsequent albums, particularly 2013's Skull, following which lead guitarist and founding member Ol Drake left the band, before re-joining and taking over vocal duties from older brother Matt in the wake of the latter's departure. After 8 long years, Evile return with a new line-up, a new vocalist, and a new album in the form of Hell Unleashed.
The first thing worth commenting on is the differing vocal styles between brothers. Matt Drake had a very clean shouting style, lacking any discernible vocal distortion and managing to carry (limited) vocal melodies; Ol, in contrast, goes for a gruffer approach, not quite a growl, but barks with rougher edges. Whilst I don't think Ol is the greatest thrash vocalist, I've got no complaints with this shift, as I'd found Matt's approach became increasingly stale with each new album. These frantic barks also fit nicely with the ballistic tempos employed across large stretches of Hell Unleashed. It's not 100% full-pelt throughout (opening track "Paralysed" slips a mid-tempo bridge in between the explosive verses and solos), but Evile press the accelerator more than they did on Skull, and this approach works in the band's favour.
As for what listeners can expect on Hell Unleashed, 'a surprise' is not one of them; as with many of the bands at the front of the wave of thrash revivalist bands, Evile prioritised paying tribute to the past over innovation, and nothing has changed on that front in the nearly 15 years since Enter The Grave. You can expect fast, jagged thrash riffs, sinister mid-tempo breaks, electric solos and pounding drums, and you can expect all of these in abundance, straight out of the thrash playbook. However, between the gruffer vocal style and bruising nature of some of the guitar work, Evile feel like they've shifted in an ever so slightly more extreme metal direction since Skull. I get the feeling that the new-look version of Evile wanted to re-establish themselves as a mean, vicious force of nature, dialling up the intensity in a serious way to accomplish this.
Hearing this will presumably reassure those looking for something avant-garde that their efforts will be more handsomely rewarded by looking elsewhere, but for the thrash purists, does Hell Unleashed deliver? For what it's worth, as someone who lost much of my appetite for this sound years ago but has a soft spot for Evile, I had a good time with this album. The likes of "War Of Attrition" and "Disorder" feature ferocious thrash hooks and show-stealing lead guitar work from Ol Drake, and "Incarcerated" is a mostly successful attempt at a longer, more ambitiously structured track, from the acoustic guitar introduction to some of the more mid-tempo chugs. I do think the album is at its best when Evile are holding nothing back and going at full speed; some of the slower brooding chugs rehash quite a long legacy of mean, bruising 'slow thrash' riffs in a relatively uninspired manner, offering little to value the current interpretation over the endless supply of previous iterations. In contrast, the sheer energy of Evile at maximum velocity is easy to get swept up in.
At the end of the day, Evile are intimately familiar with the fine details of thrash and know how to write satisfying songs in the style. As a re-introduction to Evile after a lengthy absence, I had fun with Hell Unleashed, and would rank it alongside their first two albums as one of their best albums. However, when sticking so rigidly to the established confines of the genre, there are going to be countless existing songs that sound incredibly similar to the ones featured on this record, and aside from a couple of standouts ("Paralysed", "Control From Above"), I don't think this record offers enough in terms of memorable tracks or hooks to make it more than just a fun but disposable thrash record, in a year where the likes of Paranorm, Cryptosis and Molten are making efforts to stand out from the crowd.
||Written on 29.04.2021 by|
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