Unrest begets high-grade thrash.
Though considered something of a fringe player in the later part of thrash metal’s heyday, Evildead made an impressive showing in the late 80s with their high octane debut “Annihilation Of Civilization,” scoring them a slot on the German label Steamhammer’s roster and drawing comparisons to contemporary thrashers and Bay Area powerhouse Vio-Lence. Originally conceived as a side-project in 1986 by Agent Steel guitarist Juan Garcia and Abattoir bassist Mel Sanchez to explore more aggressive sonic territory, it soon became a veritable force unto itself with the demise of both aforementioned bands and the explosion of thrash metal’s popularity in the Bay Area and beyond in 1987. Sadly, all things do eventually come to an end, and while this outfit did soldier on into the mid-1990s, the wellspring of support for the old style had been blocked by an onslaught of groove metal and grunge acts; thus Evildead became defunct, though an LP with completely Spanish lyrics by 3 members of the band under the name Terror would surface a couple years later.
Opinions vary as to when old school thrash metal was truly reborn, but it was fast becoming a force in the metal underground in the late 2000s, and along with it was hope that every band that was prematurely ended due to changing market trends would make a triumphant comeback. Oddly enough, despite gathering up much of the alumni of this fold in 2008, the Evildead name didn’t see any substantial studio output apart from a digital single release in 2011 that featured seminal front man Phil Flores’ mid-90s replacement Steve Nelson, and the band went defunct yet again in 2012. It just seemed that the original magic wasn’t be kindled without Flores’ vocal input, despite the lone song “Blasphemy Divine” being a nastily strong thrasher after the mold of their late 80s work. But changing times and political tumult saw a change in fortunes, as following Juan Garcia and the other members of Agent Steel putting their spin-off project Masters Of Metal on hold, Flores returned to the scene and the majority of Evildead’s seminal fold joined in for another attempt.
While this album comes a solid four years after this band’s second reunion, a more appropriate time for the release of a straight shot of thrashing political angst in “United $tate$ Of Anarchy” could not be found than that of 2020. True to the roots of its creators, it’s a blunt, to the point session in pummeling riff work and occasional fits of nuanced transitional material held over from Juan Garcia’s more melodic background via Agent Steel. The resulting guitar sound, and indeed the entire production mix is an exercise in solid, punchy force that stops a tad short of the wall of loudness heard out of recent Testament and Death Angel releases, but fits in nicely with the modernized yet more humble character of a lot of younger bands emulating the style. Most of the songs are relatively short in length, dwelling more so upon the kinetic and mildly technical character of “Annihilation Of Civilization,” yet one can’t help but note that Flores’ gritty ramblings have a bit more of an affinity with their groovier 1991 follow up to said album “The Underworld,” perhaps a fitting sonic eventuality given that their recurring album art mascot has returned, this time as a Molotov-wielding rioter rather than a corporate tycoon.
Song for song, this album shows a pretty clear preference for the earlier material of the Evildead brand, though the more mid-paced and crunchy material of their early 90s days has not been wholly ignored. Things kick off with a vicious trio of fast-paced mayhem in “The Descending”, “Word Of God” and “Napoleon Complex”; occasionally channeling the latent speed metal tendencies of this band’s members’ past, but also channeling the dissonant and nasty character of Slayer and early Sacred Reich. Then things pull back a bit towards a groovier mode of Bay Area meanness in the environmentally charged “Greenhouse” (something of a spiritual sequel to “The Underworld” song “Global Warming”) and the similarly punchy and occasionally noodling “Without A Cause”. Things get thrown for a bit of a comical loop on “No Difference”, which begins on a blatantly lounge jazz note like something off a Nuclear Assault EP before bringing the riff-oriented carnage. The album continues on to a resounding finish without losing any of its power, with the blindingly fast single from 9 years past “Blasphemy Divine” being the sub-3 minute standout with its unsubtle paying of homage to classic Slayer.
The old adage of it already having been done before and will be again naturally applies to this, as these veteran thrashers have firmly planted their flag on the more orthodoxy side of the thrash coin. Be this as it may, it hardly matters when one is doing it this well, and it’s undeniable that any enthusiastic thrash maniac worth their salt will take to this like Phil Rind would to a Bernie Sanders’ rally. It’s a bit more nuanced and detailed than a lot of the rustic nods to Exodus and Metallica that have been floating around in thrash revival circles since the late 2000s, and the somewhat convoluted and creepy “A.O.P. War Dance” blurs the lines between the band’s traditional Bay Area influences and the quirkier stylings of Annihilator, but this album is more about high-impact power than it is subtlety. The current American landscape may be steeped in unrest and tumult, but Evildead’s musical take on it proves a safe boon to those who prefer their thrash to actually thrash rather than seeking to reinvent the wheel while in the mosh pit.
Released by: Steamhammer
Released Date: October 30th, 2020
Genre: Thrash Metal
- Rob Alaniz / Drums
- Juan Garcia / Guitars
- Phil Flores / Vocals
- Albert Gonzales / Guitars
- Karlos Medina / Bass
“United $tate$ of Anarchy” track-listing:
- The Descending
- Word of God
- Napoleon Complex
- Without a Cause
- No Difference
- Blasphemy Divine
- A.O.P. / War Dance
- Seed of Doubt
- Planet Claire 2020 (B-52’s cover)
A comeback that has been more than a decade in the making comes through with riffs flying, as one of the latter-day players in the golden age of thrash picks up precisely where they left off.