Hell has officially boiled over.
If there was one criticism of the thrash metal revival of the 2000s that continues to recur in both polite and impolite conversation alike, it’s the notion that the most prominent adherents were too interested in reliving the past rather than building upon it. Perhaps it didn’t help matters that there was a concurrent fascination with the cultural tropes of the 80s that came in with the style’s revival, embodied in the pizza and beer brand of party thrash that was spearheaded by the likes of Municipal Waste and Insanity Alert. Even some of the more technically charged and serious players in the early scene were not wholly immune to being labeled an overt throwback, most notably the British quartet Evile, who originally cut their teeth as a Metallica tribute band in the early 2000s and brought a number of derivative elements into their original music, not the least of which being vocalist and guitarist Matt Drake’s uncanny resemblance to James Hetfield’s signature gruff style.
But staying power and weathering adversity has a way of silencing critics, and if unleashing four highly compelling studio albums weren’t enough to accomplish this, the massive comeback that is their latest offering “Hell Unleashed” is sure to do just that. Emerging after 8 years of studio silence and the loss of their aforementioned helmsman, a turn of events that have irreparably altered the trajectory of many a promising act, this album stands as one of the more impressive yet accessible reinventions to ever occur in thrash metal. Although they naturally haven’t full abandoned their stylistic affinity for Metallica, this time around the speed and ferocity has been amplified to the point of mid-80s Slayer levels of intensity, further bolstered by a more nasty and dissonant riffing approach. Likewise, Matt’s younger brother and lead guitarist Oliver “Ol” Drake brings a far deeper and more menacing vocal approach that falls somewhere between Chuck Billy’s present sound and the death metal-tinged one he displayed back in the late 90s.
First impressions don’t necessarily define an album, but in this particular case, the tone and tenor of where Evile seek to take their fans is pretty clear at its very onset. The frenzied opening crusher “Paralysed” hurls things into an absolute fever pitch reminiscent of where Slayer went on “Hell Awaits,” though with a bit more of a precision-based riffing approach that is equally fast but a tad bit more organized. The guitar solo trotted out also has a bit more of an Alex Skolnick sense of systematic chaos rather than the noise-driven madness of King or Hanneman, though the creepy tonality at work throughout the song is definitely darker than classic or modern Testament. Following this mighty beast of a opener, the almost death/thrashing character of this album becomes a bit more pronounced via tremolo-driven mosh machines with an evil air about them such as “Gore” and the technically flashy “Disorder”, the former blurring the lines between the Bay Area sound and the more extreme character of Possessed and Sepultura, while the latter has some occasional flashes of early 90s Death and late 80s Pestilence influences.
The auditory violence on display here is not the only indicator of a shift in direction towards a more extreme and blood red mold of thrash, as the subjects covered by the lyrics have a far more horrific quality relative to past releases. In addition to the almost death metal lyrical trappings of “Gore”, the wretched and chaotic fury of “The Things (1982)” delves head first into the horror trappings of the John Carpenter film it is named for, and musically bounces back and forth between being a rapid fire nod to Demolition Hammer and a slower, groovy creeper that occasionally reminds of Obituary. The slow-paced, undead romp turned Reign In Blood-inspired hyper-thrasher “Zombie Apocalypse” also lays the horror tropes on fairly thick, while Drake opts to go full Kerry King mode during the brief guitar solo burst. Even more conventional high-octane speeders such as the closing title anthem “Hell Unleashed” and the creepy acoustic nod to Metallica’s “Harvester Of Sorrow” turned cruiser “Incarcerated” has more of an extreme mid-80s flavor more in line with Possessed and Slayer rather than the mainline Bay Area sound of the later 80s.
For those that like their thrash metal as intense and frenetic as possible while also avoiding some of the comical elements that were fairly common during the thrash revival’s late 2000s heyday, it doesn’t get much better than this. The only real drawback to this album is that those who were used to Matt Drake’s more melodically dynamic vocal approach will find Oliver’s more throaty and deep growls and mutterings a tad static by comparison. But as with any thrash metal album worth its salt, this offering lives and dies by the riffs it brings to the table and on that front there is very little left to be desired. This is almost of the same caliber as Evile’s riveting 2007 debut “Enter The Grave,” and those who miss the days when this band was setting the standard of the revival alongside the likes of Warbringer and Angelus Apatrida in how the style could be intense without quite venturing into overt death/thrash territory, this is another fine example to emerge in the past couple years of how those days never totally left us.
Released By: Napalm Records
Released On: April 30th, 2021
Genre: Thrash Metal
- Ben Carter / Drums
- Ol Drake / Guitars, Vocals
- Joel Graham / Bass
- Adam Smith / Guitars
“Hell Unleashed” track listing:
- War of Attrition
- The Thing (1982)
- Zombie Apocalypse (Mortician cover)
- Control from Above
- Hell Unleashed