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Earache (2013)
Rating: 7/10

Evile have been held responsible for the UK thrash revival. The Huddersfield metalheads hit the metal scene big time in 2007 with their Enter The Grave debut. I have to admit that I’ve never been the biggest fan of the band but, before anyone chops my testicles off, I do admire these guys for pulling UK thrash out of the gutter, because as usual it seemed as though it was the American chaps who were leading the line once again.

Thrash metal was a huge thing back in the 80s, but the UK scene never got off the ground despite the fact some truly amazing bands were vomited from the streets of Britain – Onslaught, Sabbat, Xentrix, Deathwish, Slammer, Re-Animator and Toranaga, to name just a few.

Sadly, too many UK thrash acts resorted to humour and these bands were just not taken seriously, but how on earth the likes of Sabbat could never trade blows with the Americans, let alone European thrashers, still remains a mystery.

And so we come full circle, with Evile very much taking their San Francisco Bay Area influenced thrash to the people. Album number four, Skull, is produced by Russ Russell, who also worked on the previous two records, Five Serpent’s Teeth (2011) and Infected Nations (2009).

As expected, we get a mighty dose of classic sounding thrash, nothing startlingly original but something so lean and polished that at times you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is an American band. The Metallica influence has always been there to see and hear, especially in Matt Drake’s James Hetfield-esque vocal style. His rhythm guitar, accompanied by Ol Drake’s leads, is very much of the Bay Area-style crunch and melody, bringing to mind the weight and flow of Testament at their most accomplished. Elsewhere, Ben Carter’s drums are torrential, giving the album a sharp, stabbing edge – something often missing from those 80s UK thrash records – while Joel Graham’s bass is equally potent.

Skull, which boasts nine tracks, clocks in at just over 48-minutes, and as soon as one dives into album opener ‘Underworld’ the Metallica comparisons are clear. The raging heartbeat of the track sounds like a more polished Metallica, circa Kill ’Em All (1983), and that chorus is Hetfield at his angriest, combined with that killer chug.

Strangely, and as I expected, there’s nothing thrilling about this Evile opus, yet I guess it’s their maturity which has enabled them to receive such critical acclaim, because they sound as if they’ve been around since the 80s like so many of those great thrash acts I continually harp on about; Destruction, Sodom, Kreator etc. It’s great to hear a band keeping the thrash pure too, but whether they’ll take the Metallica / Megadeth course and resort to tame melody we’ll have to wait and see. They’ve certainly come a long way from the more primitive clattering of the Enter The Grave debut, though.

The title track goes straight for the jugular, blending blistering speed with some nice slower tempo changes, while ‘The Naked Sun’ combines that classic Metallica crunch with speedier Overkill influence. Again, there’s nothing original about the track but Evile, just like early Metallica, have a knack for infectious choruses and blazing solos. ‘Tomb’ is classic thrash, boasting old school values with the almost archetype mellow intro, sounding like the sort of track that may have been left off Metallica’s … And Justice For All (1988), and that is my main problem with Evile.

For all their guile and craft, they really do, at times, sound like Metallica clones, hence the fact that the current thrash revival, for all its energy, simply pales in comparison with the 80s scene. For all its epic posturing, ‘Tomb’ is Metallica through and through, made all the more cringeworthy due to the fact these guys are from the UK.

I’m so divided when it comes to Evile’s last couple of albums, believing them to be one of metal’s most overrated acts while at the same time I find myself applauding them for their bravery in taking that US thrash sound and making it their own. I’m not sure what US audiences will make of the chugging album closer ‘New Truths, Old Lies’, or the jarring assault of ‘What You Become’, but I guess if you can’t beat them then join them by playing them at their own game.

Evile are a very good band, but just like Metallica circa 1988-1990 I find myself growing tired – and rather quickly – of the almost banal chugs and dry grunts of Matt Drake. Of course, without the explosion of Evile the current thrash scene may not have reached the healthy state of today, but when I stand back and try to be non-bias to those halcyon days, I find their music rather stale.

Skull is certainly an improvement on Five Serpent’s Teeth, but, put simply, it’s thrash puppetry from a band that I just can’t see as masters. Evile are derivative and generic, but hats off to them for somehow finding a niche.

Neil Arnold

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