Written by: Blackie Skulless
Back in 2013, I was pretty new to metal and the vast pool of bands and subgenres that it held. UK thrashers Evile, however, was one name that I was familiar with, and recall being blown away by Skull. Seeing how I still love it to this day, you can imagine my excitement upon hearing that, after eight years, we’re getting a new album. Take longtime lead guitarist Ol Drake and hand him the vocal duties in place of Matt Drake, enter Adam Smith, and you’ve now got another angle to look at this from. The end product is Hell Unleashed.
So how different does the band sound with such a significant time gap and lineup change? Well, the musical direction is more or less the same. Speed remains the biggest selling factor, cranking out lightning fast riffs under crackling drums, all finished with some tight clear-coating. I’ve admittedly grown to dislike that kind of production in thrash, but it can be overlooked when the songwriting is extra stellar. The issue is, I don’t particularly think that’s the case here.
However, there is an obvious reach for that with Hell Unleashed; I’m not about to pretend that this is bad. Looking at “Incarcerated,” it’s basically a lot of advanced writing with little flow. This is a fairly long tune with endless riffs, several changes of pace, and slow suspense for effect, which is all well and good. The problem is, it feels so awkward and somewhat forced, ultimately lacking focus. I also can’t say I’m a huge fan of Ol Drake doing the vocals. There isn’t nearly as much range shown, and the vocals themselves are extremely monotone. Another example is “The Thing (1982).” This horror film-inspired tune has some of the most monstrous attacks and tightest builds, but I have a hell of a time following it. And again, the vocals feel very dry.
What’s nice is that these standout moments are pretty fun on their own merit. Opener “Paralysed” actually sets a fairly high bar with its steadier structure backed by some serious drive. “Disorder” also has beautiful licks to lead us in with beefy leads to carry us over chuggy, Megadeth-like rhythms. The Mortician cover of “Zombie Apocalypse” was an interesting choice, and weirdly fit his vocal style better. I also have to give a little credit to the title track for having some chops too.
I really think this could have been a lot better if there was a fifth band member. Give someone else full-time vocal duties, and the guitarists can arrange writing with a little more flow. This is a worthwhile album, especially if you’re a long-time fan. But I will say that I was somewhat disappointed. Clearly it wasn’t a matter of rushing or needing more time, I think a bit more focus could do wonders.
Evile - Hell Unleashed was released April 30th, 2021 via Napalm Records
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!