Evile - Five serpent's teeth 3.5/5
1. Five serpent’s teeth
2. In dreams of terror
4. Eternal empire
6. Origin of oblivion
8. In memoriam
9. Descent into madness
10. Long live new flesh
At the time of its release, Evile’s 2nd CD ‘Infected nations’ was showered with plaudits for breaking away from the strictly traditional thrash approach of their highly successful debut. In some quarters that enthusiasm seems to have cooled a little in the past couple of years though, with some of those initially taken in by the CD now admitting that “plodding” and “confused” were perhaps more appropriate descriptive terms than “epic” and “progressive”.
In their position as one of the first of the so-called “retro thrash” bands of the last 5 years or so to hit the big time with an international record company, something of a backlash was to be expected and in retrospect, ‘Infected nations’ could be seen as a response to that. There’s no crime there – everyone wants to find their own place, and trying to avoid being just another clichéd throwback is to be applauded, but it was most definitely a case of trying too hard.
The band themselves seem to have taken a step back and reassessed the direction they were heading in, and ‘Five serpent’s teeth’ is rather happily something of a halfway house between their first 2 CDs. First and foremost, it is primarily a thrash CD, no questions asked. The vim and furious energy of ‘Enter the grave’ is back, and is coupled with the increased lyrical maturity and enthusiasm to avoid knocking off other people’s riffs of the follow-up.
The more cynical out there may call it a compromise, but in reality it is a commendable decision at a crucial stage in their career to take stock and shore up the things that were working while jettisoning those that weren’t. Songs such as “Now, demolition” (a stinker since its live introduction back in early 2009) that trudged along endlessly with no urgency or direction were the bane of ‘Infected nations’ and thankfully are nowhere to be found here.
Rather than getting caught up in meandering, overlong arrangements just for the sake of sounding different, Evile instead are now just getting on with playing thrash, only without making such a big deal out of it. Rather than songs about moshing or Rambo films (fun in 2007, rather tiresome now to be honest) they have continued to dig a little deeper in the lyrical stakes – while admittedly still not works of poetry, there is a little more subtlety to Matt Drake’s words, and themes alluding to classic sci-fi works and the Roman Empire make for a satisfyingly dark listen.
Musically they have managed to strike a reasonable balance between uncomplicated but effective 80s-style ragers, and other songs that retain cohesive structures while leaving room for increased technicality and some decidedly un-thrash moments that generally work pretty well. “Centurion” is a successful example of epic thrash, featuring expanses of wide-open strumming and arranged with enough sophistication to make use of melodic guitars without compromising the song’s intensity.
“Origin of oblivion” is maybe about as far as it goes in the technicality stakes, with the opening flurry a joy to behold and Ol Drake’s soloing – impressive and inventive as ever throughout – scaling some new heights. The tragic death of bassist Mike Alexander was always something Evile were going to dedicate a song to, and it is on “In memoriam” (poignantly opening on a bass line created by the man himself) that they slow thing down for a soulful ballad. Wisely, they keep the lyrics somewhat ambiguous rather than an on-the-nose tribute to their fallen friend, and it makes for a more universal song that doesn’t feel out of place on an otherwise heavy as can be expected CD.
This is the most obviously non-thrash track on ‘Five serpent’s teeth’, and while not perfect it is a bold and unapologetic effort. Other than this, a couple of breakdowns admittedly rears their heads from time to time but, hand on heart, they are executed with enough taste and restraint to complement their parent songs rather than sounding like out of place efforts at crowd placating.
In a final bit of comparison to works gone by, Matt Drake’s vocal performance is an area of huge improvement after his iffy turn on ‘Infected nations’. The bark is back in his voice, and the atonal wailing that he delivered last time out is thankfully in short supply.
In both my previous reviews of Evile CDs I have compared him heavily to other singers, but here for the first time he simply sounds like Matt Drake. The vocalist finding himself and raising his performance is symptomatic of the band as a whole outgrowing their comfort zone origins and nailing something close to a voice of their own – and one that this time around is almost entirely satisfying to listen to.
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