Live Review: Evile – Manchester

Live Review: Evile - Rebellion, Manchester
9th October 2021
Supt. Shrapnel
Words & Photos: Neil Bolton

Tonight was always going to be an emotional night, and so it should be. This evening’s show seems the triumphant return of Aarran on bass for support band Shrapnel. This is also a celebration of the life of Evile bass player Mike Alexander who sadly passed away back in 2009.

A quick glance at the venue, before the doors even open; and seeing the size of the queue for this sold out show shows the importance of this night. Black t-shirts and denim cut offs wait patiently and excitedly for the venue to open. We have been waiting two years for this, what’s another 15 minutes?

As the doors open most of the sold out crowd is in the Rebellion Bar and either awaiting Shrapnel, or in the line for the bar. Shrapnel are the better option and as the intro winds down 'Might of Cygnus' winds up. Aarran attacks his bass guitar with venom and precision, accompanied by the rest of the band showing why Shrapnel are considered the high rankers of the current thrash underground. With instructions of “Bounce to this arseholes!” ringing in the air the thrash-hungry crowd obliges. The metal this four piece can shred is top level and this should see them getting more and more of a fan base to any yet unaware of their music. We even have a little crowd participation moment reminiscent of a Mr B. Dickinson adding to the atmosphere of the show. 'Warhead' is dedicated to Mike Alexander, reminding us of why we are here. Shrapnel prove they are destined for big things with this show and with their recent Bloodstock appearance; and for one I can’t wait to see them rise further.

Shrapnel @ Rebellion, Manchester - Neil Bolton

We already know the partial shape of tonight’s Evile set, as it was advertised they would be playing 'Enter The Grave”', in full, as a tribute to their friend and band mate Mike. We also know Matt Drake will be making an appearance, but for how long and when, we do not yet know.

It’s not long before we get the answer as Matt appears on stage to sound check; showing he will be on stage from the outset. The large waiting crowd begins to chant his name, as he responds with an understated “Hi”.

The set begins with 'Amoured Assault' demonstrating two things, the album is not going to be played track order and, Evile still play very very fast. The speed and accuracy of these four musicians is outstanding. I have seen Evile many times, even managing to catch them with tonight’s hero Mike, and their skills never disappoint. As the tracks continue it looks like the album is going to played in reverse order. They shred their way through their debut album until a moment of calm is reached and Matt retrieves his phone from the monitors to the rear of the stage. He explains he has a speech he wishes to recite about his, and the band's, friend Mike Alexander. He is eloquent and emotional, and the moment is not lost on the crowd.

'Killer From The Deep' which Mike wrote blasts us back to the music and heads bang and bodies fly. There is a silly joyful interplay between the two brothers on stage tonight. Ol stamps on Matt’s pedals as he is mid solo, and the two often try to put each other off with kicks up the backside. It’s good to see.

We finally hear chants of “Lets go fucking Mental!” and 'Thrasher' rips Manchester a new one. The sight of the former frontman shredding through this classic track while singing and head banging is one that will stay in the memory for a long time to come. Of course the whole band are immense but for obvious reasons Matt is stealing the show at his point.

Once more the returning vocalist takes to a speech from his phone explaining why he has left the band and the choices he has made to enjoy and improve his life, requesting we do the same. The speech is reminiscent of the personal address he made at Bloodstock in 2010. He completes this monologue telling us this is his last time he will play live music, and therefore this will be the last time he breaks into the massive song 'Enter The Grave'.

The place goes wild before it wishes Matt a genuine good bye and good luck.

Evile @ Rebellion, Manchester - Neil Bolton

Now what? How do you follow that.

As we begin to digest what we have witnessed the band re arrange microphone stands, amps are swapped and Adam Smith appears on stage for a sound check. Seems like we are on for a second set. Ben Carter makes his way to position behind the drum kit announcing triumphantly “Round two!”

'Hell Unleashed' kicks off this second round and the excitement in this venue has not subsided at all. This new version of Evile is just as vicious and sharp, the vocal style may be different but is no less powerful. The tribute track to Mike from 'Five Serpant’s Teeth' brings the sentiment back to the room and as 'In Memoriam' flows over all of us a single lighter burns, accompanied by several lit mobile phones.

'The Head of the Demon' speeds up the night once more before Ol takes his turn to honour the memory of Mr Alexander, and his brother Matt Drake. He tells us that all proceeds from tonights show will go to Mike’s family, in fact to his daughter to help with college fees. Two more tracks from their excellent current album bring the tempo back to shred before we get the only cover version that Ol says he will allow. 'Creeping Death', a Mike favourite, graces The Rebellion bar and it is wonderful to see, that in an age of some elitist Metallica-bashing this tunes still manages to rouse a seething crowd of thrashers; pitting, head banging, chanting “Die! Die!” and stage diving. While I mention the latter during this cover we see one of the most awful attempts at a stage dive I have ever witnessed. I was obviously not the only one to notice this as many observed another fan take his time to carry out a very impressive old school forward roll, dive, and landing on his back while the crowd receives the athlete. Scores of 10/10 from the onlookers are given.

No one in this room has worked harder than drummer Ben Carter, not bar staff, not fans, not anyone; he is beginning to show how knackered he is behind the drums in the calm between songs. He has frantically blasted through two sets of hight speed thrash music and it’s going to take its toll. The final track for tonight infects the place, where he once more has the energy and rhythm flowing through his arms to make him look as fresh and eager as he did at the start of the first set a couple of hours ago. As 'Infected Nation' finishes so does the show. Smiles are generated, hands waved and plectrums fly. Ol gives a final fist bump to the whole of the front row and sadly its time to leave.

Tonight Manchester has genuinely seen and been part of something very special. A tearful  farewell to a fallen brother, an emotional final show from an excellent front man, guitar player and vocalist. We have also celebrated the current new form of a familiar band.

Evile has transmogrified !


R.I.P. Mike Alexander
Good luck and thank you Matt Drake

Evile @ Rebellion, Manchester - Neil Bolton

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