Album Review: Evile - The Unknown
Reviewed by Sam Jones
Within the realms of the UK thrash scene, Evile really have become one of the premier names to turn up this day and age. Formed back originally in 1999 as Metal Militia, before changing their name to Evile, out of Huddersfield, England, the band rose to prominence throughout the 2000s as one of the charging names behind the modern revival of thrash metal. Their 2007 record Enter The Grave was hotly enjoyed and, for me personally, 2009’s Infected Nations stands amidst the band’s finest hours and truly propelled them into their current fame. Another two albums would follow suit yet throughout the 2010s, the band ran into difficulties that, while never breaking up, did result in extensive swathes of inactivity. However, come 2021, Evile had garnered a second wind and unleashed their long awaited fifth album, Hell Unleashed. Now just two years on, Evile prepare once more to release a new record, their sixth, titled The Unknown. Prepped for a mid-July release window and continuing their contract with Napalm Records no less, let’s determine whether The Unknown furthers the band’s recent revival.
It’s interesting how Evile open up their newest record not with blistering intensity, but instead through an aesthetically creeping and steady song that eases us into the band’s songwriting as opposed to merely thrusting us into the mire. In many ways it’s completely in line with Evile’s approach to thrash, as their prerogative has historically only championed the breakneck style when it’s most appropriate. If we observe their music catalogue, the band’s history is littered with these steadier, median-paced tracks so while some may dislike how the record begins, The Unknown is only continuing the style of songwriting Evile has always been most at home in utilising. There may be instances of faster or more aggressive pieces of instrumentation yet, on the whole, the band’s pacing allows for easy listening and ensures the audience won’t miss a second of what’s going on.
This insistence on sticking to a steady, pronounced pace works well for the songwriting, as the band’s instrumentation is given all the room and freedom needed to bolster its tone. Since the band aren’t fixating themselves on speed and aggression at every waking second, they instead turned their attention to how their riffs and songwriting comes across through the record’s mix. As thrash acts go, this is a very clean performance where there’s little dirt manifesting atop the record’s cover; we mustn’t confuse this for a record that’s been totally sterilised of all might and impact however, for their guitar tone, refined and emboldened as it is, still harbours some degree of grit. It may not be all that much, but it’s enough to give these riffs the necessary punch needed to render them with the evident weight they come on us with.
Considering that the band’s pacing is pretty cut and dry for the entirety of the album, its all the more striking how this record doesn’t fall into the problem of losing their audiences’ engagement, or my own especially. At nearly fifty minutes long, Evile send out The Unknown as a record that chooses without hesitation to apply additional time and breath into their songwriting whereby their performance isn’t being rushed to land us from one track to the next, and yet throughout this record I never felt dulled by the band’s choice of pacing. Additionally, the band throw in numerous segments and a track or two that feature much softer, melodic overarching aesthetics that slow the pace down even more. Whether it’s down to the writing or how the band intersperse their vocals and instrumental work throughout The Unknown, they continuously find ways to give this calmer approach to thrash reasons to stay engaged with its soundscapes.
It’s been some time since I really listened to Evile, but in that time I’d forgotten how clear and strong the vocals are. Frontman Ol Drake may harness the pipes for the gruff thrash attack but The Unknown truly exemplifies just how pronounced and easy to follow his vocals truly are. For this record, the vocals are less about forwarding a prominent assault and more directed towards taking us under their wing and propelling us from start to finish of this record. More than anything, the vocals demonstrate the similarities to Metallica as Ol Drake showcases his powerful but firmly controlled vocal performance that doesn’t seek to dominate the songwriting. From one perspective this could be the Black Album of Evile’s discography seeing how this record is geared more fervently towards a leaner, focused experience than a blisteringly sheer thrash onslaught.
In conclusion, The Unknown is a thrash act that has the brakes set firmly down with multiple bricks and only allows the gears to climb during specific moments of its duration. I can see some thrash fans having issues with this album solely because it isn’t a typical thrash record. In the context of Evile’s discography it’s easily their most mature record in songwriting yet, for they demonstrate how thrash is more than total aggression and the band do not need to roar incessantly in our faces to render their performance worth tuning in for. The pacing is set pretty much from the start but even with that being the case, the band see to it we’re always kept engaged and interested in what’s coming next. A calmer, disciplined record does not equal dull and unimaginative. It’s fascinating to see how their sound has evolved and matured with time from Enter The Grave to where we are now. I personally enjoyed this album and am curious to see where this meticulously written style of Evile takes us next.