Album Review: EvilDead – Toxic Grace

Album Review: EvilDead - Toxic Grace

Album Review: EvilDead - Toxic Grace
Reviewed by Sam Jones

EvilDead, one the more underrated underdogs of thrash metal. Famed for their debut Annihilation Of Civilisation record back in 1989, EvilDead showcase here how they’re far from done. Formed in 1987 out of California, United States, EvilDead hit the ground running with first a Demo, then an EP a year later titled Rise Above, before releasing their aforementioned classic album the same year. Though they released their follow-up, The Underworld, in 1991, the band were hit by the difficulties the 1990s presented to Thrash and as a result disbanded come 1995. A revival attempt arose in 2008 though this fizzled out by 2012, but four years later EvilDead rose from the grave once more and finally, by 2020, they unveiled their comeback album, United States Of Anarchy. I remember enjoying it as a solid album, but upon hearing snippets of their upcoming record, Toxic Grace, slated for a May 24th release date, I was very excited to see what the band could hold for us. So, releasing through Steamhammer, it’s time to see what the band’s fourth full length album has in store and whether they have what it takes not merely to return, but to maintain the energy of that return.

When it comes to speed, many thrash bands often try and outdo each other to produce the fastest, most ripping soundscapes feasible. What makes EvilDead interesting though is they’re evidently very happy with their own tempo and songwriting, and thoroughly content with providing a much steadier pace. Granted, the members behind EvilDead are much older and so you could say age has played a role in their more methodical style of thrash, but then you listen to the drums or the strength innate within the vocal performance; such factors dispel any qualms of age impacting the band’s ability to play ultra fast. This tempo is simply what the band are comfortable with and it’s honestly nice to see, crafting a record that’s always walking by you instead of sprinting far ahead. Since the band are willing to play at your level, it means your engagement is amplified since you can follow each turn of the riffs and feel all the juicy tone emanating out of it. Thrash that feels unstoppable is always a win, but you cannot go wrong with thrash that comes across as an eventual, imminent beast.

I think it also goes back to how EvilDead played as a thrash act way back in the day too, when Annihilation Of Civilisation first dropped. That’s a classic thrash record, for a good reason, and I feel that reason is writing. Looking back, that record wasn’t the fastest either, in an era of bonafide classics, but, like Toxic Grace, EvilDead always excelled as a band when their playing all came together at once. The band succeed most here when their riffs and vocals and songwriting all meld together for that collective band attack. This is not some sporadic, rampant butchery but a precisely ordered strike, where it just feels good to hear the band playing because, after a few tracks, you get the vibe of their sound and just know in a heartbeat when the writing is strong. That slower, more deliberate style of playing is therefore integral to our understanding of what the band are looking to accomplish as I can imagine myriads of fans, new and old, getting behind the band playing this material live. Rather than the band throw their aggression at you in a maze of blades, Evildead’s songwriting sees each instrumental and vocal track finely straightened out, only to converge neatly when the time is right, and it’s in that sweet spot the band’s prowess emerges.

Album Review: EvilDead - Toxic Grace

But I think this record hits us as hard as it does mainly because of how sharply it’s been produced. When you listen closely to the record it’s not outrightly clean, it hasn’t been polished to the nth degree. What the record does possess however is a sharpness to its edges that feel serrated enough for us to feel the blade and the piercing thrust it strikes with, but it isn’t so deadly that it becomes a weight upon the senses. The riffs still have this gleam to them whilst still being the forceful aspect they are; the steadier songwriting also ensures their power isn’t just going to dissipate as soon as the riff sequence is done. That power carries over to the next segment and so you receive a stronger idea of what the track is all about, repeat this for the full record and you have a deeply memorable experience you’ll want to come back to again. Each component of the record has been seemingly outlined in bold marker pen, instilling within us a hidden instruction like “Hey, you might want to pay attention to this”, except it’s been applied to every element the record throws at us. It’s this concentration of songwriting and mixing that gives the thrash attack such a potency and danger here.

Where the drumming is concerned, it’s pretty standard for a thrash record and doesn’t do anything you won’t have heard a million times prior, yet as with the rest of the mixing, it doesn’t need to be the most frenetic performance for them to come across here with impact. An album like this could have merely championed the guitar work alone, leaving the rest of the band to effectively reinforce it. The fact that the drums, in such a traditional performance with few extreme techniques employed, is still audible and easy to listen to speaks volumes towards EvilDead’s philosophy as band. Even during their classic days, the band never shone the light on a single aspect of their band alone; Toxic Grace continues this approach to band interplay wherein every part of the band has their time to shine and giving space for the drums to make their mark is evidence of this. They may not be out to utterly throttle you, but the tempo and power they’re still able to infer is admirable, especially as double bass drums pick up this rolling thunder which, for Drummer Rob Alaniz, is no small feat considering he’s bearing sixty.

In conclusion, my opinion of this record is that this is a really strong release from EvilDead. I remember listening to their comeback album, 2020’s United States Of Anarchy and thinking it was decent and at least did the job though it could have been stronger; Toxic Grace though, in my mind, is the comeback record EvilDead needed. I absolutely loved my time spent with this record and was thoroughly surprised not only to hear some quality thrash from such an older, classic band but to feel once again confident in the band’s future. There was plenty to discover here, with a slew of longer and shorter tracks to keep the pacing interesting, and the renowned strength of the band feels reinvigorated. I feel like I need to revisit that 2020 record after listening to Toxic Grace; perhaps my approach to that record was eschewed. Furthermore, this record doesn’t play on for too long either but you receive a great dose of material to enjoy and it makes me ultimately excited to see what these guys do next. Lord knows I’d love to see them play the UK.

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