Evile – The Unknown

*** Go to our YouTube channel in the link below to see the video review of this record in episode #40 of the SBR Album of the Week.

We will always be grateful to Evile for ushering a new wave of thrash metal with their 2007 debut, Enter the Grave. For a while, the Huddersfield quartet carried the weight of the genre on their shoulders and gave confidence to every metal band out there to dust down their Metallica and Anthrax records and return to the thrill of a movement that lost its way in the 1990s. The years after were not as kind to them. 2009’s Infected Nations saw them lose their bass player, Mike Alexander, to a pulmonary embolism on tour in Sweden. Lead guitarist, Ol Drake, left in the early stages of the tour cycle after the band recorded 2013’s Skull album. Frontman and rhythm guitarist, Matt Drake, departed at some point in the next seven years before Ol Drake returned and took over the vocal and song writing duties from his brother for 2021’s Hell Unleashed. You could be forgiven for thinking that Evile’s presence in the contemporary metal scene relied on good will and sentimental respect from those that remembered better days… until now.

Ol Drake revealed that the writing process for The Unknown started before Hell Unleashed saw the light of day on Napalm Records in 2021. That was a competent piece of thrash metal with more than a passing resemblance to Sepultura’s Arise LP, but this time he has the Black album in his sights. Evile have never sounded as confident or as mature as they do on the opening title track, where mystical guitar phrasing and monotone chant vocals guide the band through a marvellous stop-start piece of chunky groove metal. Clearly, Ol sought out the services of a vocal coach in preparation for this record. How else do you explain the powerful resonance of his husky voice? You can hear Hetfield in the transparent nod to ‘Sad but True’ on follow up, ‘The Mask We Wear’. This is nothing like the previous Evile records. Listen to the finesse and crunch of the main riff – major labels used to throw money at music like this in the days of physical unit sales. Yes, we can thank Metallica, but how many bands would even dare to emulate the biggest selling metal album of all time?

Of course, there are a few moments where the structure of this record imitates the Black album. Including the one ballad of the LP to sound like ‘Unforgiven’ merged with ‘Nothing Else Matters’ in 6/8 timing would be unforgivable if the words and guitar passages were not so poignant. Evile used to write songs about Rambo, the thrill of the mosh pit, and even John Carpenter’s isolated military-civilian contractors in The Thing. Now they deal with personal grievance, morbid paranoia, the indignity of Alzheimer’s, and the tragedy of body dysmorphia. “Now the sorrow takes me/ Will tomorrow save me/ From the day burned in my mind?/ How can I journey on when no road lies ahead?,” sings Ol Drake on ‘When Mortal Coils Shed’. ‘At Mirror’s Speech’ collects the once-in-a-lifetime guitar riffs that most axemen would kill for, yet Evile place three of them in one song. Here, Ben Carter’s double-kick footwork is cleaner and sharper than a commando knife.

By moving away from the incessant double-timing drums and Exodus riffing, Evile open themselves up to wider scrutiny on The Unknown. You can now spy the outlines of their song structures as if analysing Countdown to Extinction or Youthanasia. It takes a confident vocalist to rouse you to action in a slow palm-muted stride like ‘Monolith’. Is Ol Drake bidding for the support slot on Metallica’s 72 Seasons world tour or looking for a joint headlining show with Crowbar? ‘Reap What You Sow’ deserves a colossal Rock in Rio audience to admire the girth of the guitar work.

You might wonder how much of the band that once wrote, “Blood on the stage, a thousand rage/ A thrasher’s soul on fire/ Chaos spread across the floor/ Bang your head, make it sore,” still exists as a musical entity. Drummer, Ben Carter, is a constant presence on all six records to date, and he must be delighted by the faster stomp at track five and six, where we go from the prime of 1991 back to Master of Puppets. Guitar rhythms penetrate your brain like precision-blade power tools. Skank beats thunder under the drumsticks. Overkill fans will raise the devil’s horn for these two numbers and should enjoy the adrenaline rush of closing track, ‘Balance of Time’. Not one riff falls into insignificance on this song or anywhere on this record. Have you heard anything as heavy as the quasi-breakdown in the final act of ‘At Mirror’s Speech’?

Evile are clear in their purpose on The Unknown, and it matters not one bit that they intend to write their own version of the Black album at this stage of their career. Though some of the homage is too obvious, there’s no denying that Ol Drake and the boys have made themselves relevant once again in the contemporary metal scene with this record.



Release Date: 14/07/2023

Record Label: Napalm Records

Standout tracks: The Unknown, Monolith, At Mirror’s Speech

Suggested Further Listening: Metallica – Metallica (1991), Jungle Rot – A Call to Arms (2022), Heart Attack – Negative Sun (2022)