Τhe second wave of thrash was the result of two almost simultaneous occurrences. Some historic bands of the genre decided to cease the (un)successful experimentations of the 90s and return to their original sound; but it wasn’t just that. The trend required some new “heroes” as well, to connect the present with the past (every generation has some of them…), and history showed that Evile played a crucial role in this respect. Considering the wide acceptance of Bay Area-oriented “Enter the Grave”, they took on that role quite well.
After their debut, Evile worked to develop their own personality through a more modern approach, although it wasn’t easy to untangle themselves from their influences. Their albums, to a greater or lesser extent, lacked originality; but who’s original in thrash nowadays? Let’s admit it: only a few bands, like Vektor, are outside the box… However, Evile had an advantage that made them stand out: they’d always been great players (especially the outstanding guitar duo of Drake brothers), demonstrating accurate execution and skillfulness. I believe that Evile reached their peak in 2013’s “Skull”, a rather different and important album that balanced ideally aggression and melodicism. During the eight-year period that followed the band didn’t release new stuff, but experienced changes, like Mat Drake’s resignation, that would radically affect their future endeavors. “Hell Unleashed” (2021) was purely aggressive and typical, “borrowing” riffs from death metal; but the overall impression was different with Ol on vocal duties.
Currently, Evile seem determined to enter another era, leaving aside the elements that established them on thrashers’ perception. “The Unknown” is a turning and risky point, requiring from us to forget what we knew about them so far (what a coincidence: the same happened many years ago with Metallica’s “Load”…). Evile adopt a rather doom temperament, relying mainly on mid-tempo compositions, in a dark, melancholic and pessimistic album. However, certain problems diminish what the listener could gain from their stuff.
Let me explain: when an album starts with three mid-tempo songs that don’t differ substantially, you reach a point where you wish you could hear something else… something to give you an incentive to invest more time in the album; in simpler words, you feel dull. The self-titled opening track stands out with its heavy, staccato riffing and solemn atmosphere, but the next songs just repeat the same logic. You have to wait patiently until the melancholic and grievous “When Mortal Coils Shed”, to ascertain Evile’s ability in composing sentimental, powerful ballads (they hadn’t sounded that saddened since “In Memoriam”).
The band revisit their thrash self in the middle of the album, through the decent, but inferior to older stuff, “Sleepless Eyes” and “Out of Sight”. You can hear ideal, dynamic drumming, although weak vocal patterns hold the songs back. Hereupon, the second part of the album features the band’s initial approach, with plenty of bland, slower rhythms, without a distinctive “character” (excepting the more vivacious playing and well-crafted melodies in “Beginning of the End”).
Concludingly, the flow of music isn’t optimal. After listening to “The Unknown” repeatedly, I often think that a different track list might work better; but even this, might not be a solution, since on several occasions, weak songwriting (“Monolith”, “Balance of Time”) indicates a rather hurried approach. Indeed, I feel that I cannot receive the amount of musical information that Evile used to offer (for comparison purposes, refer to “Skull” and “Five Serpent’s Teeth”).
No matter the above-mentioned flaws, I’d be unfair if I didn’t mention the production team’s good job of making Evile’s sound heavy, solid and dark, while Ben Carter’s playing is properly highlighted, thus “acquiring” all the robustness it needs. Also, there’s a harshness in Ol’s voice that’s appropriate for these slower, doomy rhythms; on the contrary, he still lacks the liveliness that fast-paced songs require.
“The Unknown” may have some good moments, but these are exceptions in a lackluster totality. Evile took the risk and pushed themselves to a different direction that doesn’t seem to be compatible with their idiosyncrasy, leaving the listener rather disoriented. On the other hand, a musician should be free to do whatever he wants; but sometimes, experiments are proven unsuccessful… I wish for their triumphant return, whichever that might be…
PS: It’s very easy to criticize the bands’ decisions…