Infected Nations

Written by: GR on 20/10/2009 18:48:39

Before we go any further, I think it necessary to set out my position with regards to Evile and the 'new school' of thrash metal more generally, to put my opinion into some kind of context. The thrash revival got its hi-tops on a few years ago now and since then a plethora of bands - some great, some, shall we say, a little rough around the edges - have entered the metal consciousness with 80s riffs and circle pits aplenty. Being a big thrash fan and luckily living in London during 2007, when things really reached critical mass, this 'trend' is certainly something I embraced, but there are only so many re-hashed Exodus riffs that one can take before becoming slightly jaded and cynical towards the whole affair. Recent reviews right here on Rockfreaks.net indicate bands in the scene are in danger of becoming stagnant and whilst labels are still seemingly snapping up new thrash signings, it's surely only a matter of time before numerous bands are left by the wayside in favour of some other style that finds itself in the spotlight. The metal world might not like to admit it holds sway to trends, but even in an underground genre the business of what's popular still prevails, even if the quality is sometimes questionable. That's not to say new thrash bands should throw in the towel as we approach 2010, far from it, just that it's going to be those acts who can provide something more, with character and differentiation that will be able to prosper outside of 'the scene' as the thrash star inevitably wanes.

As for Evile, I have fond memories of listening to the "Hell Demo" repeatedly, before 2007's superior full-length "Enter The Grave" came along and made the demo sound but a youthful folly, with its massive riffs and beefy production courtesy of famed producer Flemming Rasmussen. I most certainly have been there (about a dozen times live) and got the t shirt - along with the CDs, limited edition vinyls, patch, poster...I even got to wander about for half a day in Harry Potter robes as a ghoulish extra for their latest music video. So it's fair to say I'm a big fan of Evile, and their position as "godfathers of UK thrash" indicates others are too.

It was clear, however, that Evile couldn't simply write another "Enter The Grave" because as much as I love that record, it can hardly be said to have offered anything original with its tales of Jaws, Rambo and thrash itself. The promotional spiel for "Infected Nations" promises "(the) album marks a genuine milestone in thrash...a wholly more ferocious and modern beast". Now, whilst the former statement might be slightly over-ambitious, the latter certainly holds up to inspection, thanks in part to the razor-sharp production courtesy of Russ Russell (Napalm Death, Dimmu Borgir etc). Album opener and (almost) title track "Infected Nation" is a perfect example of how Evile's sound has progressed, its creeping guitar intro very reminiscent of "We Who Are About to Die" from the debut, before an ultra-heavy, tough and damn well vicious riff kicks in and shows the band really mean business. Across all nine songs that make up the album Evile sound more tight, streamlined and indeed ferocious than they ever have, seemingly having taken a metaphorical spanner to their musical bolts and given them good tightening. The band are successfully ploughing the heavier end of the thrash market, staying firmly away from the Bay Area sound that characterises many of their contemporaries - something that might be to do with guitarist Ol Drake's death metal influences - and have produced a sound somewhere between "Arise"/"Beneath The Remains" era Sepultura and "...And Justice for All", with the lead flair of the likes of Megadeth and Annihilator. Importantly though, it's very much a 2009 record and the band have started to carve out their own style.

Excellent production and a somewhat distinctive sound are nothing, however, without decent songs and on this front I have mixed feelings. Don't get me wrong, there are no bad songs on the album, but not all of them are really successful in hitting the spot, so to speak. In part this is due to the vocal delivery of frontman Matt Drake, which works at first but as the album progresses starts to feel slightly robotic and un-dynamic, with songs such as "Plague To End All Plagues" and "Time No More" having a plodding and samey feel to them. If I'm being honest, which of course I always am, some of the tracks get slightly boring after repeated listens to the album as a whole, although they still hold up as decent slices of modern thrash in isolation. There are certainly positives to outweigh these negatives though; the first half of the album in particular providing some furious highlights such as the aforementioned crushing title track and the oddly-titled "Nosophoros", with big riffs and shredding solos that should put a smile on the face of many a thrash maniac. A more mature approach to song-writing is also on show - the stories of sharks et al are replaced with comments on the state of modern society and the evils within it, as the title of the album eludes to. Of particular note are the lyrics of "Genocide", which transform what could have been a fairly uninspired and detached tale of violence into something much more interesting - Matt Drake writing about his experience of researching genocide and the toll it took on his emotions rather than the awful events themselves. The album ends with epic instrumental "Hundred Wrathful Deities", clocking in at just over eleven minutes it cements the lead guitar work of Ol Drake as the real star of the album; something that recently saw him filling in for injured Destruction guitarist at a festival appearance in what must have been a dream come true.

I originally planned to end this review by saying "Infected Nations" is an album that will probably grow on me the more I hear it and that it will be interesting to see how well the songs translate into the live environment. Late as it is though, I'm sure you're all aware of the tragic death of bassist Mike Alexander whilst on tour in Sweden, just a couple of weeks ago. I didn't really know Mike, but on the couple of occasions I briefly met him he came across as a very friendly and genuine guy, something which many of the tributes on the internet attest to. What this huge loss will mean for the future of the band is not worth speculating at this point, but I'm sure all of us at Rockfreaks.net would like to extend our condolences to Mike's family and friends. RIP.

Download: Infected Nation, Nosophoros, Genocide
For the fans of: Metallica, Sepultura, Megadeth
Listen: Myspace

Release date 21.09.2009

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