Release date: September 26 (EU), October 18 (US), 2011
The intense saturation of the metal planet by US-based groups often leaves the rest of the world clouded and unaware of what’s happening on their own doorstep. Never before has there been so much metal to feast upon, and the majority of it is harvested from good ol’ America. It’s not at all surprising considering the sardines-in-a-tin population of the US, but now and again there are countries from all around the world that pop up to offer us a sample of their produce.
Back in the early days of heavy metal, the UK exported some of metal’s greatest preachers such as Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Motörhead and Led Zeppelin. It was dubbed the “New Wave Of British Heavy Metal” and went on to influence nearly every metal band that surfaced shortly afterwards.
Since those golden years, British metal has been relatively quiet. There have been a few bands that have broken through to cause mayhem around the rest of the world, and one of those bands goes by the name of Evile. Hailing from Huddersfield, UK thrash four-piece Evile smashed onto the scene with their debut offering, Enter The Grave (2007), and astounded the mainstream media with a record that dug deep into the roots of classic thrash metal and brought it back to roam the Earth once again. They joined metal masters Megadeth and Exodus during their European tours, gaining a huge boost in momentum heading toward their second full-length album release, Infected Nations (2009). After appearing at a number of European festivals and touring with a slew of other metal acts, Evile return with their third dose of studio-recorded tracks, Five Serpent’s Teeth.
When I recieved a copy of this album, I was anxious to hear something that would stand up to the armies of US metal soldiers that consistantly infiltrate the worldwide airwaves. What we get was an applaudable effort, but one that seems to stop just short of its full potential. Axe-wielding brothers Matt and Ol Drake, along with drummer Ben Carter and new bassist Joel Graham valiantly charge head-on with Five Serpent’s Teeth. Producing Evile‘s latest record is Russ Russell, known for his work with Norwegian black metallers Dimmu Borgir and fellow Englishmen Napalm Death, and is also responsible for Evile‘s second release which was well received.
Heading up the album is the title track “Five Serpent’s Teeth”, which, right from the opening few seconds, reminds me of Metallica‘s blistering track “Blackened”. The harmonious wall of chords fading in backwards, the high-end riffing coupled with the open chuggery kicking the track to life, the slow-paced bridge chugging and even the pause between the chorus and the verse riff are all remeniscent of the …And Justice For All opener. In fact, I’ve pretty much been sitting here for the past 20 minutes playing ‘spot the difference between “Five Serpent’s Teeth” and “Blackened”‘. Despite an extensive list of similarities, the opening track is not a rip-off. The riffs are fresh and satisfying, something you’ll find throughout the whole album as the Drake brothers deliver solid, harmony-laden performances.
While none of the album’s tracks leap toward you individually, there are moments that catch your ear more than others, such as the addictive chorus of “Centurion” and the bursting riffs that are plentiful in “Descent Into Madness”.
The guitar work here is very impressive, and Ol Drake’s fretboard-shredding techniques take the main stage as the highlighting moments. There are even a couple of sections that contain a strong hint of Steve Vai-style guitar tones, most notably present in the third track, “Cult”. Matt Drake provides the voice, but seems to hold back his urge to open up on an emotional level, sounding vaguely monotone. It works well for “Centurion”, specifically during the afformentioned chorus where Drake assumes the role of the Roman warrior, but for the majority of the album, there is an aching desire for just that little bit more passion.
Five Serpent’s Teeth is great metal album, but it just lacks something. The energy of the band can be easily identified within the writing, but I don’t really feel it in the production. What the British foursome ended up with was good, but left a fair bit of room for improvement. This is their first album to be recorded with a new band member, Joel Graham, who assumed the role of bass guitarist, but not as a result of usual member replacement.
Tragically, following Evile‘s second album release Infected Nations, bassist Mike Alexander fell ill during their European tour in Sweden and passed away. It’s evident that the remaining members of the band had a lot on their mind, and quite rightly so. An emotional outlet came in the form of the album’s eighth track, “In Memoriam”, which is a dark, yet delicate tribute to the late bassist. It is a beautiful song, merging glittering, clean arpeggios with a soft, mournful guitar solo courtesy of Matt and Ol’s father Tony, and it bares a side of Evile that is usually kept well hidden.
In a recent interview with Metalholic, lead guitarist Ol Drake stated that Evile are not a retro thrash band, and cited their latest album as proof of their departure from the retro thrash status. Evile have been riding a massive wave since they appeared on the scene, dragging the lumbering boulder that is thrash metal with them. With the new album, however, that giant mass of earth has been abandoned and Evile have carved their own monolith out of pure metal. It’s a great piece of work which proves that this UK band isn’t out to revive thrash metal, only embrace it and make something new to compliment its incredible legacy. With some tweaks and a twist of attitude, album number four could be monumental. Evile is evolving, and Five Serpent’s Teeth is the changing of the guard.
Check out our Interview with Ol Drake. Ol Drake talks to us about Five Serpent’s Teeth, being on the road and the state of thrash metal.