Ross Baker talks to Evile about their forthcoming third album
Having arrived at Parlour studios on a small farm come industrial estate in Kettering on an extremely hot Good Friday, I was eager to catch up with Huddersfield Thrash Metallers Evile who was putting the finishing touches to their as yet unnamed new opus.
I’m greeted by the affable frontman Matt who ushers me into the studio where producer Russ Russell or “The Dr”. as he is affectionately known, is mixing tracks. After exchanging greetings and grabbing a cup of tea, we elect to recline in the sun to talk about the turbulent year and a half in the band’s history after the tragic passing of founder member Mike Alexander and to discuss the band’s return to the forefront of the U.K. metal scene.
Having read the studio reports the band members themselves have been posting on the official website, I wanted to find out what fans could expect from this forthcoming release. Taking it in turns to answer, they give me the lowdown on the new album which will have the initials “f.s.t.” in its title. Sat around a wooden picnic table Matt, Ol, Ben and Joel are friendly and full of sharp wit and banter. It’s endearing to see how obviously close they are as people.
“We wanted to make a mix of the first two albums but not repeat ourselves,” explained Matt in his rich Yorkshire accent. “Enter The Grave” was quite fast and straightforward and the second album tried to be more serious. I think that we tried to be a bit too technical and lost the sense of fun somewhat so we tried to inject that feeling back into it of being in a band and really enjoying it. It’s the first two albums and more mature. There are more thoughtful lyrics rather than just me screaming about sharks! It’s a heck of a lot better than we hoped.”
Ben takes up the narrative, “I think the subject matter dictated the pace somewhat of “Infected Nations” because it’s such a dark album. After what we have been through in the last year it changes your outlook on life. We aren’t being so cynical and we’re trying to regain the fun factor. After what’s happened to us over the last couple of years it’s time to stop being doom and gloom and start remembering why we do this – because it’s fun. It’s a mature album but it has that adolescent feeling back if that’s possible. You can’t do anything drastically different when you are known for what you do. You’ll hear the album and straightaway know its Evile. We had to cut out the Lady Gaga cover which is a massive shame. We also had Barry Manilow come in and do some guest vocals on a song but that’s been scrapped too ha-ha.” “There isn’t a concept as such but dreams are a big theme to the record.”
With the whole quartet present throughout the interview, you get the sense of how much Evile truly are a gang as opposed to a collective group of individuals who choose to play music together. I asked Joel and then the rest of the band how the involvement of a new member has changed the way they work together.
“For me it’s gone quite easily because we’ve been together for about a year doing gigs. We’ve had the time to bond. It’s been great to see them work in the studio as opposed to just working with them playing the old stuff. It makes me very happy to hear what’s being done.”
It’s at this point Matt makes a joke about not being able to hear Joel’s playing in the mix of the album like Jason Newsted with Metallica on “And Justice For All” which sets off a chorus of raucous laughter.
“It’s been a learning experience as well. It was our first time recording without Mike and it’s been good to have someone we get along with.” Ol Drake mentioned. “Joel would lob a few riff ideas in here and there which was great, so anything new is down to him,” Matt quipped. “The album has a lot of ideas which we haven’t tried before but they really work with Evile. We wanted to make music that was fun to write again rather than just being too technical.” Ol explained. “There is a song on the album, not for Mike but because of him that is a bit slower which was written for us and Mike and if people enjoy it, fair enough, if not it’s their loss. It not about Mike, I think the heavy, fast, insane stuff is for Mike, personally. I think if Mike heard we’d written a slow song he’d just tell us to fuck off! It’s something we wanted to say we felt we couldn’t say in a slow fast heavy song.” Clearly the tragic passing of guitarist Mike Alexander from a blood clot whilst on tour in Sweden still remains tough for these plucky Yorkshire men. While the material I heard privately was dark there is a sense the band really enjoyed making this album.
Evile’s official website has mentioned the new album would use the letters FST in the title. While the group remained tight-lipped on the full title, they did give away a couple of song titles when producer Russ Russell played me three tracks from the forthcoming release.
Particularly noticeable was a new confidence present in Matt’s vocals. There is also some scorching fretwork on the tracks I heard. “In Dreams Of Terror” is a blistering slice of modern thrash. “Eternal Empire” features some layered vocals at the beginning of the track with Matt snarling “I’d rather be dead…” and a savage bridge riff that gives way to a stomping verse. “Cult” is the most commercial song they’ve ever produced with a chorus that will imbed itself in your brain for weeks and should go down a storm in the clubs.
In terms of the direction the album has taken lyrically too, you get the sense the band were keen to progress while hanging on to the innocence of their earlier years. “Sure there are some lyrics that could have been on “Enter…” because if we lost that I think it would be terrible. What I wanted to do was get people to think more about our lyrics. I want people to interpret them for themselves.”
Forbidden guitarist Craig Locicero was very complimentary about the British quartet. When interviewed a couple of issues back, he name checked Evile as “The best band of the last ten to fifteen years in thrash.” I wondered if such lofty praise was encouraging or intimidating to live up to. “Both I guess.” Ben mused “When people we listened to as kids say anything nice about our band it is a massive inspiration and makes us want to work even harder. If people perceive us in that way then it’s very humbling. “He was stood at the side of the stage for us every night” recalls Joel. “It would be funny if Craig says that and we make a really crap album, ha-ha. We’ve been really lucky though, getting support from bands we respect. We supported Overkill and saw Bobby Blitz grinning and we had a moment of being twelve years old again when we went for a kebab with Gary Holt form Exodus who told us we were one of his favourite bands!” “When Schmier from Destruction was watching us at Bloodstock was nerve racking and we played in Texas and I saw Gene Hoglan watching me I was very nervous. Rob Flynn from Machine Head was watching us when we supported them in Ireland which was great as well. It means a lot to be supported by these people who are worth so much.” Matt recounts his most amusing tour memory “Whilst on tour with Exodus we went to a barbeque in Germany and Gary Holt ended up playing a banjo wearing a hat with pigtails playing “Master Of Puppets” saying I wish I’d written this. It was hilarious!”
Producer Russ Russell (At The Gates, Dimmu Borgir) has been credited as “The fifth member” of the band by the lads themselves which considering their debut was produced by the man behind Metallica’s groundbreaking “Master of Puppets” is a huge compliment. What makes working with Russ fit so well for Evile? “We get on really well and he suggests ideas when things aren’t working as well. “And he wrote all the songs!” Ben joked. “He understands the songs and captures what we want to achieve and he dresses as a Doctor which is cool” Joel smirked.
Evile’s new album has been put back from a June to an August release date by which time they will have played their first Download Festival and be heading out the road. As the song goes “Bow down to the Thrasher!”