Evile

support Warbringer + The Fading
author GR date 24/01/10 venue Underworld, London, UK

Is the thrash revival over? When does a 'revival' end and become simply a scene again? Does anyone really care? Well, whatever the answers to those questions, one thing is for sure - the bands are still out there and still touring hard, as evidence by Evile's 'Infecting Nations 2010' tour rolling into London Town having laid waste to much of the UK and on its way to mainland Europe. With the gig falling on a Sunday night I decided to get away from the drudgery of job hunting and spent the weekend in the capital, managing a mini Rockfreaks meet-up with EW, AP and TL as well as the usual combination of beer and heavy metal. As this was my first gig of the new year and decade, along with my first opportunity to interview a band, I was looking forward to being back in the familiar surrounds of The Underworld for some good clean thrashing fun.

The Fading

I didn't know much about The Fading before this gig, other than the fact they are to some extent an 'exotic' band, hailing as they do from Israel. With my Evile interview scheduled for 7.30pm I had suspected that I would miss The Fading's performance altogether, but I managed to see a couple of songs before heading to the backstage area. Alas I don't think it would be fair to hand out a grade based on such a short experience but from what I saw the band would be worthy of a solid score. Playing tight and flashy melodic death metal with some modern 'core-esque elements they were faced with a limited crowd but this didn't stop them from moving around the stage, headbanging and generally having an energetic stage presence. Considering they won the Wacken 2008 'Metal Battle' and subsequent contract with Wacken Records, this isn't surprising and given this is their first proper tour, it would seem we will be hearing their name more in the future.

Warbringer

I first saw American thrashers Warbringer at this very venue, when they headlined in the summer of 2008 for what I believe was their inaugural UK show. Before that I had only heard a couple of their songs on the "Speed Kills...Again" compilation and was interested to see if their signing to Century Media was justified, or simply the label making sure they didn't miss out some new-school thrash action. To my surprise, the gig turned out to be one of the most enjoyable of the year - a perfect combination of solid thrashing tunes, the band's balance between wide-eyed, grinning enthusiasm and aggressive confidence, a slightly sparse but very lively audience and my own wallet-denting drunkenness. I picked up a copy of the band's debut "War Without End" (they like war, don't ya know?) at the merch stand and made sure I was in the tent for their set at Wacken a couple of months later. All sounds rather positive, I'm sure you'll agree. However, due to follow-up album "Waking Into Nightmares" failing to excite me as much as the debut and the last performance I saw from them (supporting Sacred Reich, on my birthday!) being less impressive, I was not quite as hyped-up for their set as I might have been.

That said, I was still looking forward to seeing them again and certainly wasn't expecting disappointment, especially with a decent sized crowd now filling the venue. The band opened up with "Living in a Whirlwind" as I hurried from backstage to the cloakroom, dumping my backpack and pushing through the crowd that always forms at the top of The Underworld's stairs down to the main floor. As the band ploughed through a set that seemed over rather quickly, it was clear their extensive touring had made them a well-oiled thrashing machine, commanding the stage with confidence. This show marked the return of bassist Andy Laux after a health scare - The Fading's Elad Manor had been filling in on bass duties at the preceding gigs - but it was the two Johns, vocalist Kevill and guitarist Laux, that became the main focus of the performance, exuding the most energy and enthusiasm.

The band played a mix of songs from both their albums, with tracks from the latest like "Scorched Earth" and "Prey For Death" going down well alongside older fan favourites "Total War" and devastating closer "Combat Shock". Whilst there was plenty of headbanging both on and off stage, as well as the traditional circle pit around The Underworld's central pillar, things were tempered a little by a slightly poor sound mix. Maybe it's just me being too fussy, but the riffs were indistinct at times and the sound overall lacked the sharpness needed to be really effective. Of course, that's no fault of the band and as Kevill ended their set by stage diving, Warbringer had successfully shown themselves to be a solid bet in the live environment.

7

Evile

If my calculations are correct, this was my 13th time of seeing Yorkshire thrashers Evile live, the previous time being at a holiday camp in Wales exactly nine months before. We all know that a lot has happened in Evile's world since then so I was expecting their set to be both familiar and different -with the addition of a new member as well as a new album marking a change from the past. Given that the first time I saw these guys play was as a support act at this venue a few years ago, it felt quite appropriate to be witnessing them enter a new era - albeit one brought about by tragedy - back in the same place as headliners. With Evile and Warbringer being fairy similar in terms of popularity, the audience size and enthusiasm stayed much the same as Evile appeared on stage, maybe ramping up slightly given the circumstances, with anticipatory chants of their name.

Rather than coming on to an intro tape, frontman Matt Drake took to the microphone and spoke to the crowd with regards to the passing of Mike Alexander, expressing heartfelt thanks for the support shown by the fans over the last few months, leading to chants of Mike's name. He then addressed the band's decision to carry on and introduced new bassist Joel Graham, who received similar chants of his name in a warm welcome from the audience. Stating "this is now Evile", any doubts that might have been lingering about the state of the band were instantly dispelled as they broke into the first riff of "Infected Nation" (omitting the creeping guitar intro) and thrashed their way through a typically entertaining set without looking back.

With a limited amount of time to rehearse after appointing Joel (who did a sterling job throughout), about three quarters of the set was made up from material from first album "Enter The Grave", the new songs played being the aforementioned "Infected Nation" along with "Now Demolition", "Nosophoros" and "Time No More". All of these sounded great in a live setting and I'm looking forward to hearing more of the material from "Infected Nations" on future tours. It has to be said though, that it were the 'old' songs ("if you can call two years old!") that gained the biggest reactions, most particularly "Thrasher", which saw a noticeable increase in the intensity of the pit as bodies were flying around the pillar once again.

These older songs provided the highlights for me, almost evoking a sense of nostalgia as I banged my head like so many times before. I also became strangely aware of their simple nature, as though they really did come from a less developed era of the band's history - something which suggests "Infected Nations" is a bigger step up than I had previously given the band credit for. The one song that stood out from the evening was "Killer From The Deep", with frontman Matt amusingly forgetting some of the lyrics and Warbringer's John Kevill sneaking on stage to join in the "SHARK ATTACK!" gang vocal part. This song also reminded me why I like Evile so much in the first place - their ability to write a riff so perfectly designed for headbanging that even thrash haters would have a hard time keeping still. With an audience looking to have some fun at the end of the weekend, there was an almost constant pit and an increasing amount of stage divers as the set went on. It's this kind of enthusiastic reaction that can really set the atmosphere for a high-octane show and whilst Evile have never been an ultra-energetic band, they looked right at home on the stage with a baying crowd in front of them.

Their sense of humour never fails to be conveyed either, as demonstrated by the putting on of American accents and asking for a 'hell yeah!' from the crowd for Warbringer's performance. As the night was brought to a close by "Enter The Grave", it was clear Evile are still getting back on their feet to a certain extent but are certainly not lacking in ambition - Matt Drake telling us to bring a friend to their next gig, so one day he can play at Brixton Academy again [referring to their Megadeth support slot]. While Mike Alexander will never be forgotten, Evile have a bright future ahead of them and I hope to see them at least another dozen times in the coming years. [7 ½]

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