Thursday 25 February 2021

Evil - Possessed by Evil (2021)

Country: Japan
Style: Heavy/Speed Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 9 Feb 2021
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Wow, that's a lo fi sound to kick off this album, with background hiss and rough, frantic drums which seem to be determined to keep up with a band that doesn't want to hold back. Then again, the band is called Evil, as simple a metal name as can be. Metal Archives lists nine other metal bands called Evil. I think the only other one formed within the last twenty years, which has actually released anything, is from Tunisia, where that name is probably quite the statement all on its own.

Then again, a 2021 band calling themselves Evil and releasing an album called Possessed by Evil (after a debut called Rites of Evil) is making a statement too. They're saying they're emphatically old school and we shouldn't expect anything modern. Certainly all the names I can conjure up date way back. The drums remind me of the earliest days of Sodom, the music is often pure NWOBHM; much of The Cycle of Pain and Raizin could almost sit on either of the Paul Di'Anno albums by Iron Maiden. At breakneck pace, like on Yaksa, named for their drummer, they're a combination of early Bathory and Possessed with speed metal solos.

In other words, this dates back either to NWOBHM days or the proto-extreme metal that grew out of it. And it isn't just the music that sounds like that, the production does too. While the sound is meaty and energetic, I could believe that Evil just showed up one day to the studio, hooked up all their gear, played these twelve songs off the cuff in 36 minutes and 45 seconds and, job done, went home again. I could even believe that the engineer just pressed record, waited for them to be done, ejected the tape and sent it to the plant to press. Oh, and no overdubs.

In a way, that kind of makes this kin to the most recent Sodom album, Genesis XIX, except they took a little time to rehearse and I'm sure those songs weren't all recorded on the first take. Here I'm not so sure. I'd say that I'm surprised to find that Evil are a four piece instead of a trio like Sodom, Raven or Venom, but then Sodom are four people nowadays too. They merely sound like a quintessential power trio setup who grew up listening to Motörhead and the bands they inspired.

I like this, but I'm an old school proto-extreme metal fan. I remember when albums started having the sort of track listing this one has: out of a dozen songs, Hell is in three of the titles and Evil four. Hell's Evil Bells, of course, has both. This isn't trying to be clever. It's trying to fit into a scene that arguably ended before these musicians were even born and doing a decent job of it. The only aspect here that's of later heritage is the vocals of Asura, who's also one of the two guitarists. He's a bit more extreme, I think, than even Bathory was doing back then, but his style fits the band well.

This is the sort of album that you don't need to hear first. If what I've said piques your interest, you'll be in seventh heaven with this. If it made you shrug and move on, then this isn't for you at all. This is for people who still spin those early Venom, Celtic Frost and Bathory records; who wish that Di'Anno still sang for Maiden and Possessed hadn't split up in 1987; or who got all nostalgic hearing that last Sodom album. Sure, some songs are certainly better than others, and I'd suggest the first half is a lot better than the second, but it won't matter. If you're on board, you'll love it anyway. If not, you won't.

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