By sheer coincidence, Evil became quite the topic of conversation online recently, when a playlist for a Friday Rock Show was shared in our Facebook group. That dates back to 1984, the track being played Evils Message/Evil, from what was a pretty hard to get 12" EP on Rave-On Records, but people remembered it in glowing terms. One made his first trip to the legendary Shades shop in London and bought it with Metallica's Creeping Death.
Of course, the logical next question is "What happened to them?" Well, they split up after that EP but got back together in 2007, with a new vocalist. However, by the time their long overdue debut album came out in 2015, it had become a one man band, with drummer Freddie Wolf contributing all the music himself, the only other musician involved a guest vocalist. They're a band again now, though Wolf is the only returning member and he's switched from drums to guitar. Whew.
And they sound really good, though I have to add that there's some nostalgia in that opinion. It's fair to say that there's little new in their sound, though it has changed somewhat over the years. This is still rooted in NWOBHM, for all that they're Danish, and the other obvious influences date back as far or almost as far. This is still unashamedly old school heavy metal, with a side of power metal, though the influences come intriguingly from both sides of the Atlantic; it's not as solidly European as I would have expected.
For instance, while the most obvious names springing to mind are Iron Maiden and Mercyful Fate, Divine Conspiracy opens with a Metal Church groove and there's a Metallica crunch to the guitars throughout. Vocalist Martin Steene clearly idolises Bruce Dickinson, but there are points where he shifts into a Geoff Tate style and others where he moves more to Michael Kiske, with only a few moments with a nod to the famous King Diamond falsetto. Similarly, the guitars are heavy/power but often think about ramping up to thrash speeds. They never do, I should add, but they think about it a lot.
There are songs that feel European, like the opener proper, Divine Conspiracy, that often sounds like Dickinson singing for Mercyful Fate. There are also songs that feel American, like King of the Undead, the most Metallica song here. Many of them shift back and forth, combining a European sense of melody, often nodding towards Rage or Primal Fear, with a more American tone, a Metal Church sense of menace. For instance, Sanctuary starts out Metal Church but shifts into European power metal as it grows, even adding some Uriah Heep moments to go even older school.
And, eventually, it gets to Evils Message, which I presume is the only old song here, one reworked from that 1984 EP. There's certainly nothing else here from that or from the debut and, while the style is predominantly old school, the songs somehow feel like they were written more recently. I have to say that Evils Message, with its intricate instrumental passages, is still the standout here, which kind of underlines how this is not a great new album from a band eager to live up to a long anticipated promise. However, it's still a good one, if you're into this sort of thing. I've had it on a repeat cycle for about three days and I haven't tired of it in the slightest.
What I think they need to do is to think more epic. That's a feel that's inherent in everything they do, but it comes out more on longer songs like Evils Message and the album's closer, Book of Evil, not least because it includes some closing narration to complement the intro. Those songs run for seven and a half minutes each and they're highlights, reminding both of epic Maiden (Alexander the Great came to mind a few times on the title track) and of more Diamond Head time changes. However, the rest only last three or four minutes each and I wonder if they'd all be better off with more time dedicated to solos and more complex songwriting. Sure, Evils Message has a killer riff to elevate it, but that's not all it has.
I'm going to take this as a very promising return of an obscure but well remembered Danish band and the groundwork needed to move forward. A more ambitious follow up release in two or three years would be very welcome indeed. There's a 9/10 album in this band, I can feel it. It merely isn't this one.