A study should be done evaluating one’s first impression of an album, a movie, or even an individual; followed-up with a study to determine if that same person’s opinion alters after multiple listens, views, or beers. Most likely the data would provide mixed results. Perhaps you adore a person during your first date, and then loathe them by the third. Perhaps a movie made you sick following the first showing, but adoration grew with each successive view. Every promo to hit my desk receives an initial listen without the reading of websites, promo sheets, or any such fuel that would result in premature judgment. Sometimes absorbing myself in the artwork or the musical theme of the album transforms a mediocre first-listen into something worthwhile. Other times it does not.
I neither loved or hated Evil Drive‘s The Land of the Dead at the first listen. However, the band left me stunned and irritated when I began researching them. The first thing that you should know about this Finnish melodic-death outfit is that those menacing, venom-spitting snarls pouring from your speakers are supplied by one Viktoria Viren. A pleasant surprise, indeed. Viren uses these tough-as-nails growls for most of the album but stuns once more when she counters those barks with soothing cleans on “No Way in the Lie.”
The irritation came when visiting the band’s website and getting a first-glance at the album cover and press photos; with Viren straddling guitars and posing in a wet t-shirt. Sadly, my understanding for the the band’s emotion-soaked music came dangerously close to being annihilated. Viren’s massive vocals and the memorable, and sometimes thrashy, leads of guitarists Ville Wiren and Niko Huusari instill a different kind of image for me. The one the band uses just doesn’t fit. Nevertheless, I ignored the absurd website homepage image and band photos, and pushed on in hopes that Evil Drive‘s debut album would grow on me.
And it did. The more I listened to The Land of the Dead, the more I enjoyed it. “World Cleaners” opens the album properly (after a useless intro of war-themed sound clips) with some convincing thrash-meets-melodeath interplay. Barking as fiercely as the guitars, Viren’s voice crushes skulls like a bloodthirsty panzer tank. Next to closer, “Killer Is Following You,” “World Cleaners” is some of the best material on the album. The closer incorporates a Dark Tranquillity intro, a strong chorus, a clean-guitar interlude, and a melodic build to close out the record beautifully. “War,” “Bullet,” and “Screaming Soul” also use emotional deathisms akin to “Killer;” “Bullet” providing some At the Gates love and “Screaming Soul” flashes some Amon Amarth influences.
Unfortunately, those ditties represent the strongest material on The Land of the Dead—to the diehard melodeath aficionados, that’s probably not saying much. “No Way in the Lie” is the black sheep of the album, but the mid-album placement and calming approach, make for an enjoyable listen. As mentioned before, Viren uses her clean pipes to great effect, allowing the oscillating acoustic-guitar intro to penetrate to the bone. Her voice is beautiful yet subtle, and when this track cracks open, she unleashes her hellion growls once again. The song, however, leaves me wishing for something a bit more epic from the band. The title track is perhaps the weakest of them all—quite a shame considering they made a video for it. Overall, the song is boring and the “the land of the dead” pre-chorus follows a lead that is simply annoying; squelching power from the catchy chorus.
Tracing Viren’s vocals along guitar leads on songs like “Bullet,” “War,” and “Killer Is Following You” gives this debut a decent amount of memorability and staying power. The mix and production are respectable (though the latter lacks punch); the bass and drums are present, and the vocals and guitars—unsurprisingly—rule the roost. Fans longing for some scream-at-the-sky melodic death—and are willing to ignore the silly band image and allow the album to grow—ought to find some enjoyment in The Land of the Dead.