Evile has always occupied a strange space in the re-thrash movement. They seem to be one of the big wigs in the scene, yet I hear far less buzz about them than many other retro acts. They are also one of the few bands to eschew the common Slayer, Exodus and Testament mimicking in favor of a more traditional Metallica influence. Their sound generally exists in the phantom zone between the Master of Puppets and And Justice for All eras and the later works of long overlooked Wargasm. Since I love old school Metallica (despite their best attempts to make me burn all their albums) and loved Wargasm (especially their Ugly album), it seems these guys would be a no-brainer lock for Steel Druhm. However, apart from their debut, Evile‘s material never fully resonated with me. Their last album has some solid moments and respectable playing, but after reviewing it, I didn’t play it again until the refresher for this review (it also occurs to me I overrated it and should have given it a 2.5). I felt much the same for their Infected Nations outing (though AMG liked it). Skull continues the trend of underwhelming me, but I will say this is some of their best material since the debut and at times it effectively conveys the joys of the Golden Era of thrash. Unfortunately, too much of it breaks upon the rocks of apathy, leaving nothing behind to hold onto.
Things open in fine form with “Underworld” which succeeds based on balls and attitude alone. The riffing is gleefully old school thrash and alternates between very Metallica-esque riffing and structures and a more Wargasm-y style (vocalist Matt Drake splits time sounding either Hetfieldian or like Wargasm‘s Bob Mayo). The title track channels Master of Puppets and has some nice riff patterns, while “The Naked Sun” has a memorable chorus. Also worthwhile is the Metallica stomp of “Head of the Demon” and “Words of the Dead” (though perhaps there’s a bit too much “Shortest Straw” mixed in the latter)
The power ballad “Tomb” borrows greatly from “Nothing Else Matters” and “The Unforgiven” and features some solid guitar-work and emotional vocals, but overall it falls a bit flat and is missing something to make it gel. Things really tank on the back-end and the last three songs do nothing at all for me besides make my eyes glaze over from acute thrash fatigue. Making matters worse, they tend to write songs that run too long and overuse the decent ideas they have going for them (I guess this is another homage to their main influence).
Naturally, as a re-thrash opus Skull is very guitar-driven and depends on the riffs to do most of the talking. Ol and Matt Drake can surely play and there are some solid riffs scattered around, along with some impressive solo-work. Sadly, the bulk of the riffs hit me as something I’ve heard way too many times and they don’t move me much. Instead, I find myself biding time spotting which riff was lifted from what Metallica album in a game I like to call Riff Robber™. While I usually enjoy Matt’s vocals and he shows decent power and finesse during “Tomb,” he can’t elevate the band’s sound to something truly memorable or make it more replayable.
Alas, poor Yorick, while there’s some growth in the song writing department, Skull still suffers from the same issues that kept me from fully supporting their previous material. If you loved their older stuff, this should work for you, and I wish it worked more for me. If I were you, I’d hunt down Wargasm‘s Ugly album instead. Nuff Said.