Where Evil Follows_Portable EvilRemember those shreddy noodlefest albums Shrapnel Records put out in the 80s and 90s? They’d basically take a guitar wiz kid like Marty Friedman and have him wank and solo through eight or ten tracks of masturbatory and self-congratulatory Yngwie worship. Since most of these albums sounded like 45 minute solos where the rest of the band went for coffee, they were never my cup of tea, but I certainly respected the talent involved. One of Shrapnel’s second-tier wank masters was Toby Knapp. After his stint on the noodle circuit he went on to found the very respectable throwback American power metal band Onward and release two very solid albums under that moniker. When Onward singer Michael Grant passed away at a tragically young age, Knapp swore he would never again do the classic metal thing under the Onward name so as to preserve Grant’s legacy. He then drifted into black metal projects like Waxen and  Godless Rising.

Where Evil Follows is Knapp’s new project, named after one of the better Onward songs, and essentially it’s Onward 2.0 and his return to the music he seems to love most. While it lacks some of the slick, NWoBHM flair his old band had, this is a fun and joyous return to the retro fold for one of its prodigal sons.

While Portable Darkess is loaded with nods to Onward, it plays out like a travel guide to the bigs of 80s American power metal, making all the expected stops, including Jag Panzer-ville, Helstar Manor, Agent Steel Estates and Abattoir Avenue. Hell, at times I even hear some Savage Grace and Sacred Oath in this thing, but enough with the name dropping. Opener “Reborn” welcomes you with Knapp’s bouncing, old school riff style and at once I realized I missed having this guy around. His playing is very warm and engaging and it’s such a happy, jaunty throwback you can’t help but bang your head. “They Came For Us” ups the speed significantly, mixing Overkill with Agent Steel and Riot and Knapp gets to flex his Shrapnel muscles once again. It’s good frenzied fun for all with loads of class and a touch of whimsy.

The rest of Portable Darkness is much the same, at varying speeds. “Symbiotic” sees the band take on a huge Helstar influence and though I can’t find a credit in the promo sheet, I’m almost certain James Rivera sings guest vocals here. “Oppressive Grey” channels more than a little Icarus Witch for a memorable brood-fest, and the title track hits the Agent Steel juice hard for a fast and furious fusillade of old timey nostalgia metal (seriously, the riffs here are so damn Agent Steel-centric, there may be an injunction filed).

Where Evil Follows_2015

The only weak point is the cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Disturbing the Priest,” which I never cared for, and care for even less here. Other than that, this is a short sharp shock of retro metal done with style and veteran panache.

Though Knapp is clearly the focal point, vocalist/bassist Dean Sternberg (Ashes of Ares, Into Eternity) is perfectly cast and adds greatly to the fun, approximating and mimicking the 80s vocal style of several genre stars while making good use of his impressive range. He even adds some death roars here and there to keep things a touch modern. As for Mr. Knapp, naturally he goes all Shrapnel at appropriate moments, but he never overdoes it. As impressive and fluid as his solos are, I’m more of a fan of his riff writing prowess. The man writes such engaging leads, they make the songs hum and pop.

I still prefer Onward, but it’s great to have Toby Knapp back doing this kind of music again. He’s a talented guy and a very good song writer with his metal heart in the right place and it shows on every facet of Portable Darkness. If you’re ready for a guitar-driven trip down Metal Memory Lane, Mr. Knapp has the jacked up tour bus revving and ready to go. Keep your arms inside the vehicle at all times, you rubes.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps
Label: Moribund Records
Websites: facebook.com/pages/Where-Evil-Follows
Release Dates: Out Worldwide: 03.31.2015

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  • Martin Knap

    my surname is Knap( p ) and I’m a wankmaster too.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    It’s about time someone complained that we still don’t have a February ROTM.

    Anyone?

    • De2013

      Well satan be damned! Where is our customer service representative?

      • Martin Knap

        he’s a massive wanker, that’s for sure.

    • Quiet down, you wanks! It goes later today!

      • André Snyde Lopes

        It’s okay Druhm, I just need something to disagree with.

    • Julien Robitaille

      And no In Times review..

    • Quit yer whining. You’ll eat the reviews we give you and like ’em! I have every right to ignore high profile reviews. You can’t stop me.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        You are absolutely correct. But you still haven’t reviewed Steven Wilson’s latest therefore you have no credibility as a reviewer.

        PS: Hand.Cannot.Erase. left me quite disappointed. Is that just me?

        • It’s coming. Quit yer fucking whining.

        • Luke_22

          Personally I was absolutely stoked with Hand. Cannot. Erase. Different from his previous solo stuff but the song-writing and musicianship is typically top notch.

          • André Snyde Lopes

            Musicianship, yeah, still fantastic. Songwriting I will have to disagree. First half of the album drags a lot and the song structure veers dangerously close to Dream Theater (disjointed and inconsequential bits sprinkled throughout songs) at times.

            I still like some of it (say… a 3.0) but not as much as Raven by a long shot.

          • Luke_22

            Fair enough, the track sequencing could have been better but I’m enjoying majority of the songs a great deal. Second half of the album is especially phenomenal. Of course Raven is a hard act to follow though.

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Just an awesome review. Thanks! I definitely need to check these bastards out.

  • Siege Bantayan

    When you start headbanging within the first 5 seconds of a song you know you’re gonna have a good time.

  • Nukenado

    Necro’ing a 2 year old review?
    I don’t care, I love myself some guitar masturbation. That’s a good riff…