Two years ago, Evil Drive gave me a lot to think about when it comes to female-fronted metal bands. Like Arch Enemy, this Finnish quintet’s vocalist (Viktoria Viren) is a combination of banshee and hellhound. And, for the most part, she even looks It. But, unlike Arch Enemy, Evil Drive sported an image for their debut that made The Land of the Dead the melodeath soundtrack to a fraternity-organized wet t-shirt contest. Which damn-near ruined a decent melodic death record for me. Well, the band is back with Ragemaker and, thankfully, all that nonsensical fluff is gone. With that shit out of the way and more dynamic vocals and guitar work to focus on, let’s see how Ragemaker fares against The Land of the Dead.
After two years, Evil Drive doesn’t bring anything to the table that they (and other bands of this style) didn’t already do on The Land of the Dead. Like its predecessor, Ragemaker brings ballsy riffs, melodic segments, and a harsh vocal delivery that, on occasion, falls away to its clean counterpart for variety. There are thrashy licks, ballady interludes, and even “upbeat,” rocking pieces (that’s the only way to describe the odd “The System Is Dead”). Not to mention the album ends with a cover of Motörhead’s “Killed by Death.” The biggest difference between Ragemaker and the debut is Viren’s vocals. While the energy and approach are the same, her delivery is far more controlled. The result is a lack of punch, in comparison to The Land of the Dead. Not to mention, her clean vocals are about as safe as it gets. But, for some, this may be a positive thing.
After a short, instrumental introduction, the album gets rolling with a ball-busting attack via “Anti-Genocide.” The guitars pummel and Viren’s barks punish as the song crashes its way through a thrashing midsection before coming to an end. Like “Anti-Genocide,” the title track whips and whirls like a melodeath track drunk on thrash. In this case, the thrashy moments coincide with those of Testament. On the true melodeath side of things, we have “Fight to Die” and the back-to-back “Fire Is Her Name” and “There Is No God.” The former ain’t anything to write home about but the latter two are record highlights. “Fire Is Her Name,” for its layers of guitar leads/soloing; “There Is No God,” for its charging, chugging riffs. Both are draped in a cloak of emotion, though they still shove lead after guitar lead down your throat.
On the back side of the coin, we find the ballady “Legends Never Die” and the emotion-soaked “Suicide Nation” and “Run Through the Dark.” “Legends Never Die” showcases heart-gripping guitar work and Viren’s clean pipes. As mentioned before, her clean stuff ain’t impressive but it gets the job done in a subtle and simplistic way. And the song’s focus on the memory of our long-gone metal legends is pretty cool. On “Run Through the Dark,” she uses her clean vocals more effectively—layering and dueting with her harsh ones. Combine these with a thick coat of passionate guitar play and you have one of the strongest songs on the album. Not quite as good, but definitely in the same vein, is closer “Suicide Nation.” It’s concise, yet heartfelt in its delivery—closing out the album well.
Well, almost… If left at that, the album would have gone quietly into the night. But the band had to go and ruin the vibe with an ill-conceived take on Motörhead’s “Killed by Death.” The Motörheadache aside, I don’t love or hate Evil Drive‘s newest outing. I do have to say, I spent more time with The Land of the Dead than Ragemaker which, I suppose, leaves it in the land of not-bad-but-not-good. That said, the guitar work on songs the title track and “Run Through the Dark” is nothing to snub one’s nose at. I’m also happy to see that the band has matured—in their image, as well as their songwriting. The result is something solid but not game-changing.