Evile - Grinding Through the Teeth Machine
By: David E. Gehlke
The unfortunate passing of bassist Mike Alexander in 2009 left British thrashers Evile in a position few bands are capable of dealing with. A founding member and core element of the band's sound, Alexander, along with brothers Matt (vocals/guitars) and Ol Drake (guitars) and drummer Ben Carter quickly established themselves as the preeminent force in British thrash via 2007's Enter the Grave and 2009's Infected Nations. But Alexander's untimely death cast a pall on the promotion for Infected Nations, forcing the Brits to re-evaluate their future and course of the band. Thanks to the outpouring of support from all ends of the metal world, and addition of bassist Joel Graham, Evile was able to pick up the pieces and forge ahead.
This year's Five Serpentís Teeth is easily the band's best offering. With thrash still as the foundation, Evile have taken things to a new level in terms of performance and tightness, something that is mostly an afterthought in the retro-thrash realm. Instead, the brothers Drake lay down some of most compact and razor-sharp riff-action in decades, thus heightening their ability to create thrash songs of substance and variety. And if the departure song "In Memorium" (which is dedicated to Alexander) proves anything, it's that Evile are gradually inching closer to get out of the very restrictive thrash box.
Hot off the heels of Five Serpent's Teeth's release, Blistering snagged Ol Drake for a round of queries that focused on how the band managed to move forward after Alexander's passing, the recording process for the new album, and how they're managing to survive in a scene that is not exactly conducive to thrash bands. Read (and thrash) on...
Blistering.com: After Mike's untimely passing, did you have any thoughts of packing it in?
Ol Drake: Honestly, I did. I seriously questioned whether or not Iíd be able to do it. I didnít know whether or not Iíd be able to look over at the other side of the stage and it not be Mike there. When youíve been in a band since Day One with someone, itís hard to imagine it with anyone else. We always said itíd be us four or we wonít do it; but we were forced out of that. Fortunately we got Joel, and it made me so happy to be able to carry on; he made it very easy.
Blistering.com: How difficult was it to basically "circle the wagons" and get the group back on track?
Drake: It was difficult, but Joel fit in so well that it was great. We auditioned a few people, and they were all great bassists, but there wasnít that comfort there. As soon as Joel walked in, before playing a note, it just felt right. Heís from our area, he has the same sense of humor; it all just worked. We took only two months out before getting back on the road, so we were basically lunged back into it.
Blistering.com: The outpouring of support for the band and Mike's family had to make you feel good. Were those the kind of things that made it easier to keep going?
Drake: Definitely. The feeling of camaraderie from the metal community was overwhelming. When you have bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica and Ozzy/Sharon [Osbourne] sending help and condolences itís just mind-blowing. Mike would have been blown away by all the help, and his kids and girlfriend were too. On top of that was the fan response; the support from our fans made it SO much easier. They welcomed Joel with open arms while remembering and respecting Mike.
Blistering.com: Because all of this happened with Mike, do you feel it put a hindrance on the support of Infected Nations?
Drake: In the context of the albumís promotion, yeah I think it did, but that was the last thing on our minds. It was a shame we couldnít get the album more promotion, but itís the biggest shame Mike wasnít still with us. On the subject of Infected Nations, everything is a bit of a shame and difficult to talk about.
Blistering.com: Five Serpent's Teeth is Joel's first album with the band. How did he fit in? And what does he bring to the table?
Drake: He fit in great. Heís from a very classic rock background, and was into thrash as a kid so he was a perfect fit. Mike was a lot more about speed, and Joel has a lot more of a groovy approach. It took a while for Ben and Joel to lock in, but when they did, it really worked.