Evile – Sent from Below

Sunday, 9th May 2021

Back again after a prolonged absence, Evile are the premiere UK thrash band from the second generation of acts that hit the scene. After four albums on Earache, they’ve now signed with Napalm Records and released their fifth album Hell Unleashed. Guitarist Ol Drake has now taken on double duty with vocals – adding a new second guitarist and ready to bring the thrash assault back to the masses. Determination, passion, knowledge, and experience pay dividends in the output for this record. We reached out to Ol to bring Dead Rhetoric up to speed on the new record, new guitarist, his Twitch channel, and plenty of talk about thrash in general, Brexit and how it could affect touring for UK bands, and what the future holds.

Dead Rhetoric: Hell Unleashed is the fifth Evile album – the first in eight years and your debut with you taking over on vocals. Can you bring the readers up to speed as to why it took so long to have a new Evile record hit the streets – and do you believe the time off was a good recharge and resetting element for the group going forward?

Ol Drake: I do think the time off was a definite recharge and a refocusing, but there wasn’t really time off in terms of the band because I had left in 2013, and Evile carried on. They replaced me, they did some gigs and some shows, and they didn’t really do any new music. And I think that’s what led to the guy who replaced me (Piers Donno-Fuller) to stop turning up to rehearsals. I got to talk to my brother Matt who was still in the band and I joked that if you ever need a lead guitarist I’m available. He said why not – so I rejoined. Things are different now than when I left. We hit the ground running writing new material, and it was about a year – I joined in October 2018 and it was July 2019, and it was down to Matt to do the lyrics and the vocals. The only downside to that is he didn’t have a lot of time, about a year of waiting. And then it fell to me to do the lyrics and the vocals, and we knew it was coming that Matt left the band. It fell to me to literally do the vocals.

It was a long time, a few things happened that made things stretch out a bit longer than it should have.

Dead Rhetoric: You said it didn’t surprise you when Matt left the band. How did it feel to have that significant change, and how do you feel about the new lineup?

Drake: It felt strange, because of the year of no activity with Matt it wasn’t unexpected. It was sad because he’s been in the band since the start as well. We’ve got to move on and we want to get back out there, we’ve adapted to it. We really like the new lineup, we got Adam Smith from a local band called RipTide, and it’s a lot more relaxed and positive now. Adam is quite young, he’s just turned twenty recently. And we are in our mid to late 30’s, early 40’s. It’s a different dynamic but very cool, very good.

Dead Rhetoric: So having a younger member now in the band, does this give Evile renewed energy and a different perspective as his influences may be different than yours?

Drake: It’s really good to have a different viewpoint from Adam because he has similar tastes with thrash metal, and one of his favorite bands for a long time was Evile. It was one of the first gigs he went to when he was about eleven. He has a unique perspective of being an outsider of Evile. He is a fan of Evile first so when we do some new material, he can listen and think if it does or doesn’t sound like us. He’s turned me on to quite a few new bands that I wouldn’t have heard otherwise. It’s definitely going to be an interesting journey.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you view this album slotting in the catalog of Evile records – and what do you think you were able to get across this time that may be different or special compared to what you’ve done in the past?

Drake: I know every band says this, and I’m saying this, but the thing about this album that we haven’t felt on other albums before is – I’m proud of all the albums we’ve done, but there’s something about this one that’s a bit more special. It feels like something has come together. It just feels like that we’ve got something really good for this one.

In terms of relating it to the other albums, it’s a lot more aggressive, and straight to the point. That was our goal, we didn’t want to mess around. We wanted to go straight for the throat, we didn’t want the songs to lag or lull in any way. We never wanted to get boring in the songs – if it was boring, we cut that part out. That’s what you hear.

Dead Rhetoric: You recruited Michael Whelan again for the cover art – the first time since he did Infected Nations. What do you think of the cover art he did this time, and what makes his work so special in your eyes?

Drake: I absolutely love the cover art. It wasn’t an original piece for us. I had been in contact with Michael since the second album, just talking now and then. We had this new material, we’d love to work with you again, what do you think of the new stuff? Did he have any unreleased art that we may be able to use? He sent some original pieces that no one has ever seen before. Most of them we didn’t feel they fit, but there’s this one that you see. We zoomed in and put the Evile logo above it and it just clicked – that’s 100% it.

What I like about Michael’s work is his attention to detail. There are obviously pieces of his that are deeply intricate. He’s got that classic look to it – it has some of the looks from the 80’s, like the old Death albums. I love it so much.

Dead Rhetoric: Discuss the idea to record the Mortician cover “Zombie Apocalypse” – as it showcases a bit of your more extreme nuances?

Drake: I’ve been a big fan of death metal since I was a teenager. The more technical side of death metal, I’m not really a fan of. I love Suffocation, but I’m more interested in the simple stuff – Obituary, Deicide, riffs like Cannibal Corpse. I love the old death metal sound, Mortician were a band that always fascinated me. It was ridiculous their sound – and I mean that as a compliment. They are so cool – and “Zombie Apocalypse” is a song that I always played the riff when I pick up a guitar, I play that at soundchecks before gigs. It clicked in my head, we have eight songs on this album – let’s do a bonus track. And let’s cover the Mortician song. The label wasn’t asking for any bonus tracks, so let’s just put this on the album. We’ve never done a cover on an album.

Dead Rhetoric: The thing I enjoy about this is, instead of doing a cover in your genre, or an 80’s classic, picking a death metal cover for a thrash band to do shakes things up a bit.

Drake: Yeah, we like to go against the grain and do the unexpected. We have thought about covers before by Metallica or Sepultura, it just seemed a bit obvious and kind of pointless in a way. I don’t think we would be adding anything to it. If we covered a Metallica song, playing it note for note, we wouldn’t want to sour the song. I’d rather have fun doing something than copying something, if you know what I mean.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s it like now being on Napalm Records after having such a long relationship with Earache Records?

Drake: It’s really cool. They are a really great label. We did four albums with Earache, and it went well with them. We just wanted to try someone different. I was talking to quite a few labels, and the thing I really admired them for is when Matt left the band, all the labels started to lose interest. They thought it wasn’t worth it. Napalm was the only label that stuck around, they loved the material. I have respect for them for taking a chance on us. Emails fly around, schedules planned, everyone is on the ball, everyone seems great.

Dead Rhetoric: In another interview I did with Karl from Memoriam recently, he mentioned how Brexit will impact the live concert and festival market across the UK and the European Union in general. Can you tell us your thoughts on what may happen once we are able to get back to touring and concert situations again from the pandemic because of this?

Drake: I’m not optimistic, I’ll say that. It’s already showing that it’s going to be extremely expensive for us to even enter the EU to play. I never really get into politics, and I can only speak as a musician but Brexit is a nightmare. It’s crippling the UK bands, and potentially crippling bands coming into the UK as well. I think it’s shooting ourselves in our foot. I don’t see the point in it. We are slightly worried, we really want to tour the EU, that’s our bread and butter, a lot of gigs for us. If we can’t tour there sustainably, we won’t tour there because if we have to pay to go there and lose money, that makes no sense. I’m crossing my fingers hoping that things change.

As soon as gigs start happening again, I think the people in charge will see the problem and hopefully they will rectify it.

Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of thrash metal in the UK and worldwide – and where do you see the major differences between the original veteran bands and the second generation who have cropped up over the past couple of decades?

Drake: It’s a difficult question because personally even if I wasn’t in Evile, I love the newer bands and the older bands. It really annoys me when I hear people essentially gatekeeping thrash, and not allowing new bands to be given a chance because they are not the original bands. It’s ridiculous to me because it’s just music. I love the fact that thrash is still being played – a lot of the originators of thrash are not doing it anymore or they aren’t thrash anymore. Destruction is 100% thrash no matter what they do. I look at it like this – classical music is 400 years old, and people still write classical music. Thrash music is what I love, it’s what I write and I love playing it. I don’t give a shit that we are a newer band, it’s just thrash music to me.

Dead Rhetoric: Obviously you followed the Bay Area scene, but as a kid did you follow your own domestic thrash scene with bands like D.A.M., Onslaught, Xentrix, etc.?

Drake: Yes. When I was a kid, my dad had a job working for a guy who part of his job was getting stock of CD’s that were being returned or scrapped. He had this huge warehouse of these CD’s, albums that he would let me go in there and have a look through them. In Search of Sanity by Onslaught was in there. I’d never heard of them, I took it home, put it on. Obviously it sounded like Metallica, I was very into that. Still to this day I listen to that album. Xentrix, I got into the first album Shattered Existence. I was very up on the UK thrash side of things, even Sabbat with Andy Sneap in the band. I think the UK thrash scene back then was very underrated, there were some great bands.

Dead Rhetoric: You seem to embrace your growing community through your Twitch channel. What are your thoughts on social media and creating content through those mediums in addition to what you do through live shows and recording – how do maintain a balance while also having a life outside of the music?

Drake: It’s difficult to balance it. I work full-time, we have two kids, I do a lot with Evile. Interviews, emailing, Twitch three days a week. The only way I can balance it is, I have to find a way to balance it. Sometimes it doesn’t balance. I’m getting through it, I’m having fun on Twitch. In this modern era, it’s really good to be on social media for a musician. When I was 16, if Alex Skolnick from Testament or Jeff Waters was on Twitch, I would be there every single night absolutely loving it. I really love this new age of technology.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe the youth of today is at an advantage in their proficiency and developing skills at their instruments because of the internet tools at their disposal compared to the way you had to learn growing up?

Drake: I think they are at a greater advantage, but also at a higher risk of … I don’t know how to word it. To become a carbon copy of what they are seeing or learning. I learned through my favorite bands, but I had to do that in my bedroom learning by ear. I gradually grew my own style. Now there are so many online lessons and apps that you can play along to. Rocksmith is essentially Guitar Hero for real guitar. I think all that is really good but I hope people don’t fall into the trap of relying on that kind of stuff. Once you gain the groundwork of whatever instrument you are learning, I think you need to take a step back and learn it for yourself because I think that’s the best way to find their individuality.

Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on technique versus feel for the guitar?

Drake: I’m not too bothered about anyone’s technique. If you are listening to someone on a CD, or a song, the technique does not matter. I’m a big fan of a guitarist like Slash. I would rather hear him play ten notes than to hear someone else play two hundred notes in the same space. I’d rather someone slow down a bit and play something that I’m going to remember in a few years than something with a guy who can play really fast. I’ve gotten to the point in my playing where I accept what I am able to do. When I was younger I would watch guitarists and get really disheartened, I didn’t think I could be that good. I have accepted my limitations, and it is what it is.

Dead Rhetoric: What would you say are three albums that set the foundation for your belief in heavy metal, and the best concert you witnessed purely as a music fan?

Drake: Right. Three… that’s right. Okay. The first one that comes to mind is Master of Puppets. It was the first album that stood out for me, sit up and listen, learn and want to do this. The other would have to be Annihilator’s Never, Neverland. My dad had Alice in Hell on vinyl, but I went to the record shop and saw Never, Neverland. I bought that CD, brought it home, and Jeff’s playing… I didn’t understand how he was doing all that stuff. That was an album that made me really pick up the guitar and want to make those sounds. I spent a good six to eight years learning everything that Annihilator had ever done. Along the way trying to do Jeff’s solos – I’ll never hide the fact that Jeff is a massive influence on my playing. My third one probably would be – Sepultura – Arise. I remember listening to that in my bedroom for the first time, all the way through, looking through the booklet, taking it all in. I listened to it yesterday in my car, going to work.

As for my favorite gig, it would have to be I went to the fan club show for Metallica at the O2 Arena in London. It was the first time I had properly seen Metallica, it was a time where they weren’t properly touring. They were only playing festivals, and I didn’t want my first time seeing Metallica to be at a festival. I never like the sound at festivals. It just blew me away – even the newer stuff, surprisingly “Frantic” and I loved that. It was such a good show.

Dead Rhetoric: What challenges do you believe Evile is facing at this point in the band’s career?

Drake: I don’t really see us as having challenges. The only challenge is going to be, being able to do it. And by that I mean, it needs to be sustainable. We are only able to do this band if people continue to support the band. It’s no secret that streaming is killing music and bands. When we just hope people start valuing bands a bit more in the coming years. It means so much to a band, buying a physical product. If we can continue being supported by our fans, we can continue to do this – we’ve also come to the realization that being in a metal band these days is a hobby. It has to be aside from a full-time job. More bands need to admit they have full-time jobs.

Dead Rhetoric: What would be surprising to learn about Ol the person when he’s off stage and away from music as a person – and what do you think you need to work on and improve in your life over the next few years?

Drake: I think I’m quite laid back. My music tastes aren’t probably what people would expect them to be. I like metal but sometimes I like nothing more than listening to Frank Sinatra or Miles Davis. When you write metal, it’s like work and you don’t want to take your work home from you sometimes.

As far as what needs to be improved on – I don’t know. Maybe balance music life and family life a bit better. Currently I am not good at that.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next year or so working for Evile once the album comes out? Are you hopeful that the follow-up does not take another eight years to hit the streets?

Drake: I can guarantee the next album will not take eight years. I’ve already got ideas swirling in my head for the next album. The next year will be living day by day in terms of finding out when we can play live. No one knows still, we have things booked but they aren’t confirmed, they could be canceled or moved at any minute. Get the album out there, spread the word, and as soon as possible we will start playing gigs. That’s the basic plan.

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