Evil One are clearly in it for the long haul. Appearing on the back cover of ‘Militia of death’ in torn-off denim and armed with a fiery cover of Accept’s ‘Fast as a shark’ it is of little surprise that the band sound rather like a turbo-charged version of Metallica circa ‘kill ‘em all’ with lightning-fast riffs, brutal break downs and gang-chanted vocals. Obviously this is a band not ashamed to embrace the past, but Evil One do so with a gleaming production job that renders every track on the album as potentially vicious as a razor blade hidden inside an apple and the song-writing is every bit as sharp as the sound.
Opening with the album’s title track, ‘Militia of death’ begins fairly predictably with a barrage of hyper-fast guitar and it’s like the eighties never ended. Then something happens – as the track progresses and it slowly dawns on you that the vocals are much stronger, much more traditionally metal than Hetfield’s ever were the song undergoes a swift tempo change and suddenly it sounds twice as heavy as it did at the outset. Certainly Evil One have one foot back in the golden era of thrash, but they equally know and understand the value of varied structure and so with glittering solos intact the band set about charging through the very best elements of the genre with nods to judas priest, Exodus and metallica all present and correct but very much subverted to the band’s own high demands. It’s a cracking opening track and with the vocals giving the whole thing a more classic rock feel than some of Evil One’s more aggressive competitors it is easy to imagine this being a huge hit with thrash and hard rock fans the world over. Next up is ‘Evil invasion’ a fast moving track with the sort of gloriously memorable chorus that should ignite the mosh pit like petrol poured on a fire and which makes a strong case for this band deserving a far wider audience than they currently have. Melodic, without sacrificing the essential heaviness it’s a brutal yet accessible track filled with blistering lead runs and fist-in-the-air moments and if you had to check out one track on the album you’d be hard pushed to choose between this and the stunning opening blast.
So far so good and it seems clear that this French thrash outfit can hardly put a foot wrong as evidenced on third track ‘In the dead of the night’ which opens with a pure thrash riff, heads off on a tangent in a strange sort of Ozzy Osbourne/Queensryche direction for a verse that is both chunky and a little confusing, and then returns its pedal to the metal for a chorus that is another pure chant along moment for the fans. Barely pausing for breath the band forge straight on into ‘Straight to hell’ which has gloriously over-the-top power metal vocals and a riff that could melt steel at a hundred paces. It’s sheer pantomime – everything pushed to the max in the name of rock ‘n’ roll, and as a result it’s not only an adrenalin rush to listen to but it’s also a lot of fun, and you can only imagine that if this lot are as good on stage as they are in the studio then we’d greatly benefit from their live show sometime soon. ‘Baptized by fire’ Slows the pace a little with a lengthy, pummelling intro giving way to carefully arranged vocal harmonies for a track that sits somewhere between Black album-era Metallica and the aforementioned Queensryche, although as with most tracks here that’s only half the story and the chorus is a sweltering, hellish riff that sees sparks leap from the fret boards while the vocals go into high-pitched overdrive.
Of course it wouldn’t be a thrash album without at least one epic ballad and the band hit out with ‘Memories’, an acoustic backed, echo-drenched track that provides a real lighters-in-the-air moment although it’s possibly the least successful track on the record, veering as it does a little too far into power metal territory, although it’s a good example of its kind. However, as with all ballads, ‘memories’ serves only to highlight how damned fast the next track is and if, as in this case, the next track happens to be an Accept cover played mercilessly straight then you can imagine the impact. Following on from such a high-octane blast of metal you’d expect ‘Suicide fanatics’ to suffer by comparison, but in fact it doesn’t despite the slower tempo and rather than compete, Evil One wisely choose to hit hard with their own brand of chugging metal which is more than powerful enough to keep heads banging nicely. The cunningly titled ‘instrumental’ is next (you’d never guess that it has no vocals) and while it is energetically performed it’s probably the least essential number here coming across as the sort of solo spot that a band may like to play live rather than a fully-fledged track in its own right. The finale, however, does not disappoint and as ‘Militia of beer’ crosses Municipal waste levels of foolishness with an epic thrash blast you’re left with the feeling that Evil One deserve a place in thrash metal fan’s collection with their epic, exciting and often technically brilliant songs.
‘Militia of death’ is not a cutting edge album, nor is it meant to be. Rather it takes the best of a variety of thrash bands and melds them together with a vaguely progressive edge and some seriously powerful classic rock-style vocals to create an album that is instant, fun and yet with a deeper side to the compositions that repays repeated listens. Fans of thrash and of classic hard rock played with plenty of vim and vigour will find much to admire in this rocking record.