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With only three songs and a meager running time of eight minutes, it's hard to get the full effect from most acts. Evil Army, on the other hand, is able to show everyone what they are all about with their first actual release in seven years. If you're looking for any type of progression, walk out the door now, because “I, Commander” is pretty much the antithesis of progression.
Maybe things in the south are a little slower to come out. Kids are probably just starting to wear radical neon shirts with black spandex biker shorts and obnoxious looking Nike Air high-tops with Velcro straps across the top. This Memphis based thrash revival act is bringing out a sound made famous in the mid to late eighties. Rather than sounding like just another Teutonic Thrash act or a Bay Area thrash act, Evil Army takes their favorite parts of both and combines it into a viciously intense, yet amateurishly sloppy amalgamate of both popular Thrash scenes circa, say, 1987 or so: the days that thrash still had a lot of punk / crossover influence.
The production is rather subpar; sounding like it was recorded on a four-track in the basement of one of the member's parent's house. Surprisingly though, the gritty and dirty production is quite endearing when coupled with the energetic music. The drums are very tinny and metallic sounding, the guitars are sharply crunchy, while maintaining significant amounts of muddiness and the vocals harken back to the early days of Mille Petrozza or Mike Schmier.
The music is fast paced and energetic thrash. Blazing fast riffs with some chunky palm muting; fast paced yet simplistic drumming; muddy and thick bass lines; and barked, yet distinctly clear vocal lines: they're all out in full force for the entire eight minute run time. Being only eight minutes long, Evil Army does not let off the gas pedal at all. Every instrument is played very amateurishly, but with enough passion to squeak by. There are no virtuosos or prodigies here. The leads, for example, sound like never rehearsed hammer on / pull offs and simple fret scaling.
You have to give credit to Evil Army for going back to the glory days of thrash, because if no one told me, I would've thought this was recorded back in the day and not in 2013. With the prevalence of this “New Wave of Thrash” and all of the scenester kids being all about retro everything, Evil Army should see a pretty sizable fan base if they keep putting out material like “I, Commander”. It's moderately enjoyable for the nostalgia factor, but I'm fairly sure you've heard everything on here before. Keep an eye, because Evil Army may get big, just not yet.
Written for The Metal Observer
It's a wonder Evil Army hasn't blown up with more of a radius by this point, since their no frills, back-to-basics formula seems as if it would hold an inherent appeal to many fans of 80s thrash/speed, crossover. Let's face it? Have you been to gigs lately? I have, and I've been seeing more of these teens and 20-somethings sporting denim and leather 'compilations' of their favorite band patches than even the late 80s, when I myself was most obsessed with the practice. Many of these would be proud to bear the Evil Army cloth, and the fraternal Tennessee duo's simplistic demo and album covers seem perfectly fit as patches. Yet another detail of how they've gone straight back to the demo era of the early through mid 80s to fine tune their blistering aesthetics, and at least done some justice to the medium without devolving into high school pizza party thrash.
So yes, expect nothing here that sounds as if it could be dated past 1986-7. Evil Army is clearly a huge advocate of that proto-German sound, which explains the vocals which are a pretty clear imitation of Tom Angelripper and Mille Petrozza, with a harsh, sleazy bark which sounds like he smokes gunpowder and broken glass like crack cocaine; to the extent, really, that if I didn't know any better, I'd swear Rob Evil had a European accent much like his idols. The guitar progressions are pure, vicious speed metal in the vein of early Tankard or Iron Angel; dirty tones that sound like they were recorded in a garage somewhere, sound-proofed with aluminum trash can lids. Leads are spurious and sloppy, hardly the product of excess edits and overdubs, more of like someone would just rip out on a whim. The drums are brash and splash, without a lot of bass depth, but furious as they burst along to the unapologetic speed of the rhythms. Mostly though, this is just a feral sort of no-nonsense junkyard thrash which feels like a Teutonic interpretation of the Road Warrior films manifested into audio.
One of the tracks, "Ashes of the Nuclear Fire" seems a bit more muddy than the others, with a thicker bass end to the mix that pops along, so there's a whiff of inconsistency when listening through, but all in all, this is made for people who want a violent, thrash metal boot camp to the face, free of complexity, melody, and anything hinging on progress (which is both a strength and weakness, depending on who you'd ask). I wasn't in love with the material, if simply because I've heard it all many times before and there aren't any new ideas or ridiculously good songwriting to elevate beyond the median of quality, but it's good to hear that they're still putting out music. I know they took a hiatus for a couple years after Rob was incarcerated, and the bassist Bones had sadly passed away, which stuck a fork in their momentum; but the tunes here haven't really skipped a beat from their eponymous debut in 2006, and there's no argument that this is the 'real deal', or at least it was 25-28 years ago. Fans of records like Endless Pain, Finished With the Dogs, Sentence of Death, Zombie Attack, Obsessed by Cruelty, who seek that sort of authenticity should enjoy this, also those into more crossover-focused acts like Children of Technology.