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This release is either an overt tribute or an oddly coincidental one given its recent proximity to the untimely death of bassist Mike Alexander. Furthermore, though Pantera was influenced fairly directly in their groove era by Metallica, it seems a bit odd that a former tribute band of the latter would cover one of their songs given that association with an old school thrash revivalist outfit would avoid something that is very much new school, at least in regards to recent history. But for all of the pieces that I see not quite fitting together, this is a reasonably decent realization, all things considered.
Few bands attempt “Cemetery Gates” because of the rigorous demands on the vocalist and the lead guitarist, and even Phil Anselmo began to shy away from attempting the glass shattering screams at the end of the song when his range started to go south from all the abuse with his new found shouting style. But Evile does a reasonably good job of it, electing for a slightly smoother guitar sound than the almost snare-like percussive character of Darrel Abbot’s rhythm tracks and scream happy leads. Matt Drake’s vocal performance is a bit less deep than Anselmo’s during the clean sung verses, and his interpretation of the banshee wails at the end is much lighter and is purposefully put in the background, but his gritty shout matches up pretty well given his experience emulating James Hetfield.
Accompanying this release is a b-side version of one of their fast but not too fast thrashers from their 2009 album “Infected Nations”, sung entirely in Japanese. While I’ve never really been much for such gimmicks, it’s interesting to note that for an Englishman, Matt Drake actually has a pretty solid command of the language and doesn’t come off as goofy or otherwise amateur in his interpretation. For those not familiar with the song, “Time No More” is a few clicks slower than “Battery”, but it generally follows the same mid 80s thrashing formula and throws in a few dissonant harmonies here and there. This band has played them better and faster, but it gets the job done.
I’ve heard a handful of thrash revivalist junkies who were not grandfathered in from the original thrash scene of the 80s claim that this version of “Cemetery Gates” is better than the original, which is a tiny bit off base. It’s an adequate and faithful interpretation, but not quite something to get all jazzed up over. It is a hell of a lot better than any of the modern garbage that was passed off as half-thrash during the 90s, but that’s not saying a whole lot. But for those who manage to get the 2010 reissued double CD, it’s a nice addition to an album that is one in a growing collection of respectable releases from a very relevant player in the current thrash resurgence.