without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
...and the winner is: M-pire of Evil! Congratulations! But wait a moment, what have they won? To be honest, it is just the dubious price for the crudest discography of all times. The guys started with an EP with four cover songs, their second full-length features not seven, not eight, but nine (!) Venom covers and the pieces of an earlier released 7". Nobody can deny that this is absolutely moronic, although or exactly because of the fact that each member of M-pire of Evil recorded a more (Mantas) or less (Antton) huge number of albums with the British black metal legend. Not to mention the irritating fact that they released a live album (of course only with already well-known tracks) without having a sufficient amount of material.
With that said, "Hell to the Holy" appears as the black sheep of the family. Or, probably closer to the truth, it is the white sheep of a black family. The full-length does not suffer from lame recycling while offering ten new tracks. Unfortunately, it also shows that M-pire of Evil had good reasons to perform thousands of cover versions instead of own compositions. This is annoying, because the band has the potential to write strong pieces. Okay, the title track has initial difficulties, because its overlong intro is completely superfluous. Nevertheless, as soon as the guitars set in, the ensemble dishes up a heavily stomping mid-tempo number. (In the distance, I hear Dan Beehler screaming "Pounding Metal".) A classic metal song with a black aura, powerful vocals and a compelling chorus. Too bad that this is the only track which is exciting (once again, greetings to Dan Beehler), if I do not take the first two songs into account. The double strike at the beginning unleashes a certain fury in view of the up-tempo approach of "Hellspawn" and "Metal Messiah", their strong guitar work and the coherent overall designs. These blackened thrashers prove evidence that the British trio can create something great as long as it bundles its strengths. Yet the guys prefer to take the path of least resistance and fill the album with pretty ordinary tracks instead of showing the intention to publish a killer album.
From this it follows that the album does not cause a massive impact, not only because of the fact that the slightly sticky production also fails to enthuse the listener. Non-transparent and sometimes unpleasantly noisy, the sound matches the status of M-pire of Evil. Both remain on a rather mediocre level. This status bothers me, because a long-player with more dynamic and blistering songs like the perfectly thrashing "Metal Messiah" would have become a jewel of my collection. But now I am listening to pieces such as "Devil", which begins, don't ask me why, with slide guitars. I did not know that Satan lives in Exodus' "Cajun Hell", yet every kind of hell seems to be better than none at all. But let's stay fair, "Devil" has some fine guitar leads. It is not on a par with the highlights of "Hell to the Holy", but it can trigger a little headbanging session. However, the band runs out of ideas the more the album progresses. The term half-baked fits better than any other word to describe the overall impression of this work. Decent but unspectacular tunes like "All Hail" or "Shockwave" just pass by without any interesting feature, as much as I regret it. Admittedly, the robust voice of the Demolition Man always has its charm, but this alone does not cure the uninspired compositions. Even "Snake Pit", whose musical pattern and lyrics intend to build a bridge to early Venom eruptions, cannot fully convince. Neither really funny nor chaotic, it appears as the crippled brother of songs such as "Poison" or "Teacher's Pet".
All in all, M-pire of Evil are tragic clowns who live in the past and stand in the shadow of Cronos. Instead of taking their fate into their own hands, the leading figures of the band have decided to remain at the novel string of Venom. They ignore the option that they could do it much better on their own. The result is a fairly good album, but it cannot compete with comparable outputs of their former band, for example "The Waste Lands" or "Prime Evil". Not to mention M-pire of Evil's crude discography.
Very often one of the major selling points of a début album’s reputation is the band members’ previous history, especially when said members were involved in a band that gave name to an entire genre. Mpire Of Evil is the result of taking three ex-Venom members from different eras and bringing them together “free of ego”, according to their bio, for a long-awaited début entitled Hell To The Holy. Ignoring the legal wrangling that resulted in this acronymic name (originally called Prime Evil, then sued due to already existing band, hence prime - mpire), Mpire Of Evil have dispensed entirely with black metal and instead pushed forward a blend of oldschool heavy and Teutonic thrash metal. Those who heard Mpire Of Evil’s EP Creatures Of The Black (covers of Motörhead, Judas Priest, AC/DC and KISS present) should get a rough idea of the influences, although other parts emerge within the course of the 51-minute runtime.
“Hellspawn” doesn’t beat about the bush as it launches into no-nonsense thrash of the German variety, somewhere between Accept and Destruction. The track is driven by Mantas’ guitar work, backed up by Antton on drums (since departed), and it boasts a strong headbang-inducing kick to it, especially in the chorus, along with a solo that could’ve come straight from Painkiller. “Metal Messiah” properly introduces Demolition Man on bass, who also provides the rough-n-ready vocals on each song. A bit later on, “Waking Up Dead” (Megadeth anyone?) awakens his ‘inner Lemmy’, while other tracks sound more akin to Destruction’s Schmier.
In terms of musicianship, the album comes off strongly, particularly in the riff and solo department, for which Mantas is to be lauded. The bass makes itself heard on several occasions, and the drumming is solid if rarely pushing the boundaries. Some tracks are quite catchy, and a few riffs stick in my head after spinning it. Certainly the most interesting track is the blues-thrash homage to Robert Johnson (who sold his soul to the devil), complete with a slide guitar lead. The other entertaining track is the penultimate “The 8th Gate”, which injects some Sabbathian doom and shred into the formula.
Sadly however, there are numerous pointers against this album that spoil my full enjoyment. Firstly, and it may just be my copy, the album production sounds remarkably flat, particularly with the rhythm guitar, and I can’t help but think this would’ve been a lot more kick-ass with tighter production. Secondly, the ecclesiastical sample that Mpire Of Evil utilize to open the title track takes up a quarter of the track’s 6 1/2 min length without contributing much. Thirdly, not all of the songs forge their own identity, so “All Hail” and “Shockwave” pass by relatively unnoticed. Finally, the lyrics on many of the tracks seem either remarkably forced (“Southern Comfort likes a spin, whiskey and a little gin, it’s time to let me in, down in the snake pit”) or redundant when repeated (“You want to do it, so come on, come on”).
In closing, for a line-up which has received as much hype as Mpire Of Evil has, Hell To The Holy leaves a lot to be desired. It certainly has its heavy metal moments, but the overall feeling of rehashing trodden ground dampens the album’s spirit. For connoisseurs of thrashing heavy metal (or late-era Venom), the album may be worth a spin or two, but in general Hell To The Holy does very little for me.
Originally written for A Metal State Of Mind (ametalstateofmind.com)
The new and improved M-pire Of Evil, formally known as Primevil, have released a new album, entitled “Hell To The Holy.” The former members of venom have really stepped things up with this beast of an album as you will hear nothing but bone crushing guitar riffs, dark lyrics, and explosive drum rolls throughout its entirety. The wicked melodies and thrashing tones will grab you and pull you in from start to finish.
The album opens up with murdering guitar riffs in “Hellspawn.” Thunderous drums keep the tempo fast and will have you thrashing immediately. The verses contain demonic lyrics delivered with pure violence. The vocals are shouted heavily throughout the track echoing in all directions. Later you’re hit with a hell raising solo that will knock you on your ass. This is followed by a ruthless breakdown full of heavy chugging guitars and booming drum rolls. “Metal Messiah” keeps things heavy with blaring guitars and insane double bass pedal drumming. Definitely through your devil horns up for this one. The vocals jump in and out punching you in the face with dark lyrics while melodic guitars take over the background. The double bass pedals continue to rumble away with snapping snares and shattering cymbals. This also has a wicked solo towards the end that will send chills down your spine. The wild melodic notes will have you hitting the repeat button as soon as the track is over.
“Hell To The Holy” opens with thunder and rain sound effects that slowly fade in as you wait for the music to drop in. About a minute and a half into the track come choppy guitars that jump in with thumping bass lines. The vocals are heavy but are delivered in a slower speed. The chorus however, gets louder as the vocals begin to shout “Bring hell to the holy ones!” The bridge throws blasting guitar riffs behind more shouting lyrics as they prepare you for the solo. This is definitely a track you don’t want to miss.
“Devil” starts out with a southern twang to it as groovy acoustic guitars open with catchy riffs. This quickly switches from acoustic to distorted as the drums crash in with exploding snares and crushing cymbals that destroy the background. The style of vocals are a little different then what you’ve heard through most of the album already. They’re still shouted recklessly but they have a little bit more of a melody to them. It goes perfectly with the southern tone of the song and will definitely have you rocking out of your seat.
The album ends with “M-pire (Prelude)” as dark riffs slow fade in quietly making you feel like you have to turn it up a bit. However you won’t have to once the heavily distorted guitars drop. A wall of violent riffs come in a crush you with demonic melodies and monstrous drum rolls. The double bass pedaling during the chorus rumbles beneath you as you’re swept off your feet with devilish vocals shouting “M-pire Of Evil.”
“Hell To The Holy” is a perfect thrash album that consists of that old school thrash sound and yet also carries some new techniques as well. The recording and performance of the instruments are clean with great quality making everything easy to hear. M-pire Of Evil provides you with wicked guitar solos and pulverizing breakdowns that will have you moshing around in no time. Definitely pick this album up and check it out.
A long time ago in a heavenly kingdom quite far from our domain, there was a cigarette-smoking angel that was always a little too drunk and vulgar for the inhabitants of paradise. One day, the angel started to play the guitar. Bored with its traditional antics, he created something very sinister and diabolical, and soon enough, heavy metal was born, but the inhabitants of heaven were none too appeased. After much consideration, it was decided he should pack his bags and leave. A little bitter but not torn, our special friend left the pearly gates with a middle finger in the air and that heavy metal essence flowing in his heart of coal. He gave it to a Mr. Iommi and three other souls in Birmingham, and soon the world was making the Devil's music to the joy of few and the disdain of many.
After Black Sabbath influenced what would become the battalion of metal elites, three dudes in Newcastle decided to try this metal thing as well, only taking it to a new sphere of blasphemous art in the form of Venom. The stuff Cronos, Mantas, and Abaddon created has forever been engraved in the hearts of pretty much every sub-genre that spawned from just a handful of rough 'n' tough singles and albums; only a fool would deny their universal importance. However, the band fell into a grey area after a handful of albums, and Venom was eventually in a cyclone of inconsistency that tainted a sizable chunk of their material. After Cronos left the band, Mantas and Abaddon met a dude named Tony Dolan; they finished this lineup with some additional musicians and produced three amazing albums, perhaps the most underrated and ignored items ever conceived by a first-rate faction.
It's very important to understand the history of what would eventually become Mpire of Evil in order to grasp the awesomeness of "Hell to the Holy." As you see, I'm VERY enthusiastic about Mantas and Dolan working together; one of the first CDs I ever loved was "Temples of Ice," still one of my favorites that sees a regular rotation. Mpire of Evil is a collaboration between the founding guitarist of Venom, Tony "Demolition Man" Dolan, and Antton Lant (hold the irony, please) banging on 'dem drums, at least for this album anyway; he left shortly after it was recorded. Venom is one of the most important metal bands ever, and it's really impossible to review this without having at least a little background about how this lineup came to fruition. Is “Hell to the Holy” a continuation of Dolan-era Venom, or even Venom in general? Yes and no. I mean, there are some staggering similarities that crucially define core qualities of the project shared by both groups, but you know what? The songwriting and musical themes are so advanced and vehemently gripping that it’s really an explosion of freshness often unseen in newcomers and old farts alike. Without getting too bloated, this absolutely rules.
"Hell to the Holy" isn't a musical continuation of the advanced songwriting on "The Wastelands"; it more or less reminds me of some gritty thrash occasionally flashing a nod to a lot of traditional/speed metal bands like Motörhead or Judas Priest. Although I hate to say it, Mpire of Evil kind of sounds like a proper continuation of Venom. That's the elephant in the room, but it's true. The tracks are graciously crude, raw, meaty, and fun, but the Mpire also provides a lot of compositional perks that successfully add layers of drama to most of the album, especially the mid-paced numbers like the title track. Even some thrash cuts that would otherwise look a little lacking are vastly improved with the use of Mantas' extravagant lead guitar or the daring songwriting, which never runs out of electricity. Overall, it's a monumental progression from where Dolan-era Venom left off. And speaking of Dolan, his gruff vocals are perfect for this kind of material, pretty much on par with his other vocal performances.
More importantly, the songs kick total ass, as if Mantas, Dolan, and Antton all sat down and mutually agreed to construct killer riffs and classic anthems without screwing up the anticipation. The album's beginning tunes are pretty much thrash-inspired numbers that overload on fantastic riffs, beats, solos, vocals, choruses and the rest of the essentials reaching critical mass. "Metal Messiah" features a really unpredictable and stellar solo by Mantas which shows his ability as a guitarist goes beyond basic sequences and grooves above the musical mayhem contributed by Mpire of Evil. "Snake Pit" is one of those lighthearted rockers stuffed with Venom clichés rerouted to relevant territory through the use of nasty heavy metal and goofy (in a good way) lyrics touching on alcohol, sex, and metal; it's a blast every time I hear it.
They boldly stride through a slice of tracks that occupy a traditional metal angle compared to most of the remaining album which are equally impressive and enjoyable. The slimy mid-paced riffs throughout "All Hail" keep the tune on par with the Mpire's other offerings, and "Devil" practices a stellar mixture of gritty instrumentation blended into a traditional/southern metal blueprint which simply slays; both are fantastic rockers working addictive choruses and some of the most varied songwriting this lineup has ever produced. Hell, Mpire of Evil even goes further down the route of the unexpected when they reach "The 8th Gate," a monolithic eight-minute piece gushing sadistic grooves and sheer excellence that the trio of damnation has personified and mastered throughout this sensational full-length debut. Not a single moment turns dull or even remotely questionable. What more can you ask for, honestly?
You'll hear a lot of comparative judgments to Venom because of the Mpire's lineup, but there really isn't a contest; one continues to drag its reputation in the mud with recycled traits while the other has accomplished a healthy return, full of life and giving the blackened blessing of longevity a new tint of darkness. "Hell to the Holy" is a very admirable product from one of the most underrated lineups ever to grace the realm of heavy metal through its swarm of demonic tenors and retching violence, biting and twisting like that old dog your scary neighbor owns that just won't let nature take its body back into the earth. I'd definitely check this out if you enjoyed Dolan-era Venom or just want something full of trashy mayhem and energizing malevolence. Lucifer’s exile from heaven eventually made him proud, knowing Mpire of Evil will always be at his left hand.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com