To be frank, MPIRE OF EVIL’s debut EP was a little bit of a disappointment at what it contained. Only two original songs? Fortunately, the ex-VENOM brigade didn’t take long to release a debut full-length effort entitled “Hell To The Holy” and it doesn’t feature any of the songs on the previous release. This leaves us with a debut album of completely new material to wage war on its listening fan base.
Like the previous EP, “Hell To The Holy” grinds out a very raw and old school form of Heavy Metal Thrash that indicates where the band’s roots lie. A distinct and punchy Rock N Roll vibe litters the ambitious and harsh singing (think MOTORHEAD with a slight VENOM twist) while the rest of the band easily traverses from Thrashier riffs on “Hellspawn” to more Groove centered drumming on “Hell To The Holy” to an almost epic atmosphere tinged “The 8th Gate”. This old school approach to diversity of tempo and strong writing is easily the winning element on this debut.
The vigorous and raw approach to writing rough but catchy material is only benefited by very impressive performances. Mantas (as always) rips through memorable riffs like a knife through riff butter and doses it with explosive soloing and enough melody that fans of PRIEST or other NWOBHM might take notice. This is backed with a solid bass (which is audible!) to give more structure and a double bass driven drum performance from the massively underrated Antton. Hell, this might as well be an album performed by some of Metal’s greatest underrated musicians considering Tony Dolan gives another stellar grumbling vocal performance that just might highlight his career.
Fans of VENOM, old school Thrash/Speed Metal, or damn near anything that was underground in the early 80s should immediately pick up “Hell To The Holy”. It’s a throwback release that sounds anything but retro as it blends amazing song writing with rough, raw, and catchy performances. MPIRE OF EVIL might not have the coolest band name out there, but their music more than makes up for it.
Songs to check out: “Hellspawn”, “Waking Up Dead”, “Snake Pit”.
(Online May 21, 2012)