Two words that fairly well sum up the entire spirit of the sophomore album from Tokyo’s black/thrash brigade Evil:
The sheer onslaught of a crew-served, belt-fed, fifty-calibre, uranium-laced shells of snarefire rip straight through any amount of heavily earwax-laced armor-plated defenses on album opener “六道輪廻 (The Cycle of Pain).” For an instrumental it’s a hell of an kickoff; after all, doesn’t every great villain have an opening montage to flex their muscles over the puny hero? Evil know how to rip into a record – it’s not unlike the “Nowhere Fast” opening to Razor’s timeless Evil Invaders in it’s sheer urgency to get to the juicy innards of the album. The riff-laden changes that flow into a surprisingly playful spirited lead calls towards a punkier spirit: It’s clear Evil are about keeping things fast ‘n fun and full of adrenaline.
That classic punk rock spirit most rears its liberty-spiked head on “雷神 (Raizin).” The riffs, the tempo, and the vocal delivery: All the way up to the intense percussion build at the end, the song collectively adds up to a more 70’s Stooges era of rock ‘n’ roll under the charring flames of black metal. Again, it must be stressed: Evil are not afraid of Having A Good Time™.
These street walkin’ cheetahs with hearts full of black vomit and hellfire waste no time getting back to the front lines. “般若波羅蜜多 (Paramount Evil)” gets right back to the chaotic Yosemite Sam blastin’ and the whiplashing Speedy Gonzales approach to power chords. The blinding flash of fingers across the upper guitar register cut through the fog of war like a screaming torpedo of treble. The drums know precisely when to accentuate the rhythm of the guitars and take full advantage when the time has come to simply spray ‘n’ pray and let chaos sort out the casualties. The sheer energy in the d-beat engine of “首斬り (Reaper)” calls upon the grimy UK punk of Discharge as it finds a bouncing groove across the meat of the track. Yet it’s still packed with plenty of stripped-down, bare bones thrashing heavy metal riffage and a solo that’s not afraid to take off the seatbelt and let its melody get whipped around in the madness.
Following this is a bit of a trilogy: “地獄の門 (The Gate of Hell),” “歪な梵鐘 (Hell’s Evil Bells),” and “奈落の底 (Bottom of Hell)” all seem to be centered around a particular theme. All clocking in at around the two-minute mark, the trifecta of Hades starts with an ominous build into a noisy bit of blues-inspired soloing. The diminished fifths set a tone of sinister malice into the median track, where barked vocals holler across the hammering of the guitars as the axes of Evil pound ignorant straight eighth note riffs out over the steady machine-gun blasts of the drums – all before another of those surprisingly melodic solos creeps in. The final track hits an extremely Hellhammer-like boneheaded glory in its simplicity and utilization of a tempo that sits in the glorious discomfort between mid-pace doom and uptempo beat of the speedier forms of heavy metal. Those unexpectedly bluesy guitar solos rear their heads again, just wailin’ away with plenty of bends and feel – Evil are playing from the gut more than anything and it shows.
Evil again show their punk side in full colors on “閻魔天 (Enmaten);” aside from the steroid upgrade with the inclusion of blast beats, the core of the song has that explosive-style drive of Cro-Mags. Of course the band add their own flavor – apart from the aforementioned blasting, the now-signature solos pop up yet again, this time with full-on classic finger flyin’ heavy metal fury. The track from whence the album takes its name appropriately stands out: A largely instrumentally driven number, it sets in with a doom-laden pace that builds tension across the first minute and forty-five seconds of the song. The pounding fists of the drums wallop the track into full gear: Its purpose is still to build tension, yet Evil do so without sacrificing any of the energy accumulated across the album. As the track devolves back into a doom tempo, the lead guitar cries the tears of a bottleneck slide across the steel of the strings in a particularly satisfying cherry atop the whipped topping of blues homage.
Evil carve their way into a trench at the start of the album’s closing track, “惡鼻達磨 (Evil Way of Live),” digging into a pounding mid-tempo at the start of the song; the toms really spread their roots across the rhythm. Just past the midway point, the tempo breaks into a speedy two-fer-one d-beat-and-bass-run special. Then it comes: That beautiful, glorious twin axe Iron Maiden climax that flies straight into the meat grinder of a slice ‘n’ dice shredfest only to emerge unscathed again in the power of dual lead assault. What began as a spirited, punky, seemingly fun-lovingly ignorant black/thrash album evolves, especially over repeat listens, into quite a unique molotov cocktail of subtle brilliance in its simultaneously being a tribute to a genre and leaving its own ashen mark on the style. But don’t listen to me: What stands out most about Possessed By Evil is how naturally Evil carve their own little niche out of a blend of influence: the primary goal here is to fuckin’ rock and have a good time doing it. Mission accomplished: Evil triumphs once again.
**Available digitally and on vinyl via Nuclear War Now! Productions (February 1st, 2021) and on picture disc via Dying Victims Productions (March 26th, 2021)