Evile @ Gibson Guitar Studio, London, June 23rd 2011

Metal as Fuck heads along to the playback of Evile's third album, Five Serpent's Teeth, plus a performance by the band themselves. And there's free beer.

It's a typically wet, sunny, hot, overcast, cold summer's day in London as Metal as Fuck photographer for the evening Steve Taphouse and I discuss important life issues such as Mustaine vs. Hetfield, whether S&M is the greatest album in existence, and the fact that bands really need nothing more than two guitars, a bassist, and "an octopus behind the tubs" to be awesome. The theme of the evening is thrash and in half an hour, we'll be amongst a few priviledged media types and competition winners to hear a complete playback of Evile's new album Five Serpent's Teeth, scheduled for release on September 26th this year. The band will then be playing a selection of tracks live and having a bit of a Q&A with the crowd. It all sounds very civilised.

We arrive at tonight's venue, the Gibson Guitar Studio in Soho and head upstairs to the performance area, which is essentially a very hot room with capacity for about 200, and a small table manned by a couple of teenagers that will act as the bar for the evening. Earache Records have kindly, if not foolishly, offered up free lager for press tonight, along with a couple of bowls of crisps and some Haribo for colour. I spot a girl I recognise and we start chatting. Siobhan Hogarty helps to run Evile's street team and as such, can't wait to hear the new tunes. Her dedication to the band is obvious; she's spent ten hours on a bus to get here from Glasgow and once the show has finished, she's off back again. That's almost a full day of bus travel for an album and 30-minute live set.

"I can't wait to hear Five Serpents Teeth", Hogarty tells us, "I want to hear if there are any changes since Infected Nations"

It's something we're all wondering. This is Evile's first album since the horrifically premature death of Mike Alexander from a pulmonary embolism in 2009. Looking around the room there are plenty of memorial t-shirts and patches and it's clear that new bassist Joel Graham has some big shoes to fill.

The Voice of God (well, Earache Records' Talita) tells us that the playback is about to begin and the murmurings in the room simmer down as the atmospheric opening to Five Serpents Teeth begins, before the inevitable balls-out mayhem of the title track kicks in. The bass is heavy and the solos are huge; this is going to be good. 

After the first few tracks it's clear that the fans are responding well. Evile drummer Ben Carter wanders past and I ask him how he feels about playing a room this size having only recently been playing to thousands of people at the Download Festival:

"It's like playing in a youth club again!" He laughs

Five Serpent's Teeth is Evile's hardest and fastest album yet, would you agree?

"It's a lot harder than our previous stuff," Carter tells us in a thick Yorshire drawl that sounds odd coming out of a 200-pound brute of a man with a mohawk, "but it's a lot more melodic too. We're interested to see how it goes down."

How are the band feeling about this showcase?

"I'm shitting my pants!" Carter laughs. "Matt [Drake, Evile vocalist/guitarist] has got a full-time job now so we've not had much in terms of rehearsal time!"

Carter looks nervous but should be calmed by the fact that the crowd are genuinely getting into the new album. Heads are beginning to bob and there's an air guitar or two being unleashed. New track Eternal Empire even instigates a bit of a singalong from some of the die hard fans as Evile released it free of charge a few weeks back, plus played it during their Download 2011 set.

Competition winner Sebastien Allibert has come over from France just to hear this album:

"I couldn't believe it. I got back from Hellfest and had an email saying I'd won!", He smiles, clearly giddy with joy. He's spoken to the band tonight and is so far having a thoroughly amazing evening. MaF asks what he thinks of the new album:

"I think it's more like Enter the Grave. It has the same sound as with Mike Alexander. It sounds like Evile. It's fucking awesome!"

This sentiment is echoed by Metal Hammer editor Alexander Milas, who has long been a fan and friend of Evile, even going so far as to do a charity bungee jump with Evile axeman Ol Drake in 2010:

"It's awesome. [Five Serpent's Teeth] is a real step up for them as a band. The chemistry is definitely still there."

Amongst the virtually relentless furiously fast metal, Five Serpent's Teeth includes a couple of Nothing Else Matters-esque ballads that do a great job of breaking up the aural assault of the rest of the album. Playback finishes to rapturous applause from the crowd and shortly after, Evile take the stage for their Q&A. Questions have been submitted beforehand to avoid any awkward silences and in true metal style, it's the real issues that are addressed including homosexual love between Evile brothers Matt and Ol Drake, whether Chuck Norris or Rambo is harder, and Ol Drake's thoughts on metalcore:

"It's alright if you like it. If you don't it's shite."

The majority of questions are addressed to Ol. He's a real character and the fact that he resembles the lovechild of Beetlejuice and Slash only adds to his thoroughly engaging presence. There are plenty of jokes about "last in, first out" for new bassist Joel Graham who takes everything in good spirits. Evile also reveal that choosing festival sets is easy as you simply pick the songs that people like the most.

After the extraordinarily insightful questioning has finished the band leave the stage to prepare for their performance. They retake the stage with the same relaxed demeanour, Matt Drake joking and exchanging banter with the crowd before kicking off Eternal Empire at frankly breakneck speed. Despite their lack of rehearsals Evile are incredibley tight and Carter's fears seem completely unfounded. As Eternal Empire finishes, we're informed that the next song Cult has only been rehearsed once. It's fair to say that it's not exactly spot on but Evile are having fun on stage and the fans, all of whom are now down the front and headbanging, are loving every minute.

Following new numbers Xaraya and Long Live New Flesh keep up the momentum. With one song remaining we're told that yesterday was Mike Alexander's birthday and as such, Evile elect to play Killer From the Deep, a song that Alexander wrote for their 2007 debut album Enter the Grave. As you'd expect, the crowd embraces this choice and to be honest, this scribe and our photographer indulge in a bit of a headbang, resulting in a very expensive camera being dropped on a floor and the lense falling off. After an evening of Stella Artois and thrash metal though, who cares?

Once Evile leave the stage, MaF grabs their press manager and the organiser of tonight's event, Talita Jenman, and asks her thoughts on the evening:

"I'm very pleased with the response," she tells us, "and the guys deserve it."

She's absolutely right. Evile have faced major upsets but have come out fighting with Five Serpent's Teeth. The more melodic tracks, particularly the emotional In Memoriam, demonstrate that the band have matured whilst still staying true to their thrash metal roots. The phrase "best album of their career" was used more than once by fans and critics alike and it's true to say that this may be the album which means that Matt Drake, Ol Drake, Ben Carter and Joel Graham can finally give up their day jobs and focus on doing what they do best; playing serious, unabated thrash-or-die heavy metal.

Five Serpent's Teeth is out on September 26th on Earache Records