M-PIRE of EVIL – Crucified – Album Review

My first exposure to M-PIRE of EVIL was at a less-than-well attended show in downtown Washington D.C. and these fellas damn near knocked my head off… This was a little over a year ago now and shortly after that show got hold of the then-current album, “Hell To The Holy” and have been thrashing it up ever since. I really need to catch-up and write a review because it is a great record, however today my focus is on their latest offering, “Crucified”. In many ways this would have been the perfect record for someone like me, with only a limited knowledge of their prior work, since this album includes nine re-recorded tracks from the “old days”, plus a couple of newbies. I think I need to do some explaining here first?

Sometimes words get confusing when trying to unravel the history of one or more bands but I’m going to try… Back in 1979 a dark force was formed in the world of heavy metal, something that would in fact spawn a whole new genre of metal, Black Metal, taken from the second album by the crushing force that was Venom. Now, my memory isn’t perfect, but I recall certain elements of the rock press not really giving Venom the props they fully deserved and it is only in retrospect their influence is now appreciated (and perhaps worshipped in some quarters). The trio included on guitar Jeff Dunn, later to be anointed with the moniker “Mantas”. Over time, the normal wear and tear suffered by so many bands led to line-up changes that brought Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan to join Venom on bass and vocals in 1988. Along with original drummer Anthony “Abaddon” Bray and a couple of rhythm guitar players that came and went, this line-up turned out three albums, Prime Evil, Temples of Ice and The Waste Lands. Following less than stellar sales figures, largely due to the grunge-era kicking in, Venom split-up for a few years. However this was but chapter one for this story.

Fast forward to the year 2010 and Mantas was playing in a band called “Dryll”, and found himself looking for a drummer, and recruited another former Venom member, Anthony “Antton” Lant to fill the drum stool. At that point a glimmer of brilliance sparked and the Demolition Man joined as the third member of the power trio. Originally taking the name “Prime Evil”, this was found to be ‘in-use’ by another band, so they came up with a slightly morphed variant, becoming known as “M-PIRE of EVIL”. Antton only lasted through the recording process of their debut EP and “Hell To The Holy” and departed just prior to the band taking to the road in early 2012. Fairly rapidly Marc Jackson stepped in and the line-up was complete. Shortly after completing the tour Jackson joined M-PIRE of EVIL as a full member and was anointed the name JXN. Fortunately we are now up to date.

So, what does “Crucified” give us? Well as noted earlier, we have mostly re-recorded tracks from the three Venom-era offerings featuring Mantas and the Demolition Man and a couple of new numbers. In fact for me this is perfect, since I am not at all familiar with the Venom back-catalog, and while live M-PIRE are able to include some of the other classic Venom numbers (such as “Black Metal” and “Countess Bathory”), I’m guessing those numbers have other writing credits to them one way or another, making them harder to re-record/release.

So the album opens with “Temples Of Ice” from the album of the same name, and this rips. With a classic half-pace opening intro, it takes a short 47 seconds to get to the meat’n’potatoes and as Mantas tears into the riff with a crisp precision, the vocals cut through and grab your attention. The Demolition Man is both vicious but melodic at the same time – none of that grunting or growling that afflicts so many bands that allude to a similar genre classification. This is the perfect combination of nasty while musical. To be honest I keep thinking that Tony reminds me of Lemmy (yes, from Motorhead…) with a little less rock’n’roll and more bite. Excellent! There is a neat bass intro to the solo and then we get some guitar heroics which really show how good Mantas is playing these days – he is both highly melodic, while pulling off some very technical runs. It’s about now you will wake up and start to pay attention to the pounding on the drums. Damn JXN is a monster… the double kick-drum work through the tail-end of the solo is just vicious, while over the top are some just amazingly executed fills. Wild stuff all round.

Up second is “Parasite” and this just reinforces the idea that the first track wasn’t a fluke. This is a band firing on all cylinders and, yes, this bad-boy is both turbo- and supercharged. Crank this up; it deserves to be played loud. Depending on what you’re playing this on, the louder it gets, the better it seems. Awesome. Incidentally this is very well recorded album, so top marks for that. The bass work on all the tracks is just excellent, while not being overblown which is a temptation with a trio sometimes.

I won’t run this track by track, since we’ll be here all week, but I really dig the crazy-fast double-kick drum work on “Kissing The Beast” (track #3), while the moody “Blackened Are The Priests” provides a bit of breather and a more atmospheric feel – I particularly like the bass section in the middle eight. I’m going to skip forward to track #8, “Wolverine”, which has a totally wicked double-kick drum fueled chorus section which meshes perfectly with the guitar riff and to me makes me think of machine guns. Wicked stuff all round.

“Crucified”, the title-track, taken from The Waste Lands, has a damn catchy melody to the chorus, which I don’t think is totally expected given who is delivering this, but it works extremely well. This might be my favorite track on the whole record to be honest. I really like the way the solo builds out of the middle-eight section and again is another example of how good Mantas is; there’s even some harmony parts in there, but it’s not over done in any way – tasteful even.

The two new tracks lead off with “Demone” and this is a power-thrash number. To be honest this has more than a nod in the direction of Slayer to my ears, at least until we get to the solo, which pulls the pace off a bit and has a more bluesy tint to it. Closing the album is “Taking it All” and this is a lot of fun, with a chanted “F**k You!” as the feature of the chorus. I believe this track is reason for a recent request the band put out requesting fans send in videos of themselves shouting, screaming and yelling “F**k You!”, so standby for a video release by the band for this track featuring an assortment of M-PIRE of EVIL fans. Should be a riot!

So let’s put this in perspective. There are only two new tracks here, so those of you that are hardcore Venom fans may get a little less out of this than I did, simply because you probably already have nine of the tracks here. But let’s not discount the fact that it’s nice to get an up to date take on this material and we are dealing with modern recording techniques, giving us better sound here. Whether you ‘like’ that is up to you. I really like this record and score this a hard metal 8.5/10.

Here’s a link to my previous live review of the M-PIRE of EVIL show in D.C. last year > http://wp.me/p2hj3p-R

MpireOfEvil_Promo2012_001

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