In a just world, EVILE wouldn’t be playing The Joiners anymore. The veteran thrashers should be smashing much larger venues and considered the leading light of the post-millennium thrash renaissance, but fate is a jerk. Their eighteen-year career has been marred by bad luck and tragedy, so here we are in 2022 and they’re still plugging away in the UK’s smaller clubs. Not that any of the assembled fans are complaining though. If anything, they’re probably delighted to get up close and personal with Ol Drake and the boys as they rip through their back catalogue. This is one of those hot and sweaty gigs where you can get within inches of the band members without any difficulty at all. EVILE deserve to be headlining Brixton Academy, but they’re very much at home here.
Tortured Demon live @ The Joiners, Southampton. Photo Credit: Dan Barnes
Young hopefuls TORTURED DEMON start the night off with an eyebrow-raising performance. The doors have only been open for twenty minutes but lots of people are on scene to watch them tear into In Desperation’s Grip. A pit opens within minutes and they keep the pace high with rabid slammers like Cold Blood and Cut The Budget…Cut Your Throat. Singer/guitarist Jacob Parkinson thanks the assembled audience about a dozen times, looks like he can’t believe he gets to spend his half-term doing this and they’re a very endearing group. The fact they demonstrate some serious thrash chops doesn’t hurt either.
Divine Chaos live @ The Joiners, Southampton. Photo Credit: Dan Barnes
Berkshire’s DIVINE CHAOS follow and leave a lasting impression. Led by a frontman who resembles a professional wrestler who works exclusively in ultra-violent Japanese deathmatches, their brand of metal is brutal and straightforward and they’re treated like heroes. Suicide Salvation is a fiendish opener, Murder For Sale is an earworm and On The Way To Oblivion could trigger a wall of death in the Vatican. They seem to have grown in confidence since their mainstage appearance at Bloodstock last summer and if they keep this momentum up, could be a big deal very soon. They sound professional, capable and furiously heavy.
Evile live @ The Joiners, Southampton. Photo Credit: Dan Barnes
The biggest surprise of the night however is just how long it takes the fans to go berserk for EVILE. Make no mistake, there’s a rousing cheer when they take the stage and everyone present is singing along with each song, but it’s not until halfway through their set that hell is unleashed. Maybe everyone’s getting their breath back after two electrifying support bands, or maybe they’re not quite used to seeing Ol Drake on the microphone instead of his brother Matt, but there seems to be a reluctance in the crowd to let their hair down for the headliners. Sure, Paralysed, Killer From The Deep and Cult all sound great, but the punters seem content to punch the air and drink beer rather than slam into each other.
Once Five Serpents Teeth makes an appearance though, business picks up. From there the circles never stop spinning and EVILE treat us to a bevy of great songs. Newbies like Gore are mixed in nicely alongside established favourites like Infected Nation and Thrasher, and the ever-underrated Descent Into Madness makes a welcome return. They save the best for last though and Enter The Grave is a rousing, adrenaline-pumping finale.
The second half is definitely the better, but EVILE don’t really put a foot wrong all night. They’re on-point right from the opening notes, the only difference is that someone waited eight songs before flicking the mosh-switch to ‘on.’ The one downside is that for all their skill at writing great metal, EVILE aren’t genre-leading behemoths by now. They were once the great hopefuls of UK thrash and in some respects still are, but there’s something bittersweet about the fact they haven’t escaped the 200-capacity venues. So, for God’s sake England, stop sleeping on these Huddersfield lads and bow down to the thrashers.