Sometimes it feels like thrash metal has an unfair advantage over its subgenre siblings. Whereas the others have to live up to often onerous standards of speed, technicality, heaviness, evil, groove, authenticity and whatever else, the main criteria for a large swath of thrash comes down to one simple question: “Is it fun?” In the case of Die Evil, the latest from Greek metallers Satan’s Wrath, the answer is a definitive “Yes.”
Opener “Raised on Sabbaths” begins with an arcane, foreboding prelude, but once that familiar thrash beat kicks in, a satisfying gallop through torch-lit forests instantly ensues. The groove is so plain and sincere that one can easily visualize in great detail – long hair and wallet chains swinging recklessly, bearded grimaces of pleasure, heavy booted spin-kicks leaving faint trails in the beer-humid air – the circle pit forming at the show.
That groove is ritually resurrected again and again on Die Evil, but with enough melodic variation to keep it from becoming putrefied. The album is thirty minutes long and has few structural pretentions – no 9-minute centerpiece, no ambient interludes, no spoken word performances or apocalyptic closer-with-outro. The only real tweak to the formula is the old-school “Coffinlust,” which sounds like every song ever played over the PA between sets at a metal concert.
If anything, Die Evil hews a bit closer to classicist metal than some of its contemporaries. There are a lot of Trap Thems, Mammoth Grinders, Aybsses, Bone Sicknesses and others milking the same rhythmically straightforward cow. Some of these have adopted elements of lo-fi death metal, hyperactive grindcore and headlong punk in order to bolster the urgency-factor of their assaults. Working with a comparatively traditionalist palette leaves Satan’s Wrath feeling a little stately and distant by comparison.
And so more emphasis is placed on the musicality itself. This is a double-ended cross. There is no place for humdrum melodies, like the ones on “At the Strike of Twelve,” or “Die Evil,” to hide. But with completely legible chord changes come tangible rewards. Standouts like “Dead of the Shallow Graves” and “A Mindless Servant of Satan” reap their melodic harvest, the former in its two awesome sets of chord progressions, the latter in a blackened, ear-catching change to triple-time.
The music on Die Evil is as unambiguous as can be. This is thrash metal. These Satan-obsessed Greeks definitely understand that their appeal is amplified by a digestible, bouncy attack. While some of the melodies aren’t terrifically memorable, there are plenty of entertaining guitar solos, and vocalist Tas Danazoglou’s rasped, echoing bark complements the music wonderfully. While Die Evil isn’t going to rewrite The Satanic Bible, it is as good a diversion for a free half-hour as any.