MPIRE OF EVIL
"Hell to the Holy"

(Scarlet)

01. Hellspawn
02. Metal Messiah
03. Waking Up Dead
04. Hell To The Holy
05. Snake Pit
06. All Hail
07. Devil
08. Shockwave
09. The 8th Gate
10. M-pire (Prelude)

RATING: 8/10

It's called heavy metal, as in actual bona fide heavy metal, as is in the genuine article, and MPIRE OF EVIL (previously known as PRIMEVIL) play it with sooty heart and jagged, rusty edges that guarantee a trip to the hospital for tetanus shots. Featuring former VENOM members Jeff "Mantas" Dunn (guitar), Tony "Demolition" Dolan (bass/vocals), and Antony "Antton" Lant (drums), it won't surprise you to read that full-length debut "Hell to the Holy" is not of the bright 'n shiny heavy metal variety. Rather, filth is omnipresent and nasty attitude ubiquitous, both attributes working well in unison with songwriting that is memorable, comfortably familiar, and appealingly varied.

That the cover choices on MPIRE OF EVIL debut EP "Creatures of the Black" included JUDAS PRIEST's "Exciter", KISS' "God of Thunder", AC/DC's "Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be", and MOTÖRHEAD's "Motörhead" makes sense given the styles blended on "Hell to the Holy". JUDAS PRIEST's firepower and VENOM's gleam-in-the-eye iniquity figure prominently on several tracks. Included in that regard are the thrashing "Hellspawn", fist-pumping speedster "Shockwave", and a tune in "Metal Messiah" that offers hints of DESTRUCTION and a verse pattern very similar to that of JUDAS PRIEST's "Rapid Fire". Big and beefy is the order of the day riff-wise, as exemplified by "Waking Up Dead" and the burly title track with a chorus that is as basic as it is powerful.

The album's second half is where MPIRE OF EVIL lets loose some hard-rockin' strut and doom stomp into its heavy metal brew. "Snake Pit" rolls and grooves its way down nostalgia lane, as Dolan dishes out name-dropping lyrics about heavy metal's '80s heyday. "All Hail" keeps up the chug to decent results, while the slide guitar swamp rockin' of"Devil" brings to mind (to a certain extent) acts like BLACK LABEL SOCIETY. The eight minutes of "The 8th Gate" plod with doom heft in convincing fashion and "M-Pire (prelude)" gets all ugly and ominous before closing up shop.

"Hell to the Holy" will bring a smile to the face of any fan of blistering heavy metal, but the grins will grow wider for those whose journey into the abyss began in the '80s. Some tunes are better than others, but there isn't a single track on here that you'd want to skip, provided you don't take your heavy metal too goddamned seriously. It's fun, it's catchy, and it's metal as all Hell.

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