Evile's Ol Drake on resisting progress, out-Hetfielding Hetfield, and the gory taste of thrash

Ol Drake
(Image credit: Karl Smith)

You know your band is a dead-ringer for classic '80s thrash metal bands when one of your songs gets posted on YouTube every year under the heading “New Metallica Song 20xx,” and people believe it. 

In actuality, the recurring song is Underworld, the lead track from respected British speed metallers Evile’s 2013 album, Skull. “Every year it gets millions of views and people are like, ‘Oh my god, James Hetfield sounds great!’” says Evile guitarist and now vocalist Ol Drake. “It’s pretty funny.”

Since the group’s 2007 Earache Records debut, Enter the Grave, Evile have kept a stranglehold on their reputation for keeping the sound of vintage thrash very much alive in the modern era. Over the course of four albums following the debut, including the current release, Hell Unleashed, Evile have always made sure to give their fans exactly what they want; you might consider Evile the millennial thrash metal equivalent of AC/DC. 

“Look, no one wants to hear us progress,” Drake says. “They just want to hear Slayer.” [Laughs]

Evile may be consistent almost to a fault with their unrelenting style of precision thrash, but the same cannot be said of their lineup, which has undergone significant changes in recent times.

When I had to record the demos in my house, with just me shouting into a microphone, I quickly noticed that I could taste blood in my throat

In August 2013, Drake – who had been the group’s lead guitarist alongside his rhythm guitarist/lead vocalist brother Matt since Evile’s days of playing covers in the early 2000s – left the group for personal reasons. He returned in October 2018, finished writing the music for Hell Unleashed by July 2019 – and soon after, it was brother Matt’s turn to vacate the group.

With Ol now being the only Drake in Evile, he was tasked with writing the lyrics for the music he had written and took it upon himself to step up to the mic to take over vocal duties. As a first-time lead singer, Drake struggled with his new role in the early stages of making Hell Unleashed

“When I had to record the demos in my house, with just me shouting into a microphone, I quickly noticed that I could taste blood in my throat. I’m still learning how to sing.”

Drake, who recorded the majority of Hell Unleashed with his handmade Carillion Flying V-style guitar and a 50-watt EVH 5150III amp – “It just sounded better and cut through more than the bigger version” – is adamant about just how strong of a metal record the new album is. “I’d go so far as to say it’s the best thrash metal album in the past 20 years.”

  • Hell Unleashed is out now via Napalm Records.

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Jeff Kitts

As a teenager, Jeff Kitts began his career in the mid ’80s as editor of an underground heavy metal fanzine in the bedroom of his parents’ house. From there he went on to write for countless rock and metal magazines around the world – including Circus, Hit Parader, Metal Maniacs, Rock Power and others – and in 1992 began working as an assistant editor at Guitar World. During his 27 years at Guitar World, Jeff served in multiple editorial capacities, including managing editor and executive editor before finally departing as editorial director in 2018. Jeff has authored several books and continues to write for Guitar World and other publications and teaches English full time in New Jersey. His first (and still favorite) guitar was a black Ibanez RG550.