(By Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker, Lead Journalist/Writer, RiffRelevant.com)
Los Angeles thrash metal…it is something that’s been kicking ass for nearly four decades now, give or take. Some bands epitomize the City Of Angels sound and none more so than EvilDead.
The high energy speed metal unit first manifested itself around 1986, when Agent Steel’s guitarist Juan Garcia and Abbatoir bassist Mel Sánchez left their respective bands around the same time frame. Both were feeling a desire to incorporate more hardcore, thrashier elements into their artistry, more than they had in their previous projects, at least.
Selecting their name from the obvious inspiration of Sam Rami’s famous horror film ‘The Evil Dead’, Garcia and Sánchez soon welcomed guitarist Albert Gonzales (Rise, Faeost) and drummer Rob Alaniz (Bitch, Noctuary, Winterthrall, Anger As Art) into the band. This is the lineup that recorded and independently issued the band’s first 3-song Demo cassette ‘The Awakening‘ in 1987.
EvilDead paved new ground with their ferocious approach to songwriting, but also followed a very social / political-centered theme in their lyrics. Those messages addressed issues including scandalous politicians and nuclear war, much like the band’s contemporaries like Sacred Reich and Vio-lence.
In 1988, the band signed a recording contract with European label Steamhammer Records for the release of their 1989 EP, ‘Rise Above‘. The four track EP (three songs that included the title track, a cover of the Black Flag classic and a fourth, somewhat a song snippet or outro piece). This marked the addition of vocalist Phil Flores (Abbatoir) to EvilDead and thus freeing Sanchez from double duty.
The quintet now comprising EvilDead truly made their mark with that same year’s official full-length début for Steamhammer, ‘Annihilation Of Civilization’. The album garnered immense critical acclaim via rave reviews, all of which helped result in an official music video for the title cut.
The clip received regular rotation play on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball at the time. Also noteworthy, the album’s cover artwork was created by the very skilful Ed Repka, the artist behind many of Megadeth’s classic album covers, along with works for Death, Massacre, Fallen Man, Sanctuary, as well as creating Dark Angel’s logo.
Repka would return with another artistic contribution for the band’s sophomore Steamhammer release, ‘The Underworld’, in 1991. Unfortunately, this record would not be as well received as its predecessor. The album did feature a different line up within EvilDead, as Phil and Juan were joined by a new guitarist, Terror’s Dan Flores, bassist Karlos Medina (Terror, Agent Steel, Sanctum) and drummer, Doug ‘The Claw’ Clawson.
There were also some guest spots on the album, like that of drummer Gene “The Atomic Hoglan” on “Welcome To Kuwait” and Metal Church vocalist David Wayne (R.I.P.) on the chorus vocals on the band’s cover of the Scorpions’ “He’s A Woman / She’s A Man“. Truth is, the roster alteration had nothing to do with the reduced reception of the record, as that could be attributed to a growing change or trend in music at the time – grunge.
During the touring cycle for this second album, EvilDead did record and release a live album taken from the tour, ‘Live… From The Depths Of The Underworld’, in 1992. The band’s drummer for the tour was Eddie Livingston, who has played with acts ranging from Armored Saint to 2MinuteHate, Pumpjack, and more.
Following the The Underworld tour, Evildead went on an extended hiatus. The band headed back into the studio in 1993, to begin work on a third album and wrote several new songs including “Humano“, “Immortal” and “Dia de los Muertos“. All of which appear on the band’s 1994 demo tape ‘Terror‘ and would be re-recorded again for the only Terror (band, not to be confused with the hardcore band of the same name) album, 1997’s ‘Hijos de los Cometas’. However, the album was left unfinished and Evildead soon broke up.
After the split, Karlos Medina, and Juan Garcia reformed Agent Steel, but still played together with ex-EvilDead member Danny Flores, and Rigo Amezcua in the band Terror. That band released that one aforementioned full-length album; which included all songs in Spanish, and was released on BMG in Mexico.
In 2008, EvilDead announced that they would reunite in the summer of 2009, for some special shows. The band would eventually perform at the Thrasho De Mayo event that was held in Los Angeles in May 2010. The band also performed at the “Way Of Darkness Festival” in Germany later that year.
The reunion’s line up featured a new vocalist, Steve Nelson (Winterthrall, Noctuary), Rob Alaniz (original drummer), Albert Gonzalez (original guitarist), Mel Sánchez (original bassist), and Juan Garcia (original guitarist).
By 2011, EvilDead had begun writing material for a planned third studio album. This would have been EvilDead‘s first full-length album since 1991’s ‘The Underworld’ and the first new music from the band since writing and demoing songs for an unreleased album in 1993-1994. It would also have been the first EvilDead album to feature the return of Albert Gonzalez on guitar, Mel Sánchez on bass and Rob Alaniz on drums since 1989’s ‘Annihilation Of Civilization‘, as well as Steve Nelson’s début album with the band.
Despite their plans to record a new studio album, it was announced in October, 2012 that EvilDead had disbanded once again.
EvilDead reunited once again for a one-off show on March 12, 2016, at the Love/Hate Rock Bar in Los Angeles, in celebration of the 50th birthday of drummer Rob Alaniz.
In June 2016, EvilDead confirmed that they were active once more. They also announced that they were recording new material, and planning to play some shows in 2017.
By August of this year (2017), EvilDead have been in the studio finishing four tracks for the upcoming third album. The band will also post a new song online on September 29, 2017, the same day they play their first show, since reuniting last year, at the Union Club in Los Angeles.