The Bay Area may have been ground zero for the burgeoning thrash metal scene in the ‘80s, but Los Angeles undeniably contributed massively. Three of the genre’s “Big Four” – Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer – started life down here before finding a more welcoming audience and likeminded souls up north. The scene may have been in San Fran, but a huge percentage of the talent came from here.
In the middle of it all, Evildead formed in L.A. in 1986, spawned from members of Agent Steel and Abattoir. Typically ferocious and blessed with a raw punk ethic, the band’s 1989 debut album Annihilation of Civilization is considered a classic of the genre. They followed that with 1989’s The Underworld, but then came a long period of uncertainty. They split in 1995, reformed in 2008, split again in 2012 and reformed again in 2016. Band members left and then came back (notably original vocalist Phil Flores), and they’ve just released their third album after 21 years in the wilderness – United $tate$ of Anarchy.
“We reformed in 2009 just to play live, but it wasn’t until later that we got serious about making a new record,” says guitarist, and original member, Juan Garcia. “I think a lot of it was getting our original vocalist Phil Flores back in the mix and around that time we all came up with a common goal to record new music. We started demoing tracks with Bill Metoyer, our producer. So it wasn’t until about 2016 that we really got serious about wanting to make a new Evildead record. Since around 2014, I’ve also been spending my time with Bodycount as a guitar player, and it was just a matter of all being on the same page. Sometimes it takes a little longer than usual. That’s all it is.”
Garcia is understandably delighted with the way the new record came out; it’s typically nasty, brutally fast and aggressive, but also sharp and insightful.
“I think the new album is closer to Annihilation of Civilization than it is to our second album The Underworld as far as production and direction of the material,” he says. “Yeah, it’s a great chapter in the Evildead history of music. I’m just glad to be here and be able to offer some new music to the metal community.”
The artwork, by thrash sleeve favorite Ed Repka, depicts a full-on riot as protestors take on the police. Meanwhile, the song titles include “Napoleon Complex” and “Without a Cause”. It all seems very current.
“Interestingly enough, I had this idea for an album since the ‘90s, and I got the idea from the movie Soylent Green starring Charlton Heston,” Garcia says. “That was where I got the idea, and then as a band we all thought it was a good concept for a record. Then when the riots in Los Angeles happened in 1992, those were also some influences as well for the artwork. I gave my ideas to Edward Repka who’s done our album covers in the past, and let him run with it. Once we got the artwork back from him, it was quite alarming. It was like wow, it had that Nostradamus effect like, this is kind of what’s going on in the world right now. The original working title for the album was going to be Rise of Evil but once we got the artwork back, we felt United $tate$ of Anarchy was a better title for the album. It was more fitting, and it was strange how it all made sense.”
The latest single and video is “The Descending,” and Garcia says that the song was in fact written in 2016 but it makes more sense today than ever.
“The lyrics are about kinda like what’s going on right now,” he says. “The whole mail-in ballot thing, the candidates – different characters but same concept. Democrats, Republicans – candidates that we feel are somewhat unfit, and the whole political commentary going on. We started writing it four years ago and the characters might have changed a little bit but it’s all the same. Every four years, through propaganda, deceit, betrayal, we have to vote through it all and make our stand on who we think should be the president. So it’s kinda about what’s going on right now.”
While the album’s themes are undeniably topical, it’s also interesting to note that Evildead don’t take sides. Their distaste for the state of the world is clear, but it would be tough to point out who they blame.
“I see a lot of division with the two parties,” Garcia says. “I kinda stay in the middle ground with it all. I like the listener to make his own opinions. It’s all about money when it comes down to it. The rich, and greed and power – all these things going on around us. I don’t like to lean to either political party, I just want what’s best for us as a nation.”
At the time of the interview, and of writing, we didn’t know who will be president for the next four years; by the time you read this, that might have changed. Either way, these are crazy days, and the necessary lockdown makes it feel crazier. Garcia and the band have been staying busy with work.
“We started on the album in November 2019,” he says. “We went into a studio and started the drum tracks. We were on that when the pandemic hit, and then the Bodycount Carnival record came out in March. I was getting ready to go to New York to do a show with Bodycount at Webster Hall, then we were supposed to play Jimmy Fallon live and it all came to a stop. So I’ve been staying busy with Evildead and keeping positive. I think music is a great outlet to channel your energy. Music has been a great therapy for me.”
Next up, Evildead are looking at ways to take the new music to the people.
“We wanted to play live but that’s not gonna happen,” Garcia says. “We’re looking at the possibility of doing some livestreams, at least one or two of them to promote this record. Hopefully we’ll be able to do that in the near future. In the meantime. Once this pandemic is over, I think we’ll have a whole new appreciation for music. All of us. So I can’t wait to do that again.”
Amen to that.
Evildead’s United $tate$ of Anarchy is out now.