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M-PIRE OF EVIL ''Hell to the Holy'' - Review by

A long time ago in a heavenly kingdom quite far from our domain, there was a cigarette-smoking angel that was always a little too drunk and vulgar for the inhabitants of paradise. One day, the angel started to play the guitar. Bored with its traditional antics, he created something very sinister and diabolical, and soon enough, heavy metal was born, but the inhabitants of heaven were none too appeased. After much consideration, it was decided he should pack his bags and leave. A little bitter but not torn, our special friend left the pearly gates with a middle finger in the air and that heavy metal essence flowing in his heart of coal. He gave it to a Mr. Iommi and three other souls in Birmingham, and soon the world was making the Devil's music to the joy of few and the disdain of many.
After Black Sabbath influenced what would become the battalion of metal elites, three dudes in Newcastle decided to try this metal thing as well, only taking it to a new sphere of blasphemous art in the form of Venom. The stuff Cronos, Mantas, and Abaddon created has forever been engraved in the hearts of pretty much every sub-genre that spawned from just a handful of rough 'n' tough singles and albums; only a fool would deny their universal importance. However, the band fell into a grey area after a handful of albums, and Venom was eventually in a cyclone of inconsistency that tainted a sizable chunk of their material. After Cronos left the band, Mantas and Abaddon met a dude named Tony Dolan; they finished this lineup with some additional musicians and produced three amazing albums, perhaps the most underrated and ignored items ever conceived by a first-rate faction.
It's very important to understand the history of what would eventually become Mpire of Evil in order to grasp the awesomeness of "Hell to the Holy." As you see, I'm VERY enthusiastic about Mantas and Dolan working together; one of the first CDs I ever loved was "Temples of Ice," still one of my favorites that sees a regular rotation. Mpire of Evil is a collaboration between the founding guitarist of Venom, Tony "Demolition Man" Dolan, and Antton Lant (hold the irony, please) banging on 'dem drums, at least for this album anyway; he left shortly after it was recorded. Venom is one of the most important metal bands ever, and it's really impossible to review this without having at least a little background about how this lineup came to fruition. Is “Hell to the Holy” a continuation of Dolan-era Venom, or even Venom in general? Yes and no. I mean, there are some staggering similarities that crucially define core qualities of the project shared by both groups, but you know what? The songwriting and musical themes are so advanced and vehemently gripping that it’s really an explosion of freshness often unseen in newcomers and old farts alike. Without getting too bloated, this absolutely rules.
"Hell to the Holy" isn't a musical continuation of the advanced songwriting on "The Wastelands"; it more or less reminds me of some gritty thrash occasionally flashing a nod to a lot of traditional/speed metal bands like Motörhead or Judas Priest. Although I hate to say it, Mpire of Evil kind of sounds like a proper continuation of Venom. That's the elephant in the room, but it's true. The tracks are graciously crude, raw, meaty, and fun, but the Mpire also provides a lot of compositional perks that successfully add layers of drama to most of the album, especially the mid-paced numbers like the title track. Even some thrash cuts that would otherwise look a little lacking are vastly improved with the use of Mantas' extravagant lead guitar or the daring songwriting, which never runs out of electricity. Overall, it's a monumental progression from where Dolan-era Venom left off. And speaking of Dolan, his gruff vocals are perfect for this kind of material, pretty much on par with his other vocal performances.
More importantly, the songs kick total ass, as if Mantas, Dolan, and Antton all sat down and mutually agreed to construct killer riffs and classic anthems without screwing up the anticipation. The album's beginning tunes are pretty much thrash-inspired numbers that overload on fantastic riffs, beats, solos, vocals, choruses and the rest of the essentials reaching critical mass. "Metal Messiah" features a really unpredictable and stellar solo by Mantas which shows his ability as a guitarist goes beyond basic sequences and grooves above the musical mayhem contributed by Mpire of Evil. "Snake Pit" is one of those lighthearted rockers stuffed with Venom clichés rerouted to relevant territory through the use of nasty heavy metal and goofy (in a good way) lyrics touching on alcohol, sex, and metal; it's a blast every time I hear it.
They boldly stride through a slice of tracks that occupy a traditional metal angle compared to most of the remaining album which are equally impressive and enjoyable. The slimy mid-paced riffs throughout "All Hail" keep the tune on par with the Mpire's other offerings, and "Devil" practices a stellar mixture of gritty instrumentation blended into a traditional/southern metal blueprint which simply slays; both are fantastic rockers working addictive choruses and some of the most varied songwriting this lineup has ever produced. Hell, Mpire of Evil even goes further down the route of the unexpected when they reach "The 8th Gate," a monolithic eight-minute piece gushing sadistic grooves and sheer excellence that the trio of damnation has personified and mastered throughout this sensational full-length debut. Not a single moment turns dull or even remotely questionable. What more can you ask for, honestly?
You'll hear a lot of comparative judgments to Venom because of the Mpire's lineup, but there really isn't a contest; one continues to drag its reputation in the mud with recycled traits while the other has accomplished a healthy return, full of life and giving the blackened blessing of longevity a new tint of darkness. "Hell to the Holy" is a very admirable product from one of the most underrated lineups ever to grace the realm of heavy metal through its swarm of demonic tenors and retching violence, biting and twisting like that old dog your scary neighbor owns that just won't let nature take its body back into the earth. I'd definitely check this out if you enjoyed Dolan-era Venom or just want something full of trashy mayhem and energizing malevolence. Lucifer’s exile from heaven eventually made him proud, knowing Mpire of Evil will always be at his left hand.

This review was written for: - GuntherTheUndying, March 26th, 2012

M-PIRE OF EVIL ''Hell to the Holy'' - Review by The Daily Stab

Without a shadow of a fucking doubt, ''Hell to the Holy'' is one exciting, eerie, fucked up, atonal, and often disjointed record. That being said, you gotta be severely ignorant to call that a bad thing in the case of MPIRE OF EVIL. This is the return of VENOM. This is authentic, vintage, organic, and less than pretentious. Need I say more? It's exactly what it should be. It ain't trying to be anything it ain't. It kicks an impressive amount of ass in its own right, and gets to call the shots. It's that simple. This is the real fucking deal if you're a knowledgeable disciple of the oldschool incarnation of this particularly heavy, and often substantially bluesy approach to blackened thrash n'roll. This band gets to create their own sub-genre. They aren't a categorization victim; they're the creators of a movement of their own. What I especially admire about this release is that it does contain some moments in which you get the clear image of that smokey catacomb-like rehearsal room within which the members of this tribe bounce ideas off of each other; you certainly can pick up on the dedicated, filthy, and daring jam-out spirit. Some tracks fall into the pattern of verse-chorus-verse-solo-chorus, but even those seem to manage to get heavier, punchier, and grittier as they progress; the material we have here is escalating Anger of the rawest kind. That being said, even through this libertine labyrinth of demented musings, it's easy to single out those flashy riffs and leads that probably took enough of a long while to fully flesh out before they landed on the record; those works of art have a typically euro (a-la-JUDAS PRIEST) stamp upon 'em, and I also have to pinpoint the fact that this band's approach to crushingly heavy fucking doom is also masterful, reminding me of one Tony Iommi, compromising for no one. The Southern-tinged and whiskey-soaked upbeat pace that can be found in some of these tracks does correspond to the NWOBH tag, but MPIRE OF EVIL doesn't simply stick to the initial recipe; they take each inspiration they draw from, and fearlessly bend and twist 'em as much as they damn well please; the result is a sexually thrilling one.

''Hellspawn'' starts off on safe grounds with one fucking catchy structure that works instantly, and is also memorable in all departments. It's fairly short, but cuts to the chase; no dwellings, no valleys, it's bringing the goddamn goods in without wasting one second polishing them up, and it's just as well. This ''rough around the edges'' production and song structure is one that hails straight from the well-cherished memory of its inception; it doesn't bullshit, and it plain rocks. ''Metal Messiah'', instead of relying mostly on the strength of a main riff and tight rhythm section, progressively blossoms into one mind-blowing thrash metal track that is simply relentless, and its lead section is, by far, the most impressive one we have here. ''Waking Up Dead'' is more low-profile and pedestrian as it begins, albeit when it reaches its mid-section, the fact that it's also gonna be a moment to remember progressively turns into an absolute no brainer; the climax of its progression got me thinking it's a grower, rather than a simply bland/inferior approach. ''Hell to the Holy'' is pleasant in all departments. ''Snake Pit'' is one of those fucking unstoppable downward spirals of reeking putrefaction that never gets old, no matter how blatant it is (to just about anybody that's familiar with the genre) that it isn't exactly unheard of. It's one of those tracks that probably sticks out a lot more in a live setting, while experiencing the actual Snake Pit. Nevertheless, it fires on all cylinders. ''All Hail'' entwines dark melodies with a punchier, grittier flipside, and works brilliantly. ''Devil'' is one fucking creepy and scruffy moment of worship for the nature of the beast, being the fact that blues is an important component of the heart of this sub-genre. Kicking back and blasting this full volume, it's easy to let the focus shift into a transcendental state of mind you won't want to snap out of. ''Shockwave'' is a badass, devoid-of-any-and-all-ties kick in the face. It's adrenaline on overload, and it's one skillfully developed piece of mofo, let me tell ya. And just as I had to tilt my head, wondering if things would ever go downhill for this disc, ''The 8th Gate'' answered my question; the damn thing was, at that point, fully intent on making me dive straight into the depths of my BLACK SABBATH worship. This particularly lengthy (8:27) track is stubborn in the department of getting more and more macabre with each and every next statement it makes. Its main riff is highly reminiscent of how doom sounded back when it wasn't intentionally played *as* doom, back when some things naturally turned out to be ecstatically fucking dark, straight out of the woodwork. And *that* is one majestuous way to get my nostalgia going. ''Mpire (Prelude)'' is fucking tasty and heavier than seven buildings crashing on the back of one's throat. I wouldn't've ended the album any other way.

Final verdict? This is a thing of beauty, for one bold reason; it ain't trying to be. Don't discredit authenticity; learn from it.

RATING: 8.5/10

M-PIRE OF EVIL ''Hell to the Holy'' - Review by Lords Of Metal

A couple of months ago Mpire Of Evil released the mini-CD ‘Creatures Of The Black’, on which were featured four cover songs and two songs of their own. Naturally that was a calm before the storm (cracks now know what I mean), Mpire Of Evil now has his debut done too. Should you have been lying under a rock, the band is founded as Prime Evil (now it is an anagram of that) by former Venom guitarist Jeff “Mantas” Dunn, ex Venom drummer Antony “Annton” Lant (indeed, the brother of Cronos) and interim Venom singer Tony “The Demolition Man” Dolan. The last one has a talent for hardly letting you know you’re not listening to Cronos. Recently (mid January while I write this) I was told that Annton has put his main focus elsewhere now. The choice was between his family, his own band Def-Con-One and Mpire Of Evil due to scheduling trouble, so it was last in, first out.
But Mpire continues, as Mantas can’t go on playing for the German house act Scooter. I am not kidding even. The first and most obvious question is in how far you could compare this to Venom. That question is very legitimate, considering such a past, with on top of that the fact that Mantas has written literally all Venom classics. That makes it undeniable to hear him play in any band without making the association with his breakthrough role. Add to that the distorted bass and the roaring voice of The Demolition Man and it is already of no importance anymore who plays the drums to that, the comparison is made already. It is clear that Annton is a much better drummer than Abaddon, but his style too was borrowed by Venom on releases in the past. With Mpire however, the band wants to step back to the time before The Grandmaster Of Hades And Mayhem (look that up) broke through, to the bands that have influenced him. They displayed these intentions with the mini-CD already, they continue that line.
The first thing that catches my attention is the tremendous eagerness the band plays with. This results in an entrance to reckon with. In the first minute I know the album is better than its appetizer. Mantas has clearly grown as a guitarist through the years, but he still is as unmistakable as ever. Fuck, how cool is this! And despite the fact you hear the difference on numerous occasions, you may be tempted to think it is actually Cronos singing along, while it is The Demolition Man. Is that a merit, or should you be less enthusiastic about that? That is yours to decide, but the only thing I can say about it, it seems effortless to him to do this. His charisma is slightly less, his vocals have a slightly broader range. The biggest deviation on the disk is ‘All Hail’, with some clean guitar and typical rocksolo’s. And the stadiumesque backing vocals, lest I forget to mention, that also comes back on ‘Shockwave’ among others. And if you are listening on a PC, ‘Snake Pit’ comes to a bit of an abrupt ending. But in general it is oldschool NWOBHM that is celebrated here. It is not the style closest to the heart of Annton’s, but that doesn’t show a single bit. He keep things traditional, but he adds a little swing to it. This is obligatory for Venom fans that don’t want to limit themselves to the first two, maybe three albums.
The sound is mature, the spirit Young at heart and wild. This is what you want to hear when you wake up, are woken up and before you go to sleep. The best songs are concentrated in the beginning a bit, but the tension doesn’t fall back anytime though. Some parts are pure brutality, especially ‘Shockwave’ must be a nightmare to practice along for Mantas. Another thing that catches the eye is that there’s a song with the title ‘The 8th Gate’, which brings back history even more. The intro reminds vaguely of ‘Burried Alive’, combined with an intermezzo of ‘At War’ and a bit of the intro of ‘Possessed’. The song itself by the way, is nearly eight and a half minute long. But that can be done two and a half times longer if necessary, Mantas knows. In this song you also get a lot more modern influences. It even has a sort of doom vibe, which feels quite sinister. I love it, but when you play slow and it sounds cool, it becomes extra cool. “Now you have the key, for eternity”... “now you turn the key, to your destiny”. And the fact you can become immortal through music, needs no further elucidation. Go listen to this, not loose parts, the entire album! Only then you get the total picture. This is the very reason why metal fans became metal fans, stayed metal fans and will always be metal fans.

Rating: 88/100 (Review by Ramon)

M-PIRE OF EVIL ''Hell to the Holy'' - Review by Melodic Net
Little did I know that all 3 members of Mpire of Evil had been in Venom in different line up´s, I was only acquianted with guitarist Mantas but their drummer Antton is the brother of Cronos and he has also been in a more recent line up of Venom as well as bassplayer/singer Tony Dolan. They released a covers EP in 2011 called "Creatures of the black" that only included 2 original tracks but they sounded promising and I am pretty certain all fans of Venom will be pleased with the full length album "Hell to the holy" that comes out in March. This is a well performed album that goes more in the vein of classic metal rather than black metal, this is a powerful metal album and even if I´m not such a fan of their lyrics,I do enjoy the thundering riffs and Dolan´s vocals. "The 8th gate" is just as heavy as any Black Sabbath tune from their early era and "Shockwave" bring thoughts to Accept´s "Restless and wild" album, very cool.
M-PIRE OF EVIL ''Hell to the Holy'' - Review by Giornale Metal
Finalmente questo disco viene alla luce e lo attendevamo davvero da molto, molto tempo. Dietro il nome di Mpire Of Evil, ci sono due mostri sacri del metallo mondiale, ovvero Mantas e Demolition Man, noti per la loro militanza nei mitici Venom. Dopo aver iniziato come Prime Evil, hanno dovuto riadattare il proprio nome per poi esordire sul mercato discografico con il discreto EP Creatures of the Black uscito solo qualche mese fa. Oggi ecco finalmente venire alla luce questo eccellente Hell To The Holy un disco a dir poco perfetto. Da un punto di vista musicale, la band britannica prende moltissimo di Venom e questo in un certo senso potrebbe sembrare ovvio, ma questo progetto è bel complesso più incentrato sul thrash, con una forte tendenza verso le band più estreme della scena americana, tipo gli Slayer ad esempio, i gruppi di chiara matrice teutonica come Sodom e Kreator per la maggiore. Detto questo, gli Mpire Of Evil hanno una loro fortissima personalità, perseguono un'identità molto precisa, ma devo dire che hanno composto un album sbalorditivo, stupefacente, forse capace anche di scrivere una pagina importante nella storia de metal e vi dico subito che non sto assolutamente esagerando. Il disco è davvero molto bello, contiene brani composti in modo maniacale, con arrangiamenti impeccabile e strutture prive del minimo difetto. Poi a corredo, c'è uno spessore tecnico davvero molto elevato, soprattutto le parti di chitarra sono davvero egregie, oltre che curate in ogni dettaglio. Ma anche la sezione ritmica non è certo da meno, c'è infatti un continuo martellare senza alcuna sosta, oltre che una pregevole sintonia tra il basso e la batteria. La produzione è molto buona, il suono è adatto alla proposta musicale degli Mpire Of Evil e risulta moderno, limpido ed attuale. Onestamente non si può restare indifferenti ad un disco di questo valore, quindi a prescindere dai vostri gusti, direi che siete obbligati a farlo vostro.

Voto: 8,5/10

Maurizio Mazzarella  
M-PIRE OF EVIL ''Hell to the Holy'' - Review by Planet Mosh

On playing this album i recalled a quote from Geoff Barton when he reviewed Hell Awaits by Slayer for Kerrang (when it was worth reading) back in the 80′s. He said, “albums that make you throw back your head and shout woooooargh are few and far between”. Well,the debut album Hell To The Holy by M-Pire Of Evil is definitely one of those albums,clocking in at just over 50mins of utter brutality!

The band is lead by guitarist Mantas who metal fans must surely know was one of the founding members of the legendary black metal band Venom who paved the way for a lot of bands of this genre since the mid 1980′s. The band is made up by another 2 ex-Venom band members,Demolition Man on bass/vocals and Antton on drums  although they were not a part of the original line up. M-Pire Of Evil formed in 2010 when Antton joined Mantas’ then solo group Dryll and many Venom fans were over the moon when Demolition Man completed the line up.

In fact,the band asked Venom fans to choose a new name for the band,the most popular of which was Prime Evil,the title of a classic Venom album but as there was currently a band with that monicker for the same reason the name M-Pire Of Evil was born.  Their 1st recorded output was an e.p titled Creatures Of The Black,released  on Scarlet Records in October 2011. It contained 6 tracks,4 of which were classic cover versions of Exciter,God Of Thunder,Hell Aint A Bad Place To Be and Motorhead but the 2 originals, Creatures Of The Black and Reptile  were to whet the appetites of old Venom fans prior to their 1st full length  debut album Hell To The Holy.

Released again via Scarlet Records,the album is due on March 26th 2012  with a limited edition version luxury digipack with a poster of the band with a very striking cover by artist Gyula Havancsak who has worked for Annihilator,Grave Digger and Destruction to name but a few. Production of the album was handled by Mantas himself  and he does an herculean job as every vocal and instrumental part are turned up to the max with no loss of clarity.

Opening  track Hellspawn literally explodes in with the 1st of many immense guitar riffs on the album churning thru over 4 mins of no compromise heavy metal and a written review cannot do any justice to the guitar/drum passage midway. Metal Messiah’s rolling riff precedes yet another raging drum workout by Antton with a speedy melodic guitar solo added by Mantas. The mid paced stomp of Waking Up Dead is driven by a marching Rammstein like riff with even more guitar fills to up the metal mayhem. One of many highlights is next up,the 6.30 minute title track begins with a tolling bell/thunderstorm/wailing female voice sample followed by a demonic “whats your name” with a leering vocal over a razor sharp guitar riff. The slowest track so far but  the heaviest! The surging Snake Pit is next,the vocals portraying our love of going to a metal gig with references made to Judas Priest/Iron Maiden/Rainbow/Scorpions/Kiss/Angelwitch with the chorus telling us to “stake your place and bang your head,down in the snake pit!”. The song climaxes in a hyper speed assault with a “bang your head” refrain. All Hail is yet another drum laden stomper with gang vocals of  “all hail” adding atmosphere. Devil begins with a cajun type slide guitar before another huge Mantas riff takes over with the slide weaving in and out. The “2,3,4″ bellowed intro of Shockwave leads into an uptempo nwobhm riff and is probably the closest Venom sounding song on the album. My personal highlight is next. The 8 minute The 8th Gate drifts in with an ethereal intro, followed by a crushing guitar riff. The growled lyrics dealing with the afterlife and a melodic guitar solo 5 mins in leads into the cataclysmic finish,ending with the song’s intro again. The acoustic intro of album closer M-Pire Prelude is the calm before the storm as a drum beat gives way to a death metal vocal bellow over a concrete heavy riff.

So there you have it,an outstanding debut album from M-Pire Of Evil that any self respecting heavy metal fan will be blown away by. As yet there are no plans to tour the UK but the band will be touring the U.S with British thrashers Onslaught.

I award the album 10/10

M-PIRE OF EVIL ''Hell to the Holy'' - Review by Metal Rules
Most self-respecting metal fans are at least peripherally aware of Venom’s oft overlooked 1989 classic PRIME EVIL, but unfortunately many of those fans have never actually listened to it. Prior to its release, Venom had gone through some pretty turbulent times. After a complete lineup shuffle resulting in drummer Abaddon being the sole remaining member, original guitarist Mantas returned with Atomkraft vocalist/bassist Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan on board to assume responsibilities as Venom’s new frontman. That collaboration resulted in PRIME EVIL, an album that introduced Venom 2.0 and was the heaviest, meanest, and evil sounding Venom release in years. Even after the eventual reunion with Cronos, many fans felt that the creativity from the Dolan/Mantas period couldn’t be matched.
So why is all of this important? Because history repeats itself, that’s why. Though he’s been laying low since exiting Venom once again after 2000’s RESURRECTION, Mantas has reunited with Tony Dolan to form a new band, Mpire of Evil. A power trio rounded out by ex-Venom drummer Antton (and coincidentally brother to one Mr. Conrad “Cronos” Lant), Mpire of Evil proves that lightning really can strike twice. HELL TO THE HOLY is Mpire of Evil’s full length debut (a covers EP was released last year) and praise the dark lords,…amazing.
Easily better than anything released under the Venom moniker in decades and arguably better than the original PRIME EVIL collaboration, HELL TO THE HOLY is a powerfully heavy, melodic, well-crafted and pissed off collection of metal. Though there’s a definite familiarity to Venom’s classic proto-thrash, Mantas and company are not content to exist as a retro nostalgia act. The riffs are fresh and angry, the tunes are masterful lessons in why metal rules, and the band cranks like their lives depend on it.
HELL TO THE HOLY covers a broad range of musical territory, almost all of it a rousing success. “Hellspawn” and “Metal Messiah,” “Snake Pit” and “All Hail” are full on ragers, “The 8th Gate” and the title track are dirge laden and doom inspired, and “Waking Up Dead” is reminiscent of Venom’s looser, booze inspired anthems. Only the tracks “Devil” and “Shockwave” feel a little out of place on the disc, opting for a more “modern” metal vibe with some chugga riffs that play out too long. But as those two tracks are surrounding by a superior body of tunes, it’s an easy grievance to forgive.
Collectively, the performances on HELL TO THE HOLY are exceptional. Dolan’s still got a gritty, forceful bellow, and Antton’s work behind the drum kit is exponentially better than his work on METAL BLACK or HELL. But it’s Mantas himself who’s really the star of the show. The years of inactivity must have inspired the man, because his work on the six-string is phenomenal. More exciting and proficient than we’ve ever heard from the guy, it’s great to hear Mantas roar once again.
I didn’t know what to expect from Mpire of Evil when I pressed play, but holy crap, I was hooked from the opening kick to the gut. HELL TO THE HOLY is the kind of album that not only Venom fans, but metal fans of all kinds have been aching to hear for a long time. HELL TO THE HOLY is an album that can only come from age and experience, and one that you need to hear.
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
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