23RD GRADE OF EVIL is a Swiss Thrash Metal band that was founded in the 1990s and then known as Morbus Wilson. Under this original monniker the band released one album, “Corematic”. Between this release and 2004 there is a break, allowing for the band to think things over and even adopt a new name: 23RD GRADE OF EVIL. Why this name was chosen is unknown to me, but maybe the band’s second album (under this new name) may solve that riddle, since it is said that the band “explores the reality and anatomy of evil and the ancient struggle of good versus evil” on “Bad Men Do What Good Men Dream”. This album was released on the 20th June 2012 and follows the 2009 release “What Will Remain When We Are Gone”.
The new album was, like the previous one, recorded at the studio of V.O. Pulver, mastermind of the Swiss Thrash band GURD. V.O. also played lead guitar for the song “All My Lies”. Markus Flury (CHARING CROSS) played lead parts for “Get Out Of My Way” and “All My Lies”. The intro “Not Guilty?” was made possible with the help of Simon Infanger (http://www.downhill-mc.ch/). Live-wise the band has of course already played several gigs, including sharing the stage with PRO-PAIN and SEPULTURA, both occasions for the promotion of their 2009 debut album.
“Bad Men Do What Good Men Dream” begins with an intro consisting of a sighing man. A movie sample is played in which they talk about murders, 23 murders, about this number being that grade on the scale of evil. Of course this piece sounds dark and gloomy, helped by the piano, violin and cello, backed by industrial effects. This connects directly with “Blinded By Confidence”, which has a melodic, grooving and building intro. After that it’s Polka time, in Thrash format. The Metal is groovy, throughout the album, one song more than the other. But it’s also melodic. The verses pound on, have harsh vocals. This is also a constant on this album, mainly in the verses. The chorus is done at midtempo, but also with melodic input, sounding somewhat emotional. It’s a short track, simple in structure, but in general quite good.
“I Am Your God” is of course about religion, about worshipping one god, none other. The song takes a bursting start after which the Metal rolls on. The vocals are more vicious here and there seems to be a higher focus on the groovy guitar parts. The verses come into play very rapidly, as if there was no time for a proper intro. The verses contrast with the melodic, atmospheric bridge, which connects with a chorus that pounds onwards in half-time. It’s simple, dark and to the point. A clean break precedes the solo moment, at which point the music is more powerful again. Afer that it’s back o the bridge, chorus and end. The title track, “Bad Men Do What Good Men Dream”, begins with a melodic piece, followed by pounding Heavy/Thrash Metal. Yep, the Thrash is less dominant now, but the melodic input remains high. Speed is increased as the song advances: half-time pounding verses with that typical groovy guitar. This time the singing is clean, though has a rougher edge. The bridge is melodic, atmospheric, while the chorus pounds onwards even faster. As if a standard condition, te music remains catchy. No solos here, but another melodic, sung bridge that links back to the original bridge (or pre-chorus) and chorus. All in all, an ok song, but nothing super.
After these somehow less attractive songs, the next trio can definitely be considered highlights. Starting with “Lullaby For The Weak”, which is a furious Thrash song and that’s exactly what was needed at this point. It sounds similar to KREATOR’s “Enemy Of God” album. One song on that release that comes to mind is “Suicide Terrorist”. It’s dark and vile… and good. A dreamy speech is due with half-time grooving before returning to the uptempo Thrash. Next is “You Don’t Know”, a rolling groovy song with a melodic edge. I like the catchy riffing and rhythm. The verses are simple and to the point. The bridge is melodic and sung (as opposed to the rougher voice of before), and sounds rather hymnic. Full power and melody is reserved for the chorus, which is how the song started. And last there is “Take My Life”. This one also begings with bursts and a shredding guitar, which, yes, goes into Polka-mode with the rest of the band. Nice, very nice guitarwork here. The verses pound onwards, have harsh vocals that fit. Luckily Zeno doesn’t overdo it, else it might contrast too heavivly with the music. He does shout more in the bridge and chorus. Around halfway there’s an atmospheric piece with solemn singing, followed by a solo. After this it’s business as usual.
But good times don’t seem to last very long on this album. Hence again a few less attractive songs. Of course taste plays a role, but still… “Scream And Shout” kicks in like a violent eruption, offering pounding Thrash with half-time grooving verses and screamy vocals. This changes into a more singing style in the melodic chorus. At some point a dark, slow piece is played, sounding rather hellish. And so the chorus returns and the end is nigh. Why not have a solo here or something that would make the song meatier, more attractive? “For Better Or Worse” offers grooving power to begin with and you get the impression another fast track is here. Alas, despite a melodic transition, it’s midtempo Metal that’s on offer. But the beat does get a bit Thrashier later on. The chorus is simple, it’s only the title. I understand you can’t always have a chorus of x-number of words, but this really could be dealt with better, no? The melodic transition is also used to go into a melodic, emotional bridge and so towards the solo. The Thrashier playing returns after this. Good, somehow, but as a whole not that exciting.
The last highlight is for a fast Thrash song: “Two Days A Week”. You get firm, straight-forward verses that groove. The melodic bridge even contains Hardcore influences, I thought, while the chorus is a very nice melodic Thrash one. Anothe bridge is due later, it’s tight and sung (i.e. not screamed), and so the previous bridge/chorus combo returns. The ending part is emotional and sounds quite different from what preceded. Maybe lyrically this can be justified, but musically I have my doubts. It sort of ruins the first part of the song, which was very good. The last three tracks are also among the less good ones. “Get Out Of My Way” kicks in directly with the verses, which are firm and straight-forward. But honestly, this doesn’t work well, beginning a song like this. It doesn’t work by itself and certainly not so soon after the previous one ended, as it makes it hard(er) to distinguish one song from the other. Some may thing this is a new part of the previous song. So, there should have been an intro of some sort. In my humble opinion, of course. Ultimately the band decides what to do. The chorus is pounding and vicious and there IS an intro (or building piece) before the solo. Still, it’s a mediocre song, sorry.
“All My Lies” is a midtempo melodic Heavy Metal song with pounding, grooving verses. The chorus is again melodic and has clean vocals and catchy melodies. The solo is the finishing touch. Good song, nothing special, though. Last but not least, “23” begins with a clean guitar piece, creating the impression the band will end with a ballad. Thankfully it’s another aggressive track, also indicated by the vocals. The bridge is again a place of melody, while the chorus offers groovy Heavy Metal. All ends like it began.
23RD GRADE OF EVIL is a new band for me. Their second album, “Bad Men Do What Good Men Dream”, offers groovy Thrash Metal with the occasional Polka Thrash tracks. The production is good, though quite polished. The songs are all quite short, simple in structure and direct. Sure, Thrash is about taking things by the throat, only I’ve got the impression these Swiss have good ideas – the majority of the songs stands out, but not enough to be blown away – but it is like they are refraining themselves from giving their all. As if they are saving the best for the next album, as in third time, best time. What’s missing here, if I may say, is spice. Even if the formula of simplicity works (depending on the song, also in general), it’s not needed to apply to each song here. Certain songs need more input, more meat, more ingredients to make the dish tastier. Long story short, this is a fairly decent album with the emphasis on groove and especially melody, but it could have been better.
- Not Guilty?
- Blinded By Confidence
- I Am Your God
- Bad Men Do What Good Men Dream
- Lullaby For The Weak
- You Don’t Know
- Take My Life
- Scream And Shout
- For Better Or Worse
- Two Days A Week
- Get Out Of My Way
- All My Lies
Zeno Pfister – vocals
Alexandr Lorenz – guitar
Tom Höpfner – bass, vocals
Stephan Emmenegger – drums