Monday, February 9, 2015

Venom - From The Very Depths

We all know Venom, the band that spawned a lot of what would become the extreme metal genres. They were thrash before there was thrash. They coined the term black metal. They influenced many of metal's heaviest bands all the while being part of the NWOBHM that sprung up in the UK during the late 70s. Although Conrad (Cronos) Lant is the only original member left, he has decided to carry on the Venom torch an astounding thirty-six years after their formation even though the band has disbanded and reformed several times over the years. Their most recent releases have been hit or miss and even though it seems that some have written them off....I haven't quite yet.

So 2015 brings us Venom's fourteenth full length album, From The Very Depths and it is this album that gave me some hope that this legendary band still has some life left in them. Now, granted, I have not heard anything since Metal Black, which was not a bad album, just not as strong as I would like. That said, I saw them in September of 2006 and they slayed, although the set was extremely short, so they have yet to put a bad taste in my mouth. Sometimes it's that bad taste that will prevent listener from even giving a band's new releases a chance. But when you have a song open an album (there's an intro that seems useless) like the title track to this album, it might be time to give the band another chance. This song just kicks your teeth in from the start. This is the Venom we all know and love, pummeling riffs, screaming solos, and Cronos's gruff vocals screaming about worshiping Satan. "The Death of Rock N Roll" shows the band's punk/metal hybrid roots with much more emphasis on the metal but maintaining the punky vibe. To round out the opening trio of crushers is "Smoke." This is a slow pounding song that just pummels you with a doomy heaviness. This is Venom doing doom rather well.

There's more to this album than that trio, though. "Stigmata Satanas" is another evil sounding crusher of a song. The riffs are just pounding on this song and it is just sheer heaviness. Cronos is sounding as evil as ever. "Crucified" is another song that just slays with pounding rhythms and evil riffs. These might not be the most innovative songs that the band has done but that does not take away from the sheer enjoyment of the songs. These are headbangers, through and through. "Grinding Teeth" is a Venom speed metal song that has that punk vibe just hanging there but it's mostly crushing metal that only Venom can produce. It;s after that song that the album seems to run out of steam a bit. The useless "Overture" that leads into "Mephistopheles," a song that starts off strong but falls away as it goes. This isn't a horrible song, but with the intro build up this should have been better. It just doesn't seem to go anywhere but leaves you hanging like there should have been more. "Wings of Valkyrie" plods along and is a skip worthy song. Sad because with a name like that it should have been better. "Rise" finishes the album and lifts it up just a bit after the plodding before it.

So what this album shows is that Venom is capable of writing really good songs. They should have cut their losses and released the album without the last four tracks. This album is far from perfect, but it's no turd either. Listen to songs two through ten, skip the rest.


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