None more black
Seminal metal band Venom celebrated the quarter century mark of their career with the release of last year's boxset titled MMV: The Ultimate Venom Collection. With such undisputed and influential classics as a part of their history, including1981's Welcome To Hell, 1982's Black Metal, and 1983's At War With Satan, some of their more recent output hasn't quite lived up to their fan's expectation. Vocalist/bassist Conrad 'Cronos' Lant (who is also the band's sole original member) has returned with guitarist Mike 'Mykus' Hickey (who played on Venom's 1987 release Calm Before The Storm as well as Cronos' post Venom projects) and drummer Antony 'Antton' Lant (who is also Conrad's brother and has been with the band since 2000's Resurrection) with what can only be a conscious effort to re-ignite the flame of the band's traditional black metal past thanks to not only the title of their new album, Metal Black, but also the album's artwork and its raw and edgy production as well.
Wasting no time, Cronos declares Venom's return with Antechrist, and a welcome return it is. In an age of digital recording and perfect sounding albums, it's refreshing to hear something as raw as the production on Metal Black which clearly gives the album the character it needs to fit nicely into Venom's niche carving style that they pioneered very early on in their career. Burn In Hell continues the fury established with Antechrist before House Of Pain relies on a simple and slow pace to create it's menacing tone. Death & Dying returns to a quicker semi-thrash pace whilst the trio of
Regé Satanas, Darkest Realm and A Good Day To Die all utilise a pace that lies somewhere between rock 'n' roll and metal to deliver the goods.
The guitars that usher in Assassin seem to be even more stripped back production wise as the track chugs along with a full head of steam before Lucifer Rising, Blessed Dead and the decidedly slightly more evil sounding than the rest Hours Of Darkness continue to throw in plenty of variety that keeps the album interesting via differing tempos and some quality riffs and lead breaks. The album finishes in fine form thanks to a brutal combination of heavy hitters in the double kick laden Sleep When I'm Dead, the infectious and dark Maleficarvm and the fast and furious title track, Metal Black which is wraps it up in style.
Venom is and always will be Venom. Metal Black encompasses all of that perfectly - from the album's satanic imagery that adorns the artwork through to Cronos' lyrics and the imperfect, rough production of the album, it's all here. If Metal Black's intentions were for a return to the glory days of Venom's genre defining early releases, then there's no doubt that it has achieved its goals. In today's extremely diverse metal scene, it might not have the impact as its 1982 long lost cousin (aka Black Metal), but the evil spirit that is Venom is alive and well on this one.
(Castle Music/Sanctuary Records/Shock Distribution)