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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Venom

Hell

Review by Mike Korn

The crusty demons of Venom refuse to go quietly into the abyss. The long time progenitors of black metal continue to trudge onwards through today's fragmented metal landscape...a landscape featuring bands more extreme than they ever could have imagined in their 80's heyday.

Yes, Venom have somewhat been left behind in this day and age of bands like Gorgoroth, Pig Destroyer and Brain Drill. The hipsters of extreme metal might consider these guys outmoded, but I feel there's still a place for crude and catchy metal that doesn't try to be the fastest or most technical out there. These guys will probably never touch the raw insanity of their first three classic records, but they can still unleash some rib-sticking metal with an evil bite.

Hell is the simple title of the latest effort from Cronos and Co. The addition of new guitarist L.A. Rage has given the band a more thrashy flavor but the style is not greatly different from their previous record Metal Black....thuggish mid-paced metal like a Satanic Motorhead. I remain a fan and as long as they churn out records like this, I'll always be ready to lay down my soul for the God's rock n' roll!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Straight To Hell
A horrendous barrage of guitar feedback gives way to a very basic thrash riff, which is where this tune stays for most of its length. This is pretty simple stuff and not the best the band has to offer, but it's pretty obvious that Cronos is in fine fettle with his usual growls and roars. He also demonstrates a pretty mean bass tone, which separates Venom from the Norwegian black metal bands, where the instrument is virtually invisible.
The Power And The Glory
The chief difference to this crunchy bruiser is Cronos' much more death metal tone...something new from him. The gnarly inhaled vocals actually sound pretty effective and give this tune some more depth. Brother Antton's drumming is thunderous and gets stronger with every album...he is way beyond Venom's original drummer Abaddon in terms of skill and power.
Hand of God
You can just about bet the third track on every Venom album will be a slower, catchier brute with a catchy feel to it and "Hand of God" fits the bill to a T. I actually find this to be one of the more compelling cuts on the album, with Cronos' spiteful lyrics making a mark: "When the End is Near/And All There Is Is Fear/ Can't Justify Those Old Beliefs/Raise Your fist and Yell/Smash the old Church Bells/Get Up Off Your Bended Knees"
Fall From Grace
This one has a nice chugging kick to it and more good lyrics: "Blood rich soil increases yield/Growing In the Battle Field."  It's also got some cool Sabbath-like riffs in the middle and Rage gets to show his soloing prowess to good effect. I would make this the first single myself.
Hell
Evil laughter and demonic sounds form a predictable intro for the epic title track, which has more of that chugging, stalking feel to it. Any fan of the recent Venom albums will find this a pretty familiar cut. In some weird way, the chorus here reminds me of Rob Zombie. There's tons of growling, snarls and yells from Cronos here...that boy likes to make a lot of noise!
Evil Perfection
This is the album's thrashiest song and one of the highlights. It includes tons of energy and more powerful drumming from Antton. This would be a killer live and I think it comes closest to the classic Black Metal sound.
Stab U In The Back
Bass and drum kick off this aggressive tune which is surprisingly "progressive" sounding for Venom.  OK, it's not exactly Dream Theater in terms of progression, but there are a variety of riffs and tempos compared to the band's usual simple tracks. It's a definite high point of the album and builds to a mighty climax.
Armageddon
This is a pretty typical example of the more "modern" Venom sound. It's not bad, but rather plodding. Again, it's Cronos' sinister lyrics and his excellent ominous delivery of them that provide most of the song's appeal.
Kill The Music
Fast and furious, this has more of a "rock n' roll" core beneath its thrashy exterior. The lyrics here are a bit cryptic and seem directed at someone the band knows...a former member, perhaps? It's not a classic tune, but definitely good for some headbanging.
Evilution Devilution
Here's the perfect example of how an almost caveman simple track can stay embedded in your brain. This is simplistic, chugging mid-paced metal, but marked by an incredibly catchy chorus and some of Cronos' most clever lyrics:  "Mutated gene selections/What will we be?/Heading off in all directions/Let's just wait and see." The mid-section here is crushingly excellent and Rage pulls off a terrific pure metal solo.
Blood Sky
Slow and ominous, this is as close as Venom has come to a true doom metal song in a long time. It is really heavy and the bass could sink a battleship. The tune's verses speed up to a mid-paced plod but the composition is dominated by those doomy riffs. It's another track that is very basic in its delivery but still effective.
USA For Satan
This has a really frantic, chaotic sound to it and the band again tries to reach for that thrashy Black Metal type of feel. This one should go down like a storm live and I can imagine beer-soaked crowds yelling "USA FOR SATAN!" along with the band. This is a killer tune that should have been the proper send-off for the album, although the mangling of the Star Spangled Banner at the end is pretty cheesy.
Dirge/The Awakening
This instrumental has some pretty decent riffs, but is really anti-climactic after "USA for Satan" and seems like filler to me. One guitar arpeggio is a blatant ripoff of Entombed's "Left Hand Path," leading to the conclusion that older bands can steal for newer ones as well as the reverse.
 
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