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How often have we disparaged a band who carried on just a few albums too long - you know where their style is radically changed, but they keep the old name to sell a few more records and squeeze a few more bucks out of the fans via "name recognition". We could all name more than a few, I'm sure (and that's just in the letter "M"...). It's refreshing to see a band who has the savvy to know when to change the moniker, which is exactly what Venom did when they mutated into Cronos. Venom's 'last' studio album before the 1988/89 breakup, "Calm Before the Storm", saw the band moving radically away from the crude, primitive black metal they had pounded out from day one. Mantas had been replaced by TWO guitarists and the songs had taken a more poppy/catchy/thrashy/mainstream bent - good for what they were, I suppose, but held back by two things: Abaddon's less-than-stellar drumming and the Venom name. Fortunately, Conrad Lant knew when to cut his losses. He got rid of both albatrosses, found a new drummer, and moved his stage name over into the 'band name' position and voila - Cronos is born.
Well, as you may have gathered from the above, the music on Cronos' first album, "Dancing in the Fire", isn't all that far from where Venom was going on "Calm..." - the songs are definitely metal, from mid tempo to thrashy, but there's a lot more of a mainstream/traditional bent to everything, even more so than on the 'last' Venom album. However, it works well - I get the impression Cronos (the man) was holding back, trying to keep this new direction in the 'Venom' vein back on "Calm...", but once free of the Venom name he could let the style flourish on its own. The riffs are really straightforward, nice and catchy, and the songs are nice little streamlined, tight compositions (sometimes a bit too short for my taste, but better to leave 'em hungry than waste food, right?). And Conrad actually sings - well, still sounding like his Venom-days, in a way, but he's really hitting notes and carrying melodies (and adding vocal harmonies to the choruses - how mainstream!). The technical soloing and riffing courtesy of Mike Hickey and Jim Clare give the guitar pyrotechnicians something to chew on, and Chris Patterson's drumming helps keep everything varied and energetic (as good as he is at what he does, there's no way Abaddon could pull this stuff off). Overall, the best reference point would be the song "Chanting of the Priests" from the Venom live album and "Calm...".
Basically, the point is that if you go in expecting 'Venom' (i.e. the guys who brought you Welcome to Hell), you'll be disappointed, but if you want to hear some good, catchy thrash/power metal, you'll dig it. However, they do appease the old Venom fans on this one by including (on the CD) a cover of "At War With Satan" - not the FULL version, unfortunately, but the first six or so minutes - still pretty neat.
(Originally published at LARM (c) 1999)