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After the disappointing album Possessed and Mantas hightailing it to pursue a solo career, remaining members Cronos and Abaddon recruit two guitarists to take his place. With a new line-up in place, Venom would march into the studio and record their fifth studio album Calm Before the Storm.
With this release, Venom (or what I've read from interviews, Cronos) decided to do some experimenting. Unlike Possessed where the music sounded worn-out, redundant and de-evolved, Storm does the total opposite and goes too far into left field and in the process Venom alienated a lot of their fans. Cronos and crew threw most of their "black metal" sound out the window for a more upbeat traditional simplistic thrash sound.
Don't get me wrong, I don't mind when bands experiment (unless its Metallica). Without bands changing their sound or experimenting, we wouldn't have stellar albums like Iron Maiden's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son or Judas Priest's Painkiller. But Venom's experiment...well...I guess it might have been better if the songs overall were better.
What really hurts album is the songs aren't that great. The new "sound" might have been more stomach-able if it produced some killer tracks. The only real standouts are Black X-Mas, Chanting of the Priests, and the title track, but that's about it. These songs are only memorable because of some catchy courses and some good rhythms. Black X-Mas, probably the albums best track, is far too short clocking in at just under the 3 minute mark. This only adds salt to an already open wound.
The rest of the songs are just simple and unmemorable. Metal Punk is an attempt at a "punk" metal song, and it fails. Under a Spell, Krakin' Up, Beauty and the Beast, Deadline, Gypsy, and Muscle all suffer from mediocrity with poor to silly lyrics and a considerable lack of good guitar solo's. It's sad to say but after listening to this album, I can see where Venom sorely misses Mantas's guitar talent and song writing abilities. Many people might be unaware but Mantas was responsible for most of Venom's more memorable and kick-ass songs from their earlier releases and without him, the band seems lost.
The one really good thing is that Venom finally got decent production as there is no comparing the production of Storm and Possessed when it comes to production quality. Sadly, just because an album has decent production doesn't necessarily make it good, as with the case here.
Fans retaliated against the album and Cronos knew it, so he took Mantas's replacements and jumped ship to record some solo albums where he would continue to refine this new "sound", and I have to admit, he did crafted the sound better in his solo efforts (He would even re-record the song "Fire" for his solo compilation creatively titled "Venom")
Will die hard fans like this CD? Most probably won't but there are a few fans like me that will find at least a few songs too like here.
Calm Before the Storm...another entry into Venom's interesting and complex history as a heavy metal band. More interesting entries would come later....
It should also be mentioned that Storm has been re-released numerous times sometimes under different tiles and covers. Make sure to steer clear of the versions released under the names Metal Punk and Beauty and the Beast as they are cheap issues with silly cover art and considerably lower sound quality. Either get the original Neat Records release with the original lightning bolt cover or the Deadline re-issue with some sort of weird man/cat creature on the cover.