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Let me start this review by saying that I am a hardcore Venom fan. Fucking HARDCORE. Venom has long been my second-favorite band, second only to Black Sabbath, and I’ve followed the band over the years through all the ups and downs, alt-rock trends, lineup changes and reunions, and noticed the general indifference of the mainstream and many who claim to be metal fans. I was there before the classic lineup originally fractured, and I know this band’s music back to forward. The positive influence Venom’s music has had on my life and my own music cannot be overstated. In truth, Venom has damned my soul, and I love it!
There seems to be a perception among some so-called fans that Venom released a couple of classic albums and then did naught worth shit after that, or that “without so-and-so in the band, it ain’t Venom.” Venom has in all its many incarnations never released an album which sucked, although the critically-panned Calm before the Storm might be an easy target due to its somewhat more traditional metal direction. Fallen Angels will stand for many devout followers as the strongest album of the recent trinity of albums, being Metal Black, Hell and now, Fallen Angels.
The album starts off in aggressive fashion with “Hammerhead,” a track which could be a tribute to all loyal fans which have followed the band for thirty years. “Nemesis” is pure thrash mayhem, and on “Pedal to the Metal” the band puts it to the floor. After several grinding, mid-paced tracks including “Lap of the Gods,” “Damnation of Souls” and Beggarman, “The band then pull out all the stops for “Hail Satanas,” likely my favorite song on the album, featuring a killer guitar riff and pounding drums. Guitarist Rage, no longer the new boy, makes the role his own, playing rhythms and scorching lead solos which perfectly fit the style of Venom yet never appear as a rip-off of a certain former Venom guitarist, and over the course of the album new drummer Dante shows that he means business, nestling comfortably into the percussive Venom drumming style as if he’s been there from the beginning.
The second half of the album relaxes for not one second. “Punk’s Not Dead” may be an odd song title for a metal band, but from a historical perspective Venom swallowed the punk ethic of speed, aggression and attitude and then puked it back up, forming the monster that is Black Metal. Cronos’ trademark bass tone and sliding notes are noticeably present, and on the title track the mainman takes the lead, ripping out a Geezer Butler-esque intro on the 4-string. Other strong tracks include “Valley of the Kings," the thought-provoking bonus track “Annunaki Legacy,” which focuses on the Sumerian myth of extraterrestrials who created humans as a slave race, and “Death be Thy Name.” Seeming to revisit the topic of death incarnate as heard on “Old Man Death” from the Metal Black album, if you’ve never been afraid to die, then this track is sure to change your mind. There’s even a bit of acoustic guitar on “Lest We Forget,” a nice but somber guitar instrumental, which will remind longtime fans of melodic tracks such as “Mayhem with Mercy” from the classic Welcome to Hell album.
If you truly understand that heavy metal is, was and will always be the devil’s music, then you can’t go wrong with Fallen Angels, an album that stands side by side with the early albums that made this band's legend. Fallen Angels is heavy as fuck and blows the living shit out of most of what tries to pass for metal these days. If you’re disgusted by former death metal legends turned metalcore sellouts, then Venom is your best bet for raw and evil music dedicated to the Lord of Darkness. His Satanic Majesty sits proud, and thirty years into the game Venom still play metal fucking loud. I’m giving Fallen Angels a 100, because I fucking can. If you get what this band is about, if the philosophy behind the madness that is Venom resonates within your soul, I salute you. If you don’t like Venom, go suck a dick. You are truly worthless.
It's finally upon us. After months of waiting, colossal black metal band Venom has finally released their new album, Fallen Angels. Cronos and crew open things off with a cocksure, fist-pumping Hammerhead, powerful and heavy. Already a new Venom classic to my ears. The lines “Black Metal In Your Souls” and the chorus “Hammerhead – Hammerhead – Headbanger – Headbanger” should make sure this to be the bands new metal anthem. From the very first note to the closing title track, Fallen Angels is non-stop metal mastery. Even the less memorable moments, the few that exist, are still of the highest caliber where this brand of metal is concerned. In many ways the album harkens back to the days of Black Metal and Possessed, yet remains consistent with the more modern approach taken on later efforts.
The band sounds confident and focused and this is an attitude they never drop throughout the album. One thing that strikes me immediately is the great production. It's very clean, but raw and back to the roots, not overproduced like many modern metal albums are today. Just phenomenal. Sounds absolutely crushing. Of course, when you think about Venom, the first thing that comes to mind is the name Cronos. The years haven't dulled Cronos razor-sharp tongue a bit. If anything, his vocal venom is more potent than ever. One of metal's all-time greats, Cronos trademark snarl and penchant for creating infectious vocal hooks are the frosting on this concrete-baked cake. Hell, we even get a bit of Welcome To Hell-era screams and wails scattered throughout the album's 13 tracks. Just listen to the kick ass song Pedal To The Metal and you'll hear what I mean. Back this up with some awesome talent from Rage on guitar and Dante on drums and you have the ultimate black metal power trio ready and primed to lay waste to the musical landscape.
Though Fallen Angels is not without its standout cuts, there is a real "album" quality to this one. Every single track is strong. No filler material at all. The notables are many though, including the aforementioned Hammerhead, Pedal To The Metal, and Nemesis with its absolutely hellish, old school thrash lick. That's no lie, the damn thing burns so hot you'll swear you smell smoke, like in the strong groove track Beggarman and the black metal roots in Hail Satanas. Add to this list the memorably-written title track at the very end, a heavy, viscous number that after a long bass introduction really get moving. A very powerful finale.
Some of the songs on the previous two albums Metal Black and Hell did tend to get repetitive. This album is something completely different as songs change tempo and riffs are very often. One clear example is Lap Of The Goods with a great break in the middle of the song. So Fallen Angels has a good bit of variation to a certain extent. I mean, it's all in the context of Venom, but they kind of explore everything the band has dipped their glorious fingers into over the course of their 30 year career. You have the epic (Fallen Angels), the thrash (Nemesis), the heavy/doom (Hammerhead), and the modern/groove (Lap Of The Gods), and even the early years-era hardcore-ish (Punk´s Not Dead). This album is a Venom diehard's wet dream. It has everything. Compared to the albums since the restart of the band in 2006, it sounds better. It has more energy, more vibe. There´s more craft to it, with stronger songs and evidence they´re still head and shoulders above the many young pretenders they spawned.
What we get is pure Venom-metal, served up with an additional side order of exemplary songwriting and an attention to detail and choruses that I haven’t heard from Venom since the mid-1980s. It is right up there with their very best records. Yes, it is. The band´s first four albums have become so universal and iconic that it seems pointless to use them as benchmarks by which to assess anything that followed. Take them out of the equation, though, and Fallen Angels is unquestionably the best of the rest.
Venom and the influence of their music is now virtually taken for granted. You don't even have to have heard the music of this band to know that Venom were an innovator not only of 'black metal', but extreme metal in general. Albums 'Welcome To Hell', 'Black Metal' and 'At War With Satan' will never be forgotten by metal. In other words, regardless of what this band does nowadays, their fame is sealed. All the same, Venom are still up and running, although bassist and frontman Conrad Lant (aka. Cronos) is the only one remaining from the original lineup. 'Fallen Angels' probably won't help the band gain any new fans, but it's not disappointment either. Ultimately, Venom's latest will be enough to appease metalheads, without surprising them any.
While I have heard plenty about Venom and their great influence on plenty of bands I love, I have admittedly new to their music as a whole. Nonetheless, I can identify a large difference here when compared to Venom's classic sound. 'Fallen Angels' has an alcohol-fueled party feel to their brand of ballsy speed metal, but the sound is much cleaner than I would have expected. There is not longer the black metal-inspiring atmosphere to Venom's sound, although I'm sure this is no new surprise to existing fans of the band. The music incorporates some great thrash riffs, and- to draw a modern comparison- this incarnation of the band reminds me of High On Fire's burstfire sludge. As a three piece, each member contributes a considerable part to the sound, although Cronos certainly has the upper hand. His distinctive balance between a rasp and melodic vocals gives a character to many of these songs.
Although there are a few great riffs here, the songwriting does not spark any classic tunes. The opening anthem to metalheads 'Hammerhead' is powerful, and 'Damnation Of Souls' has a classic Venom feel to it, but 'Fallen Angels' doesn't strike me as a consistently great record. The lyrics here are fairly awful, revolving around heavy metal cliches that bands they influenced made tired decades ago. Save for a powerful closing title track and meager acoustic interlude, each song on 'Fallen Angels' treads the same territory. Finally, while Cronos' voice has plenty of thrashy charisma to it, his cleaner vocals fall flat more than once. All of this results in a passable, but ultimately uninteresting album.
Venom still have something to say with their music, but some songs here ('Hail Satanas' and 'Punk's Not Dead') almost feel like a self-mockery at this point. Venom have done much better before, and although it won't repulse non-fans of Venom to listen to, 'Fallen Angels' seems like one of those albums that a long running band comes out with moreso to appease their fans than offer something truly fresh to listeners.
As a man that goes back with Venom 30-years next summer I admit to a tremendous amount of trepidation when it comes to any post-Resurrection releases that, in my eyes, have stultified the band’s unhallowed name. Already into the first track “Hail Satanas” and hearing the ho-hum vision, I wasn’t exactly impressed, but I’m going through twice as always.
I honestly went into this thinking it was going to be more assembled refuse from Cronos and whoever else he has in the shell that is Venom these days, but I’d be lying if I said this album was bad. In fact, it’s really not too bad at all. That said it’s not the dark and horrifying Venom we’re used to, so dispel the notions of a new era’s “In Nomine Satanas” or “In League with Satan” right away; the opening track in “Hail Satanas” is widely misleading in that the absolute danger associated with Venom’s image is long washed away by age, a changed musical tide, and a lack of Jeff Dunn and Tony Bray. On that note, Rage and Dante provide a solid backbone to Fallen Angels with some very potent guitar work and competent drumming that often makes one miss Abaddon less and less when it becomes apparent he was the weakest link in the chain all of these years. However, no effective replacement for Jeff Dunn has ever been found for that original ‘dirty’ sound that is both necessity and longing element.
“Damnation of Souls” is one of the tracks that call ever slightly upon the old-school Venom feel, providing a designated journey backwards for a brief few minutes as Cronos and company power through the track with not so much of a hint at reticence. This album is not a distant past glories re-validation for Venom by any stretch, but for its main function and purpose it’s really more than just okay and will more than likely find a soft spot in the black hearts of many a Venom fan, young or old. Other songs like “Beggarman”, “Lest We Forget” and “Sin” are fluid pieces of a larger puzzle that have more memorable and interesting riffs than pedestrian rehashes. Completing the musical picture are some slower, unexpected passages here and there that are not only perfectly-placed but timed accordingly to not wear out a welcome or simply take up empty space. As a whole, the original Venom sound is, at the very least, altered and more modernized to pretty much blend in with the modern thrash bands of today. The crisp, think production doesn’t necessarily deny a lineage as much as it showcases a different Venom that, for this record, manages to encapsulate a resonating and palpable sound.
I’ve always said that Venom lost that familiar edge once they learned to effectively play their instruments. At worst it’s an insult of high order; at best it’s a testament to the fact that even a minimalistic band with borderline talent can destroy and conquer the masses with honest, integral music that influenced a virtual planet of musicians from 1980 onward. The band has certainly capitulated on its instrumental prowess of late, and this album has some really fine moments of old school heavy metal, even if the NWOBHM influence has long been washed away. Cronos sounds more lyrically-inspired than on Hell or Metal Black and while the original danger associated with Venom might be muffled the anger and volatility are still ever present.
Overall this is one of the better post-original lineup releases since Prime Evil. I’m once more glad to be proven wrong, especially concerning a band that has, quite literally, molded and shaped my life in large ways…and damn them to Hell for that!
(Originally written for www.metalpsalter.com)
I could really go either way on most of Venom's output since the 'revival phase' that started with their 1997 comeback Cast in Stone. A few of the newer records, like Metal Black and Resurrection were not half-bad, but I'll be damned if I can remember anything from the last effort Hell. Unfortunately, Fallen Angels ends up in that same trough of unmemorable writing and is unlikely to capture the same attention or mete out the same inspiration that their filth-ridden masterpieces Welcome to Hell (1981) and Black Metal (1982) once enjoyed; two of the most influential 'extreme' metal records to date in the entire medium, and two personal favorites. I remained an addict to Venom's shifting landscape even through the oft maligned 80s records with Tony Dolan, but in 2011, I'm afraid the writing has become quite flat.
To a degree, Venom is still attempting to sound like the trio most know and love (or hate) when reflecting back on their halcyon days, even if this is not at all that same trio. Cronos is still using his grimy, hoarse vocal tones and the riffs remain total throwbacks to a mixture of primal speed/thrash and NWOBHM. The 'bulldozer' bass tone on the album is quite large, similar to a Motörhead level, but it never really weaves in anything interesting, merely coasts along as some copious substrate to support the bland guitar riffing. The newer members Rage and Dante do their jobs, but that's not saying much, since the note progressions are all pretty thoughtless or obvious and it doesn't seem like a lot of effort was placed in them. Songs like "Nemesis" and "Pedal to the Metal" barrel along with a youthful hostility, and to be sure, Venom was all about the crass simplicity and blasphemy of its compositions, and yet none of these really stick to the ears. In fact, without the presence of Cronos' sinister frontmanship, Fallen Angels would feel like any random bar band jamming out some old school metal songs...
And that is just not good enough for this old timer. To be fair, Venom does much to mix up the pacing of the record, so it's not some monotonous slog through the same territory. They unleash a slower, groovier style in "Hammerhead", which sounds like meaty mosh-thrash but has not a single interesting riff. An acceptable acoustic interlude in "Lest We Forget". They go for lengthier atmosphere in the titular "Fallen Angels", and yet once the metal thunder arrives, the guitars are just as vapid and forgettable as anywhere else, despite this being one of the few points where the bass surges along craftily in a vat of distortion. A couple of the later pieces like "Sin", "Death by the Name" or "Beggarman" border on having some spry, fun patterns of punishment, but even here they feel only marginally more exciting than on the rest of the record.
The album has a loud, pumping production, and Cronos does his best to create those diabolical lyrical embellishments he is so renowned for, but Fallen Angels is ultimately not going to force a sweat on any host of seraphs, much less clip their wings. If you're simply in the mood for hearing this veteran's drawl over commonplace, dime a dozen riffs, then I'd hardly call the album a disaster, but it not once offers any reason to choose it over anything the band unleashed from about 1981-1992, nor even a few of their other post-comeback albums. In fact, this might just be the least interesting and/or amusing Venom record to date.