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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.