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When having a look at the ratings of the other review writers, I am really surprised about their high valuations. Of course, I respect their opinions. I just have to admit that I cannot share their point of view. In my humble opinion, "Hell" is as attractive as a rotten egg. It stinks terribly. Neither brutal nor entertaining, Cronos and his bodyguards maltreat their instruments in the most boring manner. I do not remember great riffs, haunting melodies or catchy parts. Instead, I am almost shocked by the lack of creativity. Not to mention the sound. The blunt and muffled production is abominable. It belongs to the worst recordings in the history of Venom. The low-tuned guitars are harmless, Cronos is sparing with interesting vocal lines and the powerless drums sound gruesomely. With very few exceptions, the songwriting process has led to meaningless pieces of sonic pollution. In particular the chugging guitar sucks. Believe me, it is hard for me to write such a review with regard to the merits of the black metal inventors.
But in order to bring the truth to light, let´s focus, for example, on the vocals. If you take the booklet and read the lyrics with a monotonous and dull voice, you imitate the expressionless performance of Cronos in an almost perfect manner. Maybe you also like to growl like a dog from time to time in order to be the perfect copycat. However, any kind of original vocal acrobatics does not show up on "Hell". The lyrical content itself makes me shiver. "USA - USA - A satanic nation / USA - USA - USA - USA for Satan". My simple advise is: do not call yourself Cronos if you want to deal with political issues. I still hope that this was just a parody. But I fear that the guys really want to be taken seriously. However, one might be able to overlook such lyrical nonsense as long as the music reaches at least a fairly good level. Unfortunately, this is absolutely not the case. Well, two songs attract attention. "Hand of God" is distantly related to the original "Manitou". The here presented tune is also based on an unusual and dominant contribution of the drums. "Evil Perfection" offers a more or less thrilling riff and a relatively vibrant chorus. That is sufficient in order to stand out, even in view of the fact that the song also presents some mediocre guitar lines.
Despite a few interesting moments, the remaining tracks reveal a blurred mishmash of deep tones that do not make sense. To express it cynically, the highly original title of the album does not only mark a new triumph of creativity. Additionally, it can be understood as an omen at the same time. Unfortunately, it is a very bad omen for the entire unimaginative album. Its songs are interchangeable and colourless, not least because of the uninspired guitar solos. They are totally negligible. Summing up, Venom´s black metal never shined with spirituality. But despite changing line-ups, the band always proved its capability to perform a good mix of serious compositions and chaotic or funny outbursts. "Hell" is different. It wants to generate an atmosphere of negativity. But this experiment fails completely.
To quote the mighty Cronos: "BWAA-HAHAHAHA!"
2008's "Hell" may be not an instant Venom classic, but the devil be damned if it still ain't one hell of a ride. The overall sound and production is a bit cleaner than their previous effort, 2006's very slightly superior "Metal Black", but not quite as polished as say "Resurrection". The listener is either gonna love or hate this; personally, it doesn't bother me since most of what's presented here is total kickassery! Cronos' vox are just as mean as ever, maybe even more than so than before that the youthfulness has left his voice, allowing for a more evil, gravelly performance. His bass too is quite good, but again not quite as crushing as his work on "Metal Black". Still, a number of beastly riffs are unchained here, annihilating the listener with catchiness and the band's trademark rawness.
Joining Cronos on this ride to "Hell" are his younger brother Antton Lant on drums and "Rage" on guitars. Antton totally kicks here, but yet again is just not quite as good as his work on the group's last album. Still, he pounds those skins into molten mush, rattling your mortal brain in the process. Rage, on the other hand, is arguably the highlight of this album. This guy fucking shreds like NOBODY'S business; definitely 666 steps above many of the band's previous guitarists, save maybe for the mighty Mantas.
My main gripe with this album is the songs themselves, and how many there are. Seriously, thirteen? I mean that may not be a lot to some, but a metal album with over 10 or 11 songs tends to get repetitive and lost in itself, allowing for those dreaded fillers. That's what happened, to a somewhat worse extent, on "Metal Black", and occurs here too. "Dirge/Awakening" is an instrumental piece that ends the album, and could have easily have been excised due to its short length and lack of any really memorable moments, save for its speaker-blasting opening. Other songs like "Blood Sky", "Stab U In The Back", or the silly "Kill The Music" just sort of make the album longer. They don't particularly stand out and are forgotten almost right after the initial listen. Some songs however more than make up for the few shortcomings. "Straight To Hell" is one HELL (I'm sorry) of an opener, with Cronos' growling shouts and cruel laughing; Rage's amazing shredding are a highlight of this fist-pumping rocker as well. The awesome "Evilution Devilution" comes too late in the album in my opinion; very memorable thanks to thumping guitarwork and a simple but catchy chorus. "Hand Of God" is another thundering number, with some of Antton's strongest drumming and a vicious riff. But arguably the highlight here is the apocalyptic title track. Not only is it memorable thanks to a PAIR of catchy, galloping riffs, but the whole crew shines here. Cronos' bass is positively soul-smashing, Rage's brutal guitar shreds flesh, and Antton's drumming will turn your skull to dust, all with "Evil Perfection".
Overall, the album comes a bit short thanks some repetitivity and an occasionally too-clean sound, but the current trio still smashes mortal souls here with heaviness, catchiness and raw, evil power in a number of the tracks.
Written off more times than Rocky Balboa, Venom came blustering back in 2006 with what must have been at least the 4th comeback CD bearing the band's name, 'Metal black'. Driven by bassist and frontman Cronos alone from the original trio, the CD was a very satisfying, if not slightly flawed, effort from the legendary black metal progenitors and the haste with which its successor, 'Hell', has been released (even allowing for the departure of guitarist Mike Hickey) reflects an obvious desire to finally build some momentum.
Continuing in largely the same vein as 'Metal black', though with a slightly slower overall tempo, 'Hell' is another agreeable addition to the band's catalogue, though it must be said that the original Venom sound (i.e. snotty NWOBHM played too fast to bother staying in time) really isn't in evidence anywhere on the CD. Instead Cronos and his associates - brother Antton on drums and an unknown guitarist by the name of Rage – have crafted an oddly unique-sounding collection of songs that focus mostly on simplistic, pummelling riffs that requires a little patience to be enjoyed properly.
The production style lends to this aura – thankfully a step up from the rough-as-a-badger's-arse sound of 'Metal black' (surely down to a misguided attempt at replicating the rough-and-ready feel of the classics on modern equipment rather than genuine incompetence?), but definitely still very sparse and abrasive, and sure to dissuade listeners more sensitive to this aspect of the music.
A meaty proportion of the songs have great focus on mid-tempo chug, with Cronos' bass clanging so loudly that a guitar is barely necessary while the vocalist wretches out his usual underrated lyrical stylings. On first listen this makes the CD seems uninspired and painfully repetitious, but a few spins later and the songs dig their way into the brain and develop a hypnotic and impossible catchiness. 'Hand of god' and the doomish 'Blood sky' are possibly the best examples of this style.
Not to say that there isn't an injection of pace from time to time, and when 'Hell' does pick up speed the results are superb. "Kill the music", presumably a long-overdue jibe at former drummer Abaddon, is a nicely spiteful little number, and is also the only song on display to properly hark back to the early Venom sound, while the controversy-courting 'USA for satan' makes for an amusing end to the CD.
While more consistent than 'Metal black' (though with fewer moments of stand-out brilliance), 'Hell' unfortunately is just a tad overlong and would have been helped by the trimming of a couple of weak moments that cause the CD to suffer overall. 'Stab u in the back' is hampered by a weak chorus, which is a shame as it is, along with 'Evil perfection' and 'The power and the glory' (even allowing for a pretty poor pseudo-death growls on the latter) one of the more 'musical' songs on the CD. 'Fall from grace,' though, is the stick-out weak track, with the decent drum-and-vocal verses undermined by some second-rate, groovy riffs. The instrumental outro track "Dirge/The awakening" also feels unnecessary and out of place after the extended conclusion to "USA for satan", and it would have been better to have it either worked into a full song or dropped altogether.
In spite of these limitations though, 'Hell' is a definite triumph for Venom in their current incarnation, and more than justifies their continued existence as a recording entity. An unusual CD to be sure, and one that needs to be given some time to work its peculiar charms on the listener, but it proves well worth the effort in the end.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)
Where would´ve the underground ended up without the likes of Motörhead and Venom? Their groundbreaking combination of speed, white noise and pounding double bass was unlike anything else, drawing the blueprints for metal madness to come. While Motörhead stuck to the biker look and streetwise attitude, it was Venom´s satanic imagery that danced with the devil. The beast had crept into the music previously with Ozzy screaming “No. No” as satan was coming around the bend, but not until Cronos chanted “Evil. In League With Satan” was the horned one so effectual as he headbanged along to the beat of the band. Although the antics of Venom may have been somewhat tongue in cheek, it was this persona that influenced countless band in the underground today. Venom were probably the most influential NWOBHM band of them all, unwittingly created the genre of music known as Black Metal. Probably Death Metal and Thrash Metal as well. This is of course old facts but the interesting thing is whether the casual Venom fan really needs anything more than their seminal early-80´s output?
The answer is yes. The new album Hell have certainly harnessed the horribly raw, shambolic fury that first endeared them to black-hearted headbangers nearly 30 years ago. It might lack the peaks of 2006´s Metal Black but is overall a stronger album. Hell is compared to its predecessor more experimental and has just a little more bite. And it´s definitely a grower. Tracks like The Power And The Glory and Hand Of God didn´t impress me the first spinnings but feels above average today. Cronos incredible bowel-loosening demongrowls remain the focal point of blasters like Armageddon and Evilution Devilution, but with the new La Rage replacing guitarist Mykvus the band have pushed the sound in a slightly more brutal and straightforward direction. And it suits them perfect. A great example is the awesome Fall From Grace, with its infectious raw guitarriff. Venom have truly delivered a great album. Stuffed full of anthems that shows that they are still black, still metal and still alive. Honest old-school metal, made by a band who understand the style better than anyone. From the opening Straight To Hell, a song guaranted to get fists punching in the air, through the galloping mighty titletrack, over the aggressive and savage Evil Perfection to the last scary deathgrowls of Cronos on Dirge/The Awakening, this is a band that shows they are on great form. In fact, the only slight dip comes with Blood Sky, but soon enough we´re back on track with the hamfisted rumpus of USA For Satan, Cronos boxing your ears once again and La Rage conjuring up some red-hot licks over Anttons six-cylinder thrusting drums. The Legions sure will not be disappointed. Welcome back to Hell, lads.
Venomfreaks, check out my Venompage:
Venom is not only a force to be reckoned with, but a band that every metalhead owes him/herself to give it a listen. While their first 3 albums are regarded as classics by many metalheads, the band’s newest release, Hell, is pretty damn good to.
The album is mostly composed of really straightforward tracks. Seriously, if you just want some NWOBHM with plenty of speed, thrash and occasional nu metal flourishes, than you can do no wrong with this album. Hell is actually pretty polished compared to Venom’s other releases. The guitars have plenty of crunch, the bass has a very prominent position in the songs, hell, its fully audible and gives the songs this really percussive quality, making the songs very “brutal” and very memorable. The vocals are just as raspy and evil as ever, and really, they would put many thrash, death and black metal bands to shame when comparing the quality, I mean, how old is Cronos, in his mid 40s, and he can still growl like many of the younger growlers, seriously, that just brightens, er, darkens I mean, the mood in the songs.. The drums sound like they are being played by the devil himself, full of wicked and twisting rhythms that will remind you of pagan and “satanic” rituals, and proves that Antton was the perfect replacement for Abaddon.
The lyrics are filled with the typical Venom subject matter, that is, Satan, and other related matters. The lyrics, as we’ve all come to expect from Venom, are probably for shock value and laughs rather than actual beliefs, or at least that’s what it looks like. Still, it would be interesting if Venom would play around with the lyrics more, since most of us have probably heard/read this stuff before.
Overall, if you want some quality NWOBHM from a legendary and ultra influential metal band, then get Hell. It’s a great album, worth most pennies you’ll invest in it. A worthwhile release.