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It had been over 20 years since Venom's seminal, ground-breaking metal album "Black Metal" back in grand ol' 1982. In 2006, Venom decided to celebrate the anniversary of their achievement with the oddly-titled "Metal Black", a follow-up/sidequel/remake/sequel/WTF to the original classic. And boy oh boy is it...okay.
"Metal Black" suffers a great deal from fillers. Well over half of the 13 songs on this album are almost totally forgettable. "Darkest Realm"? Forgettable. "Blessed Dead"? Filler. "Sleep When I'm Dead"? No thanks. However, on the other side of the spectrum, the good songs on here are actually really fucking good. The opening trilogy of songs start this sucker off with a bang. Opener "Antechrist", humorously misspelled, is fucking fast, with a good chorus, pounding drumming and squealing guitars. The short "Burn In Hell" has surprisingly melodic vocals from Cronos and more strong drumming. Next is "Death And Dying", a dark, heavy rocker with a vicious riff and more dastardly vox from Cronos. But, for the most part afterwords, the album takes a detour straight to filler hell. But a few other salvageable numbers include the repetitive but somehow still good "Good Day To Die", the thundering "Hours Of Darkness" with another memorable riff similar to the one from "Death And Dying", and arguably the album's highlight, "Assassin", with its brutal speed and riffing, memorable vocals, killer drums, super-heavy bass and strong guitarwork.
The album has a very raw feel, akin to the band's earlier works but with a modern edge. This gives "Metal Lack" probably the best sound of Venom's more recent works, though some may be put off at first by the sometimes hard-to-hear production. The band, mostly, is pretty damn good here. Cronos' voice is great; gravelly and evil, as it always should be, though on this particular album he manages to get in touch with his inner melody too. His bass is a bit more run-of-the-mill, but still heavy and at least noticeable. His brother Antton is the highlight here. His drumming sounds fucking great raw like this; he's fast and just damn good here. Easily the weakest link here is Mike "Mykus" Hickey on guitars. He only occasionally stands out during solos and the like, but never really wows. He depends too much on making the guitar's sound too loud and squealing, lacking the shredding power of Rage on "Hell" or the speed and creativity of Mantas before him.
Overall, "Metal Black" suffers from uninspired guitars and way too many fillers, but the genuinely raw production, solid drumming and the few really good songs help to heal the wounds.
Don't get me wrong - I do think Venom is one of the most genre-defining bands ever, and their first couple of albums remain absolute classics. Especially "Welcome to Hell" is mandatory listening material, being a very early foray into a dark and forbidding musical territory, combining a NWOBHM approach with a Motorhead-esque sound with an occasionally satanic imagery.
On "Metal Black" they've apparently attempted to rediscover these dark and disturbing roots, but in that particular respect they've failed miserably. I don't doubt that, if your metallic music diet so far has consisted of unmentionables like Korn, POD, Linkin Park etc, you'll probably think this is heavy, evil shit. And you may not be entirely wrong, but the problem is that most of the tracks on this overlong album sound like a rehash of not only Venom's own previous material, but also of Slayer's, Pantera's and (aaaarrrrgh!) Machine Head's output.
Some of the songs presented here are quite heavy, to be sure. But they are heavy in the wrong way - simple as that. Venom come across sounding more like a mix of a Pantera tribute and a Venom tribute band band than anything else (with the occasional Slayer-type riff thrown in for good measure). And some songs most certainly cross over into self parody-territory (I mean, come on, listen to 'Rege Satanas' - it sounds utterly ridiculous; a song probably designed to scare 15-year-old newcomers to metal).
The godfathers of black metal are still at it, and Metal Black, while not even close to the highs attained way back in the early 1980s, shows that the band can still let loose a furious wall of sound with only a trio setup. Cronos is the only original member remaining on this album, and his vocal and bass skills are still great, and maybe even a bit better than the old days. While Mantas’ chainsaw riffs are indeed missed, his replacement (for the second time, no less) Mykus does manage to stamp his own style of guitar playing onto the Venom sound with generally good results. Drummer Antton is back after his excellent performance on Resurrection, and he’s just as tight on the kit here as on the previous LP.
Metal Black is indeed a return to the feel, lack of production values, and songwriting style of the classic Venom days, with a bit of a new sound thrown in. There’s nothing fancy about the song craft here. Cronos and Mykus let loose a wave of blasphemous riffage with Cronos belting out the now-typical lyrical content. Every song does have a solo, which is a good thing despite the fact that Mykus loves pinch harmonics a bit too much in a few songs. Cronos’ lyrics are of special note. With the heaviness of the guitars, especially the bass, as the inspiration, Cronos does paint a very hellish picture with his words, and tracks like House of Pain and Rege Satanas benefit immensely from the added atmosphere. Metal Black is probably the darkest Venom LP since Black Metal, which is no small praise knowing Cronos’ modus operandi for Venom lyrics – Satan, women, leather, and fucking HELL, all written with just the right balance between danger and camp. It’s what made Venom such a bad apple (in a good way of course) in 1982.
As far as the quality of the songwriting is concerned, Metal Black is about on the same level as Possessed, and maybe At War With Satan if you’re more forgiving. No real “hits” number among the album’s 14 slabs of unholy terror, but we’re left instead with 14 solid, catchy tunes. There really isn’t a bad track on this album, and for a band nearing the 30 year mark in their career, for them to have had such a decent record in 2006 was nothing short of a miracle. Antechrist is the typical Venom opener; an absolute assault on the senses, and a great way to start the LP. Of course there are the typical thrashers like Assassin and Rege Satanas, although there are some divergences into slower territory on Darkest Realm and House of Pain. The band experiments a bit with bridges in the songwriting, with tracks like A Good Day To Die and Lucifer Rising having interesting melodic segments. Maleficarvm, with its hellish grandeur, harkens back to the title track from At War With Satan. Of course, Venom has to leave us with a title track, and this LP is no exception. Metal Black, the song, will literally grab you by the balls and force you to bang your fucking head. I don’t think Venom ever played so fast and so recklessly; you can hear that the guitars and drums have trouble staying in sync with each other, but the sheer speed and reckless abandon of the song redeems it.
Metal Black is better than it really should have been considering Venom’s age, and the fact that pretty much the last 20 years haven’t been good to them at all. It’s no Welcome To Hell or Black Metal, and while some will definitely write off the LP due to the lack of Mantas’ guitar work, every Venom fan should at least check this one out. Don’t expect something that’ll have Venom shaking metal to its foundation (welcome to 1982), just expect a decent metal LP.
I feel I have to stand up for Venom here with ‘Metal Black’. I grabbed this after losing touch with the aging, bad old grandads of thrash metal during the tedium of the ‘Dolan Years’ after being given a recommendation by someone who probably knows my tastes in Metal probably better than I do myself…and I wasn’t dissappointed.
Sod who’s backing Cronos up nowadays. I don’t care if it’s Mike Hickey or Mickey Mouse playing guitar – the guy may not have Mantas ability to coax previously unheard tortured shrieks out of a guitar solo, but he isn’t far off – the opening solo on ‘Antechrist’ rocks! And the (younger?) Lant’s drumming, no offence to Abaddon, is just damn better…
Sod the slightly erratic mixing – since when did any of this band’s best work have anything even vaguely resembling decent production values? This album has all that same pulsating bass work, the same chugging riffing and pounding drums associated with awesome numbers like ‘Seven Gates of Hell’ and the same dirty songwriting style that always made Venom sound like the punks they started off as even when they were singing about choirs of demonic angels and satanic beasties. If anything there is a lyrical style here that is moving away from those cliches and into new territory which suits the dirtiness even better (‘Assassin’, ‘Blessed Dead’).
There are some slightly odd strayings into melody, I’ll grant you – the odd little midsection in ‘Lucifer Rising’ was woefully out of place for example, and one or two of the slower numbers such as ‘Hours of Darkness’ do sound a touch laboured, but for the most part this album pounds. Sure there are those that would have preferred a bit more speed and a bit less beatdown but what the hell? It’s a favourite request of my eldest, bless her heandbanging little heart - and that’s a sign that it has something major going for it because the other Venom albums never were before she heard this one.
In short, despite some slightly more…restrained…moments than previous outings this is still a damn catchy, heavy as hell, turn-up-the-volume-and-slam outing that shows up the polished warbles of the new millenium’s ‘Metal’ for what it is – overproduced, overblown and certainly overrated. All you need to make a good Metal album is bass, drums, guitar and a shedload of attitude – and that’s something ‘Metal Black’ has in abundance.
I picked this up hoping it to be a continuation of the sheer awesomeness that was Resurrection (My Favourite Venom album), or even Cast in Stone. I have mixed opinions as to whether it is.
The album itself isn't necessarily a bad album, not by a long shot, but there's something about this that's a bit of a letdown.
Cronos' vocals are good as ever, but are getting a bit racked with age. There are flaws in his vocal style, but there's always been flaws in Venom, so it's not really that big a problem. The bass does it's thing happily (although maybe a bit too loud) and is very good for what it does. Antton's drumming is superb, it owns Abaddon by far. Abaddon has even admitted himself that he couldn't drum as good as Antton on Resurrection no matter how hard he tried and Antton continues to buck the Venom trend by putting in a superb performance, however it's still no match for the drumming on Resurrection. Mike Hickey, the rent-a-guitarist of Carcass and Cathedral fame and most certainly the Nick Barker of Guitar, puts in a good performance. Although his riffing may not be up to scratch compared to Mantas, his soloing is excellent and really livens up this album.
The songs themselves are good. But are a bit indistinguishable from each other, falling into one of 2 camps, the slow crunchy numbers and the thrash tunes. Stylistically, it could be seen as a mix of Resurrection and Cast in Stone, but without the memorable songs of either. It doesn't have the short, sharp riffage of Resurrection or the devilish charm of Cast In Stone. It's still better than Tony Dolan-era Venom and of Possessed/Calm Before The Storm, but really isn't essential. One thing notable of this album is the fact that it's more "Venom" than Resurrection. Around the time of Resurrection, Cronos went on about how the album was "A more modern-sounding Venom. It's the old stuff, but with a better sound". It really wasn't. It was more of a modern Metal album with a Venom touch than it was Venom with a modern touch. This re-addresses the problem and has all the usual Venom riffs, drums and Vocals you expect, but you can actually hear it!
The artwork for this release is also top-notch to say the least, one of the finest Venom covers ever, possibly only beaten by Resurrection.
So far so good. However, this album has many faults. One is in the Album length and layout. It's 57 minutes long with 14 tracks. Resurrection had 13 tracks and was 55 minutes long but that didn't drag nearly as much as this does. There is quite a bit of filler. We really don't need "House of Pain", "Death and Dying", "Darkest Realm", "Lucifer Rising" OR "Hours of Darkness". This is 20 minutes of unneeded filler that should definetely have been trimmed from the album and released maybe as B-sides or one of the endless Venom compilations. If that had been the case, I would have given this album probably about 15% more than it gets. Also, the layout's all wrong... Tracks are muddled about too much here to have any great effect. My perfect tracklisting would have been:
"Burn In Hell"
"A Good Day To Die"
"Sleep When I'm Dead"
If they had ended it with the chant of "Satanas... Satanas...", it would have been far more effective and gripping than that of Metal Black.
Another problem is the lyrics. Venom aren't exactly known for their philosophical and poignant lyrics but this is taking the piss. These sentences don't even make sense. "Our time is here - through the wars of the damned"? "We lasted throughout - despite holy lies - Impotent to deny"? What the hell? Venom are Impotent? Can we expect Cronos to be fronting Viagra commercials soon? Swearwords seem to be injected for the sole purpose of "shocking" along with gratuituous references to Sex and Drugs all the time, and really the only thing shocking about them is how bad they are. Even the title: "Metal Black", that's just damn lazy. Yes, it's "A nod to the old days", but it's cashing in on nostalgic old metalheads and if that was the best attempt they could come up with, why the hell bother? The lyrics are ALL about Satan, Hell, Evil or Death in it's many forms. Then again, this is Venom, not Dream Theater, The lyrics are always about Satan, Hell, Evil or Death in it's many forms anyway, but would it kill Cronos to break the mould a smidgen and write about something else? The upcoming new album "Hell" says that it would kill Cronos to break the mould.
Another thing that pisses me off about this album is the production. It's shit. Not shit in the way that "Black Metal" and "Welcome To Hell" were. Just poor. It isn't raw or anything like that, it's just a lacklustre production. It's all a bit muddy with a Bass which is way too loud, and Guitar and drums which really melt into each other and become unintelligible. It's also very dry, there's nothing to the production. It just sounds like your average modern-day metal album.
But the worst thing about this album is the song "Assassin". It's a good song, but Venom have put their heart and soul into ruining this song for me. They want to be bad, they want it to be shit. First of all, it has a completely different production from the rest of the album, much quieter and generally worse. Then they sprinkle awesome riffs with really not awesome riffs (This happens quite a lot on the album though). Then they put the worst solo ever in the history of anything over it. It isn't even a solo, it's just Mike Hickey hitting random notes in vain, widdling like a 10 year old playing a guitar, or an especially bad Dragonforce solo. Then there's the pretty poor Chorus which consists of "Assassin" over and over again awkwardly. But do I like it? Yes. Why? I don't know to be honest. I just do. No matter how hard Venom try.
In conclusion, this album is good and bad. It has way too much filler to be considered a true classic and drags on for much too long. It pales in comparison to "The classics" and is by far the worst of the post-Dolan era, but still beats anything between Possessed and Temples of Ice. It tries to mix the attitude of Cast In Stone with the sheen of Resurrection, and injects the old Venom-style back into their songs, after the modern metal riffing of Resurrection, but is let down by the fact that most of the filler songs are either re-treads of old Venom done pretty badly or are a hodge-podge of good ideas glued together with loads of really crap ideas which are all badly produced. This could've been much better. It could've been a fantastic album, a true Venom classic. But it's not. And never will be. Go buy Resurrection first, then put this near the end of your Venom shopping list. You'll like some of the songs but the whole experience will make you feel empty and bored. I would recommend you go download the tracklisting I mentioned above, or download these highlights: "Antechrist", "Metal Black", "Sleep When I Die" and "Good Day To Die".
This album, is complete and utter garbage. I am a HUGE Venom fan, and this is highly disappointing.
Alright, let's start off by first looking at the album. It's got cool cover art... and that's about the only thing good about this album. If the name of the album, or any of the track titles doesn't instantly turn you away, then I feel sorry for the shit-fest you're about to hear. They titled the album "Metal Black," a reversal of the name of their cult classic. Wow, really lame and cheesy. The cheese doesn't stop there though. The very first track on the album is "Antechrist," a horrible misspelling, done on purpose. The lyrics aren't much better. Seriously, this shit is what I'd expect coming from a 13 year old.
The music, if you can believe it, is worse than the semantics. Let's start with the vocals. I don't know what happened, but they now sound like Cronos trying too hard to be harsh, instead of them feeling natural. They feel extremely forced, and completely suck. However the vocals aren't nearly as bad as the guitars and drums. The guitarist here LOVES pinch harmonics a little too much. I think that's all he knows how to do is pedal tones and pinch harmonics, because that's all he uses. The riffs are extremely boring and lack-luster, on top of being terribly generic. The drums aren't helping the cause either, The drums are constantly falling behind. No technicality at all to them, just basic beats, that get fucked up. He's always off beat, and highly inconsistent. I've heard 9 year olds that could keep a steadier beat, and I'm not even joking when I say that.
On top of how shitty the music is, lets throw in a really BAD mixing job. First off, the bass is WAY too loud, and is very over-powering. By the time you turn the bass down on your EQ low enough that it won't blow your speakers, the guitars are almost inaudible, as their tone all came from the bass end. I spent an hour trying to find an EQ setting that worked for this album, and I couldn't even come close to making it sound good.
The only reason I gave this album a 5 is for having the coolest album art of any Venom album.
Venom will forever be metal gods. I think that much is certain. Even with the release of their newest album, Metal Black. Venom continue to do whatever the hell they want – with no regard for fan base or even what the metal community expects from them. With this kind of state of mind, one would think the band would have drowned in a modern music industry. This is not the case. Metal Black proves it.
As soon as one pops in Metal Black, the first thought that is going to come to mind is: “am I mistaken? Is this a live album?” Mostly because the production value of Metal Black is so poor that even some of the diehard fans have trouble listening to it (and for clarification on this concept go back and listen to Black Metal). Venom decided that they wanted to record this album the way they recorded many of their older records. So they did – and what you hear on Metal Black is that way for a reason.
The music itself is still more in the path of their previous album, Resurrection. It’s heavily riff oriented, leaning towards a groove most of the time (and sometimes it is groove – listen to House of Pain). Mykus isn’t a great replacement for Mantas. Not that his work with Venom is bad but his variety when it comes to guitar writing is pretty linear and monotonous. It’s heavy and it’s brutal but it’s lacking a lot of variety within the music itself. That was one disappointment I had, musically, with Metal Black. The second has to do with Venom drummer, Antton.
Antton tore shit up on Resurrection and I was expecting no less then such on Metal Black. Unfortunately, either due to poor production (which is my guess) or poor writing, Antton’s drums are less impressive this time around. They are good and do a lot of good structure work within the music – it’s just not up to par with previous work. Or at least we can’t hear most of the snazzy parts due to production values.
Vocally, Cronos is as unique as ever. His harsh borderline thrash, borderline baritone singing but all attitude. Cronos has one of the most charismatic voices in metal and he can sound legitimately evil without being death or trying too hard. Metal Black really pushes his vocals to the forefront of the battle. His vocals are the only thing that is probably produced with any kind of modern idea. There are layers with echoes and all kinds of tricks to give his vocals variety. Mostly his work on Venom never really changed vocally and it doesn’t here either. Don’t expect that much change.
Lyrically it’s the same ol’, same ol’ Venom. I hate everything (including God, you, religion, life) and I will be violent by any means (death, shooting, fire) and I will send you to hell. That is the simplified version of most Venom songs. And yet, with that kind of lyrical theme most of it is done riding the edge of being tongue-in-cheek. That is something I find is part of my attraction to Venom’s sound. I love that borderline cheese that Venom uses.
Overall, Venom has “produced” a strange mixture of old production values with newer song writing on Metal Black. It’s definitely not for everyone. I have my complaints but I find myself listening to the album quite often – even though I find it far from perfect.
Songs to check out: Antechrist, Rege Satanas, Metal Black.
Venom have been in a little slumber for the past 6 years or so. With the departure of Mantas (he's probably off being awesome and badass, as usual. I don't know the real story), I was intrigued to hear what new and/or different sounds would come out of this album. Needless to say by the score, the outcome wasn't so great.
The last release by Venom, Resurrection, wasn't bad by any standards. Not anything really great, but not bad. It was...good. I enjoyed it. Well, enjoyed it plenty more than Metal Black, that is. Anyhow - I thought this may be a continuation of the Resurrection album, but it really isn't. Compared to traditional Venom, as well as their previous release, it just doesn't stack up in any way. Metal Black ends up sounding like rehashed riffs, solos and concepts. I mean, let's face it folks, Venom have done everything there can or NEEDS to be done with their genre. This is just all the more proof we need that bands that hit their zenith in the 80s and dwindled off in the 90s before burning out in the 2000s or earlier....should NOT...DO....COMEBACK ALBUMS! Angry rhetoric about bands quitting while legendary status is upheld and not sullied with craptastic influence of the mainstream aside.... Onto the review:
The general sound of Metal Black is like..... alright, this is the best analogy I can think of at the moment, so please bear with me ... the sound is like when you throw something away, and a few days later realize that you still want it, afterall, so you have to rummage through the trash to dig it out and retrieve it. It smells bad, and is tainted, but you got it back. It's not as good as it was before, but you'd maybe like to keep it for sentimental value, or some nonsense. That's how it's like with modern Venom, and more specifically, Metal Black. It's Venom, yeah....but it's just not that good. Listeners and reviewers who score this album higher than 70 most likely only do so because they're biased and have the fanboy mindset "HOLY CARP, IT'S FUCKING VENOM! IT HAS TO BE GOOD!" Yeah? It may be Venom, but just because a band is legendary doesn't mean everything they produce will instantaneously be deemed GOOD. Jesus Christ. I can't stress that enough. Anyhow, the reasons exactly why Metal Black isn't too hot, are clear and simple:
The loss of Mantas's guitar work, in my opinion, greatly contributed to the harmful sounds being produced. All the riffs are stale, boring, and contrite. Like the aforementioned trash retrieval analogy ... it's as if Venom opened up a coffee can that was buried under ground for years and threw together an album from these. There's not even anything really striking or memorable about the album. I even gave it a few more listens before reviewing this to make sure it really did suck as much as I thought it did. The solos are uninspired and bland, and the constant pinch harmonics get annoying. I like pinch harmonics, like on Resurrection, but that's because they were done right on that album. On Metal Black, they just aren't. Overall, what hinders the score of this is the guitar work and originality. It's impossible for Venom to do anything new or great, because they've already done it all. There's no denying this.
The positives of Metal Black exist, yes, it's true. It's not a COMPLETELY bad release. I wouldn't necessarily buy it, but I would recommend hardcore Venom fans, or new-age richkid flash in the pan Metal fans with extra income from mommy and daddy's Visa ... to buy this one. Most people, I'd say, should avoid wasting cash. Anyhow, what I did like about this release was the vocals. Cronos still manages to sound pretty grim and such, and hasn't changed his style too much (good thing). I especially liked the track Rege Satanas, track 5. The title track is pretty cool, too. It's speedy and "in your face." Other than that, I'd say there are plenty of fillers. Really unnecessary length in this one. Points received for killer vocals, and rad cover art.
The bottom line is...
Venom have extended well beyond their climax in their careers. I'd say after their 3rd album is when things went downhill. And that was in 198X something...too lazy to remember * whistles * anyhow, what I'm trying to say is that Venom's originality and legendary status have already occured. They've done it. So why keep making records? Maybe teaching yoga and martial arts isn't doing it enough for them. Who knows. But it's safe to say that anything they make now from here on out, is NOT going to sound at all like what it did in the early 80s. It shouldn't be expected. Another band high up on the totem pole whose career is dying (should have died long ago), so they keep making music to cashgrab. It's been happening all too often lately, and I'm sure others agree with me. It's got to stop. Case closed. * fart noise *
The prime evil resurrection of the sons of Satan is upon us with the return of the antechrist. For nearly three decades Venom have been bursting out like a parasite from hell and back. The sleep when I'm dead attitude and live like an angel, die like a devil metal of Cronos and his legions has inspired countless Bathory incessant metal maniacs. With the onslaught of Black Metal in 1982, Venom became the most extreme metal band ever. According to Tom Angelripper, "...After hearing Venom, Motorhead were no longer the heaviest band on the planet!" Venom devised the term "Black Metal"; thereby inverting an enitre genre which would involuntarily become enslaved by their feign and vain satanic guise. Chuck Shuldiner experienced his own spiritual healing and formed Death after hearing Venom; meanwhile Slayer themselves were militant militates just south of heaven where hell awaits.
In reality, Venom were just punks from industrial England who listened to Black Sabbath, Motorhead and Judas Priest. They originated in 1978 as Oberon, then Guillotine,and later decided to call themselves Venom. Conrad "Cronos" Lant played bass at an infuriated pace, Jeff "Mantas" Dunn played grinding guitar, and Tony "Abbadon" Bray played dreary drums. Essentially this cult legend were inexorable hooligans with a insufferable alcoholic pendulosity. The so-called satanic manifesto was just a recusant ruse endorsed to shock and awe their folowers, and incite the authoritarians. They were like a bastardized clone of Kiss writing about everything evil, although, they had their share of sick sex songs as well. The speed and
intensity this band played was unlike any other NWOBHM around. They invented extreme thrash metal compelling underground bands like Sodom, Bulldozer, and their ilk to persevere with 1000 days of sodomy & lust, enduring an outbreak of evil on the day of wrath.
Now nearly 30 years later Venom have redounded with their latest sacrifice - Metal Black. Last year Venom dependents capitulated with bloodlust for their box set MMV. All die-hard fanatics scrimped and scruffled to obtain those recently remastered classic CDs surfeit with bonus trax. The cognomen Metal Black is a bane atonement alluding to the inverse of their leviathan - Black Metal. This time around, though, only Cronos remains as an original member. He is joined by his brother Antony "Antton" Lant who performed like a control freak on the Resurrection CD. On guitar is newcomer metalpunk Mike "Mykus" Hicky who played guitar while under the spell on the Venom CD - Calm Before the Storm and on Cronos' solo projects. With only Cronos at the helm, many critics were dismayed that Metal Black would be a detriment to the rege satanas of Venom. With a wing and a prayer, this is never the case on this powerdive. Suffer not the children, for Venom are indeed too loud for the crowd! The running time alone is the equivalent of two complete Venom releases. Venom provide the listener with a veritable banquet of comensated, comestible meat and metal.
It's been almost six years since Resurrection. This was a well-produced CD with some real burners on it. It was such an improvement over Cast in Stone with it semi-industrial tendencies. Cronos wrote some wickedly irascible and angry text and Mantas played contentiously killer guitar. On Metal Black there are two impulsive nuances . There is another line-up rotation introducing "Mykus" as a rookie guitarist, and there is the deliberate abominable production. The production is so muddy and thick, that it must be intentional. Venom wanted to return to their roots, and the inchoate engineering definitely resigns me to my juvenescence when I'd tolerated hiss and feedback on my original Venom tapes. This does not mean that the songwriting loses momentum. The songs are well-written with at least one ear-splitting guitar solo on every track. The drumming is genuine genocide, without ever bordering on the blast beat. Venom will never be black metal.
Some stand-out track like Antechrist, Maleficarum, and the title track Metal Black sound as if they could have verily been written two decades ago. Other cuts like House of Pain and Death & Dying are more mid-paced with a crushing riff driving the pace. Cronos's vocals are deep and gruff as usual, yet still easliy understood. His purposeful articulations never digress.
Assassin sounds like he is muttering the words ...house of sin. Cathodes like Hours of Darkness and Blessed Dead reverberate Cronos' callow drawl which is his unique signature sound. Death Metal is ill-begotten from Venom's angel dust; yet, in the war against Christ, the serpent-tongued ones will never be true death metal either. To quote Cronos, "We come alive at the dawn of the night, we're raising hell and you know that it's right,...hear me calling - join the pack...raised in hellfire - Metal Black. This ain't no music for lighthearted folk, we tell it straight to the rich and the broke, we're long-haired punks, and we don't give a care, we turn the mayhem up, join if you dare.".
After all these years, Venom who set the precedent for thrash, death, and black, are placated by playing metal maelstrom with a parseltongue passion for everything contraversial. They are the imperfect braid of masterminds Motorhead, juxtaposed Judas Priest, and brooding Black Sabbath. These wanton warheads are wardens of hell. "Omnia res malificarum sub solaris" is the forsworn formula for those in league with Satan. Welcome to hell and the house of pain in the darkest realm, prostrate the possessed poseur before the insane assassin, for today is a good day to die in the temple of ice. The witching hour is nigh when it's calm before the storm presaging Lucifer's rising in the hour of darkness; prepare to burn in hell and lay down your souls
before the gods rock 'n roll - metal ten fold through the deadly black hole!
As originally posted at www.metal-covenant.com
First off, I admit I am no hardcore fan of Venom's. "Welcome to Hell" and "Black Metal" were a couple of pleasingly antisocial blasts of noisy thrash'n'roll, but the last time I listened to those albums was a long time ago indeed. Thus, I got "Metal Black" on a total whim, purely because I'd heard from others that it was a 'return to form' and my curiosity was peaked. My conclusion is that, if this is what Venom sounded like back in the day, then damn; I'm going to have to give those first two albums another listen, because this is good. Very good.
Nothing here is particularly original; there are no delicate acoustic interludes, pan pipes or orchestras. This is simple and beautiful; an utter cacophany of snarling riffage, relentlessly pounding percussion and facemelting solos, no frills attached. There is also a surprising amount of musical variety contained within. What I had anticipated was a bunch of songs that all sounded the same and went at the same speed, but what Venom actually produce is a series of tunes with their own identities, from the multiple tempo-changes of "Blessed Dead" to the slow and black grind of "House of Pain", to straight ahead thrashers like "Antechrist" or "Metal Black".
Extra points are given for the production, which is fantastically raw and steeped in an atmosphere of chaos and black malice. Unlike many sterile modern productions, the music does not just exist; it rips from the speakers with glorious violence, a wall of bulldozing distortion, clawing ferociously at the ears. Not life-changing, not musically genius, just thrash the way it should be played - aggressive, raw and right in your face.
Venom has always been one of my all-time favorite groups right after the likes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. I’ve liked something about all incarnations of the band from their badly produced beginnings to the phenomenally produced Resurrection. The band has always had an interesting complex history with a revolving door of band members rotating around the three core members Cronos, Mantas, and Abaddon. Here on Metal Black, the only remaining original member is Cronos who is joined by his drumming brother Antton (who also played on Resurrection) and guitarist Mike Hicky now going under the pseudonym Mykus (he original played on the Venom album Calm Before the Storm and Cronos’s solo albums as well).
Like I predicted from the slightly humorous album title, Cronos and crew here decided to go back to their roots as found on their groundbreaking 1982 album Black Metal. For some reason many bands today are deciding to go back to their roots. Going back to their old some writing ways is fine and dandy, but for some reason Cronos (you notice I didn’t say Venom) decide to go back to poor recording aspects. Yes the production is very poor on this 11th Studio album and it is deliberately done to sound poor. Let’s take the following for example: The Judas Priest album Sad Wings of Destiny is a great album, but that doesn’t mean I want Priest to return to that poor recording style when releasing a new album. The band has matured over the years and deserves good production values. Priest went back to their old school roots on their new album Angel of Retribution. They went back to their old writing style but kept the good production. That is a ‘back to the roots’ album done right and Venom should take note. Venom’s 10th studio album Resurrection was a phenomenally produced album that showcased what the band was capable of when they had proper recording techniques. This album just sounds ultra shitty and is barely audible when I play it in my car. Hell, even Welcome to Hell sounds better in my car than this rather poor excuse of an album.
The deliberate bad production isn’t only odd, but the songs aren’t all that hot either. I might have accepted the poor production if it resulted in some real kick ass songs. Sure Cronos and crew managed to capture the essence of the classic Venom sound, but the songs just lack substance. For this I attribute to the loss of guitarist Mantas (he hightailed it to revamp his solo career after Resurrection). Mantas was plain and simple a great guitarist when it came to writing simple but ass-kicking riffs that blew your fucking mind. Frankly, Mykus (who no doubt took that name so passive fans wouldn’t tell the difference between the Mantas name) doesn’t cut it. Mykus just lacks the riff writing talent of Mantas and he also isn’t that spectacular of a guitar player. The Venom album and the Cronos solo albums he played on before were also weak in the guitar department. Other than the catchy opener Antechrist, the rest of the album kind of falls flat, There are no kick ass songs that match the catchiness of the original Black Metal.
Some people believe Venom isn’t Venom with out Cronos. Others believe the same about Mantas. I’ve always been more partial to Mantas because the Venom albums that had Mantas and not Cronos have always been better than the vice versa, and this just further proves it. I do however believe Venom was at its best when Cronos and Mantas are together. Mantas’s 2004 solo album Zero Tolerance lacks the Cronos aspect and this album lacks the Mantas aspect. This album also lacks the really fucking hateful songs that Mantas was always great at righting, such as Vengeance and Pain on the Resurrection album. What people don’t realize is Mantas was really responsible or partly responsible for most of Venom’s best and most kick ass songs. He is just a riff master. Without him, there really isn’t any major kick-ass songs here. The voice may be there, but the guitar musicianship isn’t.
On a final note, this was not worth a 6 year patient wait. After listening to the album straight through twice, I quickly popped Resurrection back in to remind me of what Venom was capable of. Again I don’t mind Venom going back to their old song writing style, but the lackluster writing and deliberate poor production values hinders this album from becoming one of Venom’s best. Cronos has always badmouthed the three Venom albums that had Mantas, Abaddon, and Tony Dolan on vocals. He just keeps putting his foot in his mouth then he himself releases Venom albums like this and Calm Before the Storm. Metal Black makes me think Mantas is the king of Venom….not Cronos. I’ll just wait it out until Mantas returns……hopefully.
To tell you the truth, I wasn't expecting anything from this album, after the disappointing Resurrection who can blame me? add to that the fact that the 90's haven't been to kind to them either.
A few days earlier, I got a chance to get this album, I reluctantly picked it up, thinking that they can't do any worse... and thank the fallen one below, I was right, they didn't, they got back to their long lost (so it seemed) roots, and recorded one hell of an album. Satan himself must have produced this, I tell you the atmosphere is dark and sinister and very reminiscent of their old-school days, it is absolutely killer to say the least, believe me you'll be gasping for more than air when the riffs start buzzing and the drums start pounding.
Everything is right about this album, the drumming is as it should be, tight, thunderous and precise. The riffage owns your soul and the vocals are as vicious as they come: the old school thrashy, rough vocals come through really clearly on this album. The lyrics reveal a twisted sense of humour that Venom have always been renowned for. Take my word for it, they are meant for the depraved section of society. If anyone ever had trouble getting into Venom's earlier works cause of their lack of skill and technique you first need to go to hell... and later buy this album cause they finally sound like a pretty skilled band.
For all Venom fans, this is their best effort since "At War With Satan"or maybe even the godly "BLACK METAL", for all fans of Metal, this is one killer of an album from the guys who put Black and Satan in your Metal, so fucking bow down to the return of BLACK!!!