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Von are an American black metal band formed in 1987, and are most well known for their first and real only confirmed release, an 8 song demo from 1992 known as Satanic Blood. The piece’s incredibly primitive, minimal approach to metal was almost unheard of it at the time, as most songs contained literally one riff and beat – managing to be even more simplistic than the year’s competing works in Norway from Darkthrone, Immortal, Burzum and Mayhem. After recording Satanic Blood, Von then broke up, but the demo had managed to create enough of an impact on the current black metal scene, and thus the release was preserved as a cult classic. Even after two decades however, Von’s music divides black metal fans, with some saying its repetition and simplicity was too grating and unremarkable to be held in such high regard, while other praise it for its disrespect for normal song structure and DIY aesthetic.
A few decades later and the bands cult has grown to the extent that the act has reactivated itself to reap the fan base at hand. The beginning of the reunion was with a one-off show in 2010, featuring the bands original duo, guitar/vocalist Von Venien, and bassist Von Goat. To commemorate such an event, the duo started working on an ever so risky re-recording of the bands classic material. Von Goat however, ended up having creative differences with Venien on how the album should be recorded and left the band before the process began, leaving the Von name and rerecording to Von Venien himself, and thus we have the Satanic Blood LP.
The album opens up with the brand new track, Jesus Stain, and the song delivers on what most Von fans are used too: trebly, eerie, yet obvious-sounding tremolo picked riffs played ad- infinitum over blast beats; complimented with guttural, demonic growls chanting the title: Jesus. STAIN; over and over again for the duration of the entire song. The rest of the album then continues on with the updated classic songs, the only differences in sound being the more devolved production -as in one can actually decipher the music- although, it’s still quite raw and rough for a modern release.The guitar has almost no low-end presence, as Venien mostly pierces through the drums and bass by tremolo picking on a single string, generally within the higher-frequency strings on the guitar. So instead of your general power chord-furies, the guitar’s role in Von is used more to highlight the basic riff melody provided by the bass, with a more decipherable, higher pitched display – nearly qualifying as canine abuse at times. These create ominous, horrifically satanic melodies over the actual riff’s (provided by the bass guitar) minor, equally ominous presence. The tin drums then alternate between its two modes: chilled, foreboding simplicity and blaster-bating chaos. Von Venien’s vocals then bark in amateur conjunction with the drumming at a pace that would make you think they censored every second vocal track on the record. Venien’s vocals are also a lot deeper than most black metal vocalists, as he uses a more barked, demonic chant approach rather than the regular singing via screeching bouts of torment like everyone else.
All in all the album tends to drag and the repetition is truly hard to stand, especially since a lot of the melodies have either been done to death by popular culture as a whole, or at least metal, prior to Von. The lyrics found on the album are pretty simplistic, and follow a more chant-like structure, containing only a few decently amateur, occult-themed lyrics made up of one or two lines, barked in a repetitive fashion along with every second repetition of the one riff. There is quite a cool sense of occult-darkness to the record, but the songs don’t really pay off past this primitive/anti-melody and structure aesthetic, and while I can understand the whole album being an experience, it’s not an experience I feel is done in a particularly more effective way. I also don’t see how it particularly stands out amongst the black metal releases of the time as a milestone either, insane minimalism aside, a lot of black metal records prior and at the same time of its release we’re just as, if not more dark and intimidating. If I were to sum up my general feelings while listening to this record…Well, basically, you know how in a song when the riffs start and it’s not half bad, and it’s going, and it goes on for awhile, and after every time the rules of music (called “timing”) calls for a new, awesome, cathartic rush of a new riff and when it makes that jump to a new riff it’s incredibly rewarding and pleasurable? Yeah, that never happens. The first riff you hear in any given song is most likely the only riff you’ll hear throughout. Sure, if you put all the riffs on this album together, since they’re all pretty much at the exact same beat, it would be one or two awesome 3-4 minute black metal songs. But noooo, instead you get one riff per 2-5 minute long song that become more and more grating as the minutes go by and the riffs (and sometimes the lyrics) never, ever change.
I mean, there’s a bit of hope for more developed atmosphere on the album, with songs like Veadtuck, Challice of Blood and Dissection Inhuman, which utilize varied tempos, alternate guitar effects and more complex arrangements to better create a dark, sinister atmosphere. I don’t think this album will be considered particularly offensive to Von fans, but it does certainly seem like the whole reactivation by Venien is a response to the bands perceived popularity, and the more lenient views on black metal in the USA now.
“Satanic”, “blood” and “angel” are probably the three most used words of American black metal band Von, having already had 2 releases under the working title of Satanic Blood, and numerous others with various permutations of the three words. 2 years after their reformation in 2010, the band releases Satanic Blood, the full length album, and the very first one after a whole string of demos and EPs before their split in 1992. The constant recycling and rehashing of old material and the living off their legacy as one of the pioneers of the style of black metal they play since their comeback (what with the reissues of their demos and EPs, and compilations) has resulted in them becoming somewhat like a gimmick, and to put it bluntly, hypes for Von‘s “full length” in 2012 weren’t exactly high.
And rightly so as well I think, for Satanic Blood once again sees the band reproducing songs that they have written and have already played to death since the beginning of their history. What is really on Satanic Blood are the re-recording of their discography with their current lineup, with what, 3 new songs? But no matter, it would nevertheless be interesting to hear what Von is able to put out on Satanic Blood.
The first thing that one notices is the vastly improved production quality compared to the demo days, where the murkiness and rawness are now replaced with a clearer sound. Album opener Jesus Stain is one of the new songs on the album, and I have to say this is quite a smart move on the part of the band, leaving quite an impression. The simple lead guitar lines easily create a chilling atmosphere, yet the band manages to retain that simplistic style of black metal that they have created with their Satanic Blood demo back in 1992. Obviously, simplicity remains one of the key emphases of the band, and this becomes rather obvious extremely quickly. Songs, both the old and the new, maintain the same structure of containing one or two riffs repeated for the entirety of the song, and the same frantic drumming that maintains almost the same tempo throughout the record. Even Venien’s vocals still remain the same as he did on the older material of Von. The only difference on the album, apart from the production quality, are the slight tweaking of the way some of the songs are executed, such as Satanic Blood.
Unfortunately, with songs that are as repetitive as such, things do start to get dry very quickly, and Satanic Blood quickly becomes an album that sounds like one riff that is played non-stop for almost an hour. And this is one of the major pitfalls of the album – the lack of variety perhaps works for bands like Blasphemy, but take it to such extreme, one gets put off rather easily and rather quickly. The trick to such a style of black metal, it seems, is to deliver it in short and brutal doses rather than in such an ample dosage. The other pitfall – obviously – is the lack of new songs, and old songs reinterpreted and re-recorded do not constitute as “new songs”. The production quality as well, while being more modern, lack that sinister and evil feel that the raw production provided.
For those encountering Von for the first time with this album, it is perhaps pretty easy to see how these once-great were one of the forefathers of the style of black metal bands like Beherit and Blasphemy now play. However, with Satanic Blood being at least the fourth or fifth time the band rehashes their material, they have sadly become a shadow of their past, alienating older fans of the band, and lacking the pull to attract newer and younger fans of black metal.
The legendary VON.. One of the most well known American black metal bands around, yet, for the longest time, only demo tracks were what comprised the discography of this band. Finally, after 20 years, the band releases an, unoriginal titled, full length album, Satanic Blood: the same 2 words that seem to haunt this band and it's music. Just finishing listening to every track on the album, and the thoughts going through my mind will be followed shortly.
Starting off this album is a new Von song, Jesus Stain, which was also released a few weeks prior to this. The production is nice, but the drums seem to overpower everything else. The lead guitars do this as well. The bass is actually audible in these recordings, which is a nice touch, considering bass is almost always inaudible. The rhythm guitar is just completely buried underneath all of this, but it is still apparent that it is there. One thing that I knew would turn me off of the album quickly, besides Von just not being what it used to be anymore, was that one of the original members, Goat, is not present. While this may be joyful to others, I think, perhaps, that this album could have been a lot better than it is now. The vocals are pretty mediocre black/death style, but they fit in pretty well with the repetition and the production. Ah yes, now we come to this: repetition. Just about every song on this album is the same rhythm, lead, bass, and vocal pattern repeated over and over until the song is done, save for some, which Veinen decided to extend them with weird, ambient-like intros/outros.
Some of the older tracks still sound good, but not all of them. One in particular I liked, more-so than the others, was Veadtuck. That track has always been one of my personal favorites from Von, and Veinen actually did it some justice here, though the original will always be the best. I'd say if you're into constant repetition on every single song, you might enjoy this album quite a bit, but if you're like me and you're wanting something well thought out and wrote, I wouldn't recommend taking the time to listen to this. It was a nice try on Veinen's part, trying to bring Von back from the dead, sort of, but for me, Von will always be the demos, the mystery that they used to be, and the constant using of the words 'satanic' and 'blood.'