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This demo is legendary. Popularized by the Norwegian scene finding love for it, and by figures such as Varg Vikernes wearing Von shirts. 20 minutes of fast, raw, simple, aggressive black metal, created in the turbulent years when black metal was becoming it's own style, breaking away from thrash and death metal to become it's own distinct genre. Satanic Blood is an incredibly influential demo. Coming out the same year as A Blaze in the Northern Sky, this was among some of the first of it's kind. But is it any good?
Everything in this demo is stripped back and simplistic. This is about as simple as black metal can get. 1 or 2 riffs per song, simple blast beats start to finish, gargled vocals, barely audible bass. Great. There are a couple of solos thrown in too, but they are far from complex. With such a simple style, I'm glad it's only 20 minutes long, otherwise it may get tiresome after multiple listens. The riffs are pretty good considering the simplicity, and ride on top of the drums well, giving a great sense of energy and aggression. One or two riffs per song, with each song only being 2 and a half minutes each. However, nothing here completely blows me away. It's a decent listen every now and again but it's far from amazing. Here, the influence outweighs the quality. Satanic Blood is something you listen to when you're in the mood for it.
I used to completely hate this demo, however after a while, I began to like it. It really grows on you after a while. But, it does not live to the hype however. I think you have to have an ear for this sort of stuff, even a lot of black metal fans find it hard to get into. Not in the sense that it's too pretentious for mere peasants, but in the sense that it's not easy listening. The repetition and simplicity can be boring to a lot of people. If you're looking for anything complex or beautiful, ignore this. If you're looking for a fast, very simple, aggressive pummeling, stick this on. However, since it;s release, the formula has been improved upon, so I would only recommend this release to those who are already a fan of the fast, angry, simple breed of black metal.
Von certainly was one of the first black metal bands to come out of the United States. Formed in 1987, it wouldn't be until 1992 that Von would release their first demo, entitled "Satanic Blood". This demo tape is basically the first real black metal recording to come out of the US. With its raw, primitive, and extremely simple sound, "Satanic Blood" and Von would prove to be influential to the USBM scene, and even black metal as a whole. I mean, we've all seen the pictures of Varg Vikernes wearing a Von shirt to his court appearances, so this band obviously influenced the Norwegian scene somewhat. Oh, and that song called "Watain" is where the Swedish band got their name. As influential as this demo may be, it certainly is not amazing or even good at all. Really, it's a steaming pile of blackened turds.
It's way too hard to really differentiate the songs from one another because they all sound exactly the same. Seriously, this demo's entire 20 minutes sounds like an insanely long song repeating the same riffs over and over again. Simplicity is synonymous with black metal. With classic albums such as "Transilvanian Hunger" and "Hvis lyset tar oss" coming out of Norway around the same time as this, if not a little later, black metal is not supposed to be an insanely technical style of music. Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not. But at least these other bands releasing minimalist black metal recordings know how to differentiate the songs and change up the damn riffs every so often. Oh, and the lyrics aren't special either. Not a huge deal, as the whole "HAIL SATAN" thing was common for early black metal anyway.
Even songs like "Veadtuck" which are not as fast and stupid sounding as the others are still painfully boring. The drumming throughout the demo is completely one-sided and uninspired. Blast beats are pretty much the only type of drums we will hear. It's not really that fast either. Just mid-paced, slower blast beats that still really do absolutely nothing in terms of variation or excitement.
In closing, I really don't understand how this demo is so influential aside from the fact that it was one of the earliest USBM releases. It's so boring that I literally felt bad for wasting 20 minutes of my life listening to it. The only reason I acknowledge it as a legitimate release was its somehow miraculous influence on the impending black metal movement. Maybe I'll check out Von's recent albums, because I hear they're actually a lot better than this. Because really, I'm sure they could easily top this garbage.
Despite having a career that never really took off, VON has a lot of buzz in the black metal scene. I’ve come across a good amount of bands that have either covered them or cited them as a strong influence or I’ve encountered numerous people who are citing this demo as this “groundbreaking” and “amazing” holy grail of the genre. So recently I went searching on the internet to check it out myself (the whole thing is on YouTube by the way) and upon listening to it, I was completely dumbfounded at the hype circling this thing. This demo, in a single word, is terrible.
The first thing that sticks out is the songwriting. Now I’ve heard “primitive” and “minimalistic” used to describe it, but those are actually pretty polite terms considering just how astonishingly bad the songwriting really is. Each track feels like it’s on an endless loop. They have at the most one or two different riffs that just cycle over and over again. Obviously this never ending repetition makes the demo intolerably tiresome to listen to. Further examples of how incredibly uninspired the compositions are, is that each song follows a near identical structure, of course making it near impossible to tell one song apart from the next. It becomes mind numbing very quickly.
As for performances, they consist of some very amateurish and one dimensional riffs that are barely audible because of the atrocious production, and blast beat drumming that keeps the exact same tempo for every song. It sounds like he was just slamming away at his snare drum, which itself sounds a lot like a bunch of thumping more than anything else. Like he had a drum kit made of wood and cardboard. They completely overwhelm the very generic and razor thin guitar work. Being that this is a black metal demo from the early 90’s, awful sound quality is par for the course. But the mixing here at times makes the music pretty much unlistenable. However probably the worst part of the sound are the vocals, which are just downright comic. They are low guttural growls, sounding something more akin to death metal than black metal. However they are pretty hard to take seriously just because of how silly they sound, almost like a guy doing a parody of death growls. Lyrics are also god awful. Absolutely cringe worthy at times, sounding just as goofy as the vocal work belching them out.
Like I mentioned at the start of this review, I am dumbfounded at the worship this demo has received. Not only is it generic and forgettable, it’s just downright bad music. I say avoid entirely. Unless you have a thing for poorly constructed, badly performed, generic black metal, than this is right up your alley.
Other than that, this is one to skip entirely.
(Originally posted on Sputnikmusic.com)
Cult status among anything entertainment-based should be handled with a delicate grip and a cautious eye, for there has to be a reason as to why this movie/show/band/what have you only percolates in underground circles. And the sad part is that, on my end, very few things have been able to tickle the taint in a way so many expected it to. I'd like to think that it's due to all the, in the end, unrealistic praise such a piece tends to get that results in my angst level rising due to the underwhelming nature of the work, but for whatever the reason I just don't get it.
This is the most easiest to understand when it comes to cult bands and music, the groups that seem woefully underappreciated or too overlooked for their own good due to their influence on their respective scene at large, and Von seems to be one such group. The most underground of the black metal world with an impact almost on par with Mayhem, Celtic Frost and the like, only with far less exposing light, it almost seems unfair that their comeuppance never came to be.
But there's rationale behind that. A really good one at that...
Von is a cult band for a reason; there is literally no conceivable way something of such shoddy and fault-ridden workmanship could go anywhere and appease anyone outside of themselves and their close-knit group of associates and immediate fans. But even then, that's stretching it. Take, for example, their first official demo. "Satanic Blood" is the very musical description of "five car pile up", with all the ugliness and misery therein. This is one of the sloppiest, headachingest, most agonizing recordings I've heard in a really long time, a demo and band that makes Ildjarn sound like Rhapsody of Fire. What in the fuck is this?? Post-Hellhammer level musicianship, overtly repetitive song structures, a production value that renders everything a blurry, muddied and mobile Rose Bush wall from the DeathWatch games repeatedly slamming itself into your poor, battered corpse throughout its duration. Yes, that sounds like quite the apt analogy.
This could not have been truly envisioned and honed, nothing that sounds this terrible. This really has all the appeal of some dopey high school kids with no sense of musical skill or talent taking an afternoon to record a bunch of "songs" on a cheapo tape recorder for no other reason than to piss off as many people as they could. But then again, maybe that was their main MO? If so, then they've succeeded on that level at the very least; this demo did anger me to the point of seeking its destruction by way of its shittiness. I didn't need the faux-Satanic/occult topics to push me over the edge; that didn't bother me in the least 'cause it was fairly obvious these guys didn't have a single idea on what they were ranting about. There's no real sense of studious lecturing here, just a bunch of names and four-word curses that have no substance to them whatsoever. Mortifying, truly...
It's impossible to pick out a single track that stands out since each one sounds exactly like the one(s) before and after it (though many out there would really only remember the title track thanks to Dark Funeral...), so finding the best or worst of the lot is blind shooting at best. In that same token, it's almost impossible to find the best and/or worst parts of each track, for all of it is awful beyond comprehension. Guitars, drums, vocals, arrangements, dynamics, none of it works or is any good to be remembered upon completion of the track. In fact, I didn't get to the end of any of the tracks; I was lucky to even making it to the thirty second mark before moving on in resolute disgust. You can only handle so much aural torture before giving in and asking for absolution. Numbing, abrasive, obnoxious, just flat out horrible from end to end. The gods can't be happy with me, now...
All in all Von is fucking terrible and definitely not deserving of the hype they and their recordings tend to get. I can place this up with other "cult" works that have left me bitterly disappointed and have no intention of ever acknowledging again, and as far as early black metal goes this doesn't even scratch the surface of due influence when placed against other works of that era. There's more legit malevolence in "Dusk...and Her Embrace" than any track off "Satanic Blood". No thank you...
Satanic Blood puts to shame the drum sound of Death's "Scream Bloody Gore" and the goofy vocal-only tracks at the end of Havohej's "Dethrone the Son of God" - otherwise great albums with notoriously bad components that would be embarrassing for the legendary content of the releases. Von don't have any quality to redeem themselves from the poor sound quality of this demo. The sound quality of the demo is actually the best thing here, because the songs are boring as hell. The drums clunk away on slow blast beats for nearly the whole album, the exception being "Veadtuck", which is a reminder of how poor the guitar work is. There are no riffs, just repetitive droning of power chords shifting two or three times then repeating, and some occasional noodling that sounds like an amateur with poor phrasing trying to pick out a melody.
The worst part is the vocals. They sound unforgivably goofy, like a comedian trying to imitate David Vincent in a silly voice. There's no charm to them, like the awkwardly phrased but excellent vocals on Stillborn's "Necrospirituals" where the vocalist drones pleasantly like a drunken Transylvanian. Those sound a bit goofy in a good way, this sounds goofy in a bad way, a vocalist in the earlier days of death metal who hadn't figured out how to pull it off but tried anyway. So many amateurs have made charming, memorable, or at least entertaining vocal performances that were technically horrible but fun to hear. This one is bad and drenched in reverb that makes it sound even worse under a thin, trebly guitar tone.
The potent amateurism is unsurprising considering that it's from 1992, and there weren't many terrible black metal bands around yet at that time. Bestial Summoning matured and put out a classic that Von could strive to be - Von sounds like a Bestial Summoning cover band that couldn't play their way out of a wet paper bag nor find their way to the second part of the song by way of a transition. The complete lack of anything to make the music memorable - hooks in the guitars, vocals, and drums, is terminal for this demo. It's not atmospheric, the feel of it is quite crappy, but there's no hook that grabs you, something you'll find in every black metal band that didn't suck - it was quite a highlight of the French LLN scene, especially Vlad Tepes, and the Norwegians and Greeks blended melodic and rhythmic hooks and atmosphere quite well. Such pronounced attributes of songwriting were out of this band's grasp in 1992, and seem to be to this day.
Von did absolutely nothing well. Pitiful.
Von was always something of a mystery. This band seemingly appeared out of nowhere, issued a limited amount of material, and then vanished into nothingness. Information was always somewhat foggy, as the 1992 self-released Satanic Blood demo was often cited as having been released in 1988, for some reason. Odd how a matter of a few years would have changed the impression of this recording, since that may have meant quite a bit more in some sense. Still, for what it is, this demo is quite worthy of some amount of praise.
My first experience with anything Von-related came when I acquired the first Dark Funeral full-length, The Secrets of the Black Arts, and heard their cover of "Satanic Blood". I'd heard the band name before but only after this had I decided to keep an eye out for their demo. Eventually, I found myself in Stockholm and discovered a copy of the demo on CD (coincidentally, through Blackmoon's record label), and picked it up. While it didn't impress me very much, it still satisfied my hunger for more material of this ilk.
While originally released as a cassette demo, the sound quality is pretty good, yet still very raw. The music is very simplistic and primitive. To say that it is minimalist would be a huge understatement, as there appears to have been very little thought regarding the songwriting. The songs just blast forth, with usually one speed, and very limited variation in riffing or vocal patterns. In some sense, Satanic Blood can be seen as the precursor to Transilvanian Hunger, using a similar riffing style and mentality as it relates to the drumming. The first four songs are all very straightforward and epitomize this sound. With the exception of one or two brief sections (the eerie riff at the beginning of "Watain", for example), it's all quite similar in feel and nearly puts the listener into a trance. The music actually comes off as somewhat ritualistic. The vocals are more like chants to some unseen darkness beyond.
The atmosphere takes on an even blacker tone, with the arrival of "Veadtuck". The pace is much slower, giving the riffs a chance to breathe and to take on more of a life of their own. The feeling conveyed is dark and almost mournful, at times. It is one of the few times when the band allows the listener to experience a different aspect of their songwriting, though this novelty may also be part of the reason that it stands out.
The rest of the songs then follow the pattern established by the first half of the demo. They feature tremolo riffs accompanied by blasting drums and deep vocals that have no sense of melody. The lead solos are also tremolo-picked and are among the highlights of the entire recording. One of the primary complaints from some critics is that all of the songs sound alike, and this is not really the case. Upon first listen, it may be an understandable conclusion, but still not accurate. A few listens will easily reveal the differences between the various riffs and each song, surprisingly enough, does possess its own identity.
Satanic Blood is not a release that will really leave you in awe. However, if you are looking for raw, minimalist Black Metal to suit your candlelight rituals, this definitely belongs on the list.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
Von’s influence on the genre of black metal is widely acknowledged, considering the year that this demo was released and the sheer number of bands that have covered this material, or have otherwise cited them as an influence. However, influential doesn’t necessarily mean that something is good. The actual significance of Von (more specifically, this demo) is highly questionable.
To break things down a bit, Von are the quintessential raw black metal band. Primitive is a very apt description here, if one word were to suffice. However, I’d prefer to use a number of words to convey how utterly stupid and generic this music is. This demo contains most of the fundamental aspects of black metal that the listener would expect to hear, and its evidential influence is more than enough to spark an interest to the aspiring fan. Unfortunately, this demo is the old school equivalent to the average bedroom black metal band, and isn’t even worth your time if you dislike such hastily constructed nonsense.
The lack of variation and substance here is profound. The consistent, seemingly endless repetition of each song is excruciating to endure. Quite simply, this music is sterile and boring beyond your imagination. The drumming generally consists of one specific tempo, a relatively slow blast beat which dominates the majority of each song. It sounds programmed. It alone is enough to make you want to pull your hair out after a few songs. The guitar tone is incredibly thin; riffs are very basic and one-dimensional, and is very typical in regard to the style of the first wave, which by that point had already ended. Furthermore, the songwriting is as basic as early Ildjarn, (if even that) and is very elementary in composition, to say the least. Each song sounds almost exactly the same as the previous one, which is probably the single most intolerable aspect of this vacuous crap. The vocals consist of low grunting more suited for death metal standards; a not-so-typical feature of raw black metal, but regardless - they’re somewhat comical in manner, and if the intention was to convey a sense of evil, Von have failed miserably.
The year of its release doesn’t seem to merit its influential stance within the genre. The second wave was well underway in 1992, and there were a number of bands who had already improved upon the very fundamental beginnings of the first wave by that point, creating more innovative and interesting music in comparison with what is presented here. But whatever. It is what it is. I think Von generally appeals to the "look, I'm so satanic" crowd who are into the image and visual aspect of this work more than anything. It's aesthetically pleasing to those who find excitement in owning old records for the sake of owning old records on vinyl and such other "look at my awesum collection" purposes. This demo is primitive, minimal, and certainly raw; however, it’s also an endurance test. I suppose it’s cool for collective purposes, but I’d assume anyone who legitimately worships this nonsense to lack an average level of intelligence.
Personally, I'm a huge fan old of old school black metal, living in Norway I've had a huge opportunity to really get into the genre of black metal as a whole, explore some of its roots, and really experience the genre first hand. If you were to ask me who the most influential bands in the genre are, well, the answer is not too difficult. Bathory, Mayhem and other old school classics come to mind, after all they started the lo-fi harsh vocal fronted music that has come to be known as black metal. Ask many metalheads about influential black metal bands, and your bound to hear the name VON be brought up.
For me, VON have never stood out in any way whatsoever. First of all, their influence seems to be overblown completely, albums like the Bathory self titled and Deathcrush were out way before this demo, which despite many opinions, I believe holds no originality or special qualities. VON's music like a lot of black metal, is very simple, very. Now, normally simplicity is never an issue in black metal, take Transilvanian Hunger for example, each song does not have many riffs or changing sections, yet, the music is still very good and holds tons of atmosphere which makes it enjoyable, and that is really where VON fails, they don't suceed at making any kind of atmosphere with their music.
All of the songs found on Satanic Blood sound EXACTLY the same, they are near impossible to tell apart. Like I said, using only a few riffs per song is not normally an issue, but when every single riff on the whole demo sounds the same, then you have a problem. All of the songs drone on with no more than 1 or 2 identical sounding riff, this makes the songs amazingly boring and unmemorable. The whole album suceeds at being unmemorable or boring in just about every fashion really, the drumming patterns don't change at all, which also is not normally an issue but when you have one droning riff with one droning drum pattern in the background, the 2 don't exactly help each other out at making the song more interesting.
Bass is nowhere to be found, but it is black metal so the issue does not really matter. Vocally this album isn't very strong either, Goat's vocals are a very low growl, and although they may fit the droning music they are wholly uninteresting as well, only making the album stand out even less than it already can.
So what are we left with? A terribly boring, repetitive, and wholly uninteresting album that proves to be nothing but a time waster for those listening to it. VON in my opinion even fails at being original or even that influencial, unless you count the idiotic worship bands that have spawned as a result. Really, I don't even see the old school appeal to this, as Satanic Blood was released in 1992, black metal had already gotten a fine start before this atrocity came around. If you want to get this album, I suggest turning your attention to Beherit's Drawing Down the Moon instead, as it is a much, much, much, better album with some similar features.
When it comes to first wave black metal, Von seems to be brought up from time to time. An obscure band that hails from the US and all the way back to 1989 had been playing black metal and considered one of the forefathers of the genre itself sometimes in comparison with the likes of Bathory, Celtic Frost, Hellhammer, Mayhem, and Venom. As for if they compare to those bands, that can be debatable, however as a whole this demo is actually one of the better cult classics.
The demo itself is exactly what you'd expect. Raw, minimalistic black metal with terrible production. The production is definitely something to get used to for some listeners and will be downright intolerable for others. The music itself is also nothing to really look at and think of as something amazing. Many time the same one or two 3 note riffs being played over and over again for the span of the song. The minimalism however is delivered and executed very well for an early black metal release. The vocals are well delivered and executed in a way that is tolerable, mixed low with the rest of music, though the noticeable delay that shows up on certain tracks can take away from them at times things only get better and better.
Von is definitely a cult classic among black metal and one of the better received bands from the first wave of black metal. So if I like this recording why the low score? The potential was there to be an even better recording when it comes to many factors, i wouldn't rate this demo highly along the likes of some professional albums, though you could definitely see if von had the chance to record a full length or rerecord this material officially it could've been one of the best early black metal records, so where it lacks it could've potentially be a much stronger release than it really was, but don't let that take away your opportunities to listen to this demo, it's more than worth it to play at least once if you're a fan of black metal. Hail Von!
I don't remember exactly how I came across this band and this work of theirs. I downloaded it out of word of mouth and curiousity. Once this got hold on my mp3 player it's been played to death since. I'm a nut for basic raw black metal, early Bathory, Mayhem, Burzum, Darkthrone, LLN, etc... The drums are practically played one way the whole time with blastbeats and the guitars are your basic droning, shrill, repetitive sound. The vocals are deep but with echo-effect. The production is really low, done on 4 track most likely. It's all done economically, stripped down black metal and probably not much to produce either. Still this album influenced a legion of people and bands. 'Transylvanian Hunger' must've been done the same way and Watain even named themselves after the song. The most surprising thing is that this is from San Francisco and not Scandinavia or France. It would be difficult to follow this up since it's so limited, musically speaking. In a way, it was a one off project that couldn't last very long. I'm aware that unreleased songs came out on the Satanic Blood Angel album but after hearing that I realize that they were not able to expand upon that sound very much, thus probably ending the band effectively. Whether this was all done intentionally, by accident or as a joke is not the point, the impact and influence of this demo was taken seriously, very seriously. This is not by any means epic or grandiose, it's just simple black metal 101. For those of us who still appreciate this music done this way, you'll enjoy this to no end.