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Their most consistent release in years. - 60%

Roswell47, August 25th, 2010

For me, Kataklysm's output has been pretty hit and miss in recent years. I am usually as likely to enjoy any given Kataklysm track as I am to be completely underwhelmed by it. Like later AC/DC, Kataklysm keeps releasing albums that contain a couple of good tracks destined to become concert staples, while the rest of the songs on the albums are soon forgotten by all but the group's most devoted fans. With Heaven's Venom, Kataklysm succeeds in breaking its streak of spotty albums. That's not to say that Heaven's Venom is a work of genius, but it's certainly an improvement over their recent output and quite possibly Kataklysm's most enjoyable and consistent release since 2002's Shadows and Dust.

The first half of Heaven's Venom is more or less standard Kataklysm. The first few songs sound like some of the better material on the most recent albums. There's plenty of grooving and catchy riffs like those found in "Determined (Vows of Vengeance)." There are also catchy choruses aplenty such as the unforgettable chorus of "Faith Made of Shrapnel." The band's (or maybe the label's) choice for the album's first single and video, "Push the Venom," is a decent track, but it is definitely the weakest on the album. Although this track is not terrible, it sounds the most like Kataklysm's weaker songs of late. Releasing this track as a single is definitely not putting the album's best foot forward and may give the impression to the curious listener that this album is just more of the same.

Despite a decent first half of the album, the second half of Heaven's Venom improves with a little more experimentation and more variety. Well, it's more experimental for Kataklysm anyway. Heaven's Venom takes a turn for the better beginning with album highlight, "Hail the Renegade." Cool blackened riffs, interesting rhythm patterns, spastic snare rolls, and a melodic bass solo all make this song a standout. With this track, Kataklysm actually makes a strong effort to keep things interesting, and it works. More variety helps other songs stay interesting and memorable too. For example, "As the Walls Collapse" uses harmony riffs and stuttering rhythms and grooves to its advantage, while "Numb and Intoxicated" utilizes an odd riff and a grooving pinch harmonic-laden chorus to stick in your head. "Suicide River" is proof that despite what Six Feet Under has taught us, "simple" can work very well when all of the elements are arranged properly. "Suicide River" and "Blind Saviour," two of the album's strongest songs, both use blackened melodic elements akin to Hypocrisy to close the album strongly. The use of melody is definitely a key strong point throughout the entire album, especially in the last half. Only "At the Edge of the World" causes a glitch in the progress of the last part of the album. It uses stock Swedish riffs (which I swear they must be selling in ten packs at Ikea these days) and a super-jock breakdown at the end of the song. (I can see the no-necks going apeshit in the pit already.) Despite these complaints, the song is still surprisingly strong.

While Heaven's Venom is exceptionally consistent, it rarely goes beyond just being a good release. There are really no amazing, jaw-dropping parts. But then again, that's not what we have come to expect from Kataklysm. For most metal heads, Heaven's Venom won't be an essential purchase. Actually, despite the fact that Kataklysm has improved immensely on Heaven's Venom, some people may still find this album to be just plain average and maybe even boring. However, if you have enjoyed any of Kataklysm's recent releases at all, chances are you will be pleased with Heaven's Venom. Heaven's Venom is destined to be a fan favorite, and surely more than just a couple of these songs will be in Kataklysm's live set for years to come.

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