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Electric orgy spells are cast - 75%

Felix 1666, June 14th, 2015
Written based on this version: 1997, 2CD, Steamhammer (Limited edition)

Venom is one of the bands that accompanies me since my puberty. As in a marriage, we have shared our passion for metal in good times and in bad. Well, the band did not take notice of this situation. But I did. And back in 1997, I was curious about their reunion album. But frankly speaking, "Cast in Stone" did not blow me away. I freely admit that it delivered an appropriate degree of heaviness and the compositions offered a fairly broad range of song patterns. In this context, the relatively epic "Destroyed & Damned" stood out. It was slow and tried to generate a desperate mood. Its most surprising feature was marked by the vocals of Cronos. He sounded like the singer of this permanently unsuccessful group called Metallica. Nevertheless, an interesting piece. But this tune could not hide the fact that the album´s overall impression was good yet slightly unspectacular. Its carefully constructed songs were unable to compensate for the lack of creative unpredictability. Well, I do not want to criticize the output too harshly. To be more accurate, let me say that the once fascinating combination of immorality and insanity did not reappear. Songs like "Red Light Fever" or "Teacher´s Pet" were unthinkable. To end on a poetic note, Venom had lost its soul.

As mentioned above, the album proved that Venom was still interested in making noise. It was just problematic that Cronos and his two comrades - or should I say "business partners" - tried to impress with a voluminous work. Venom unloaded 14 songs in order to make clear that they had great ambitions, but the high degree of quantity could not offset the partial lack of quality. After a good start with songs like the powering "All Devils Eve", the fast-paced "Raised in Hell" and the well-accentuated "Domus Mundi" with its tribal drums at the beginning, some tracks lacked of memorable parts. "Flight of the Hydra" springs to my mind in this context. It had nothing to offer but the recycled riff of "Bloodlust" and stupidly hammering drums. However, the band bundled its forces so that, for example, the vocals of Cronos did not lack of variety or expressiveness. Yet it became apparent that the original three-piece did no longer possess the former chemistry. Additionally, the previous euphoria did not show up. "Cast in Stone" was the result of an experienced band that made a good job. In terms of heaviness, it was in line with expectations. But I would like to emphasize once again that one could discuss whether it was suitable to revitalize the glorious name "Venom". From a present-day perspective, it seems to be a logical development that this album remained the last work of Mantas, Abaddon and Cronos.

While having an eye on a contemporary production, Venom ensured a powerful appearance of "Cast in Stone". I guess that there was no alternative to this decision, even though this sound did not evoke associations with their classic works. You cannot have everything. When leaving the early albums out of consideration, the production earned recognition. Due to its highlights and the appropriate sound, the full-length had the potential for a rating of 85 percent. Unfortunately, Venom lacked of courage so that they recorded songs like "Judgement Day" instead of dropping them in order to shorten and solidify the result. This sin of omission could not be compensated, neither by the highlights of the regular album nor by the songs of the bonus disc. It offered a relatively crude mix of classics and the exclusive (and not very exciting) mid-paced band anthem "Venom" which was previously only performed on stage. But anyway, the positive aspects of "Cast in Stone" prevailed. It deserves to be heard.

Meh. - 64%

lonerider, June 7th, 2014
Written based on this version: 1997, 3 12" vinyls, Steamhammer

You don’t have to be a Venom fanboy to honor and appreciate the band’s legendary status as trailblazers of black, thrash and speed metal and godfathers of the black/thrash ‘n’ roll sound. Their first couple of albums were undeniably fun to listen to: raw as hell, shoddily produced, technically inept and musically unrefined, but at the same time highly innovative, bursting with attitude, energy and youthful enthusiasm. Yet for all their historical importance, what have Venom really accomplished in the thirty years that have passed since “At War with Satan”, by most accounts the last of their “classic” albums? Sure, the band has continued on through numerous lineup changes and to the present day put out some more decent to pretty good records, but let’s be frank: would we really still be talking about the “Possessed”s, the “Prime Evil”s, the “Resurrection”s or the “Metal Black”s if they didn’t come from the same lunatics that rose to relative stardom with the seminal “Welcome to Hell” and “Black Metal”? Hardly.

“Cast in Stone”, released in 1997, was hailed as a comeback album at the time, given that the original lineup of Cronos, Mantas and Abaddon reunited to show the world once more that no one does dirty, occult, NWoBHM-influenced speed/thrash metal better than the venerable originals. Mission accomplished? Nah. The three-piece certainly tries hard to recapture the (black) magic of old, but “Cast in Stone” ultimately feels like a calculated effort that grows stale quickly, falling short in too many areas to really be considered a success. To a certain degree, what made Venom’s earliest albums enjoyable was their anarchistic, helter-skelter vibe: the band was basically all over the place, playing much faster than their instrumental skills really allowed and threatening to go off the rails at any moment. The end result was often on the brink of utter chaos and it sure didn’t sound pretty, but it also made for a hell of a lot of entertainment.

On “Cast in Stone”, however, we get to hear an older, more mature version of Venom. The guys are still far from being virtuosos and “tight” is still among the last adjectives you would use to describe the band’s performance, but the musical delivery is at least competent. In other words, everything sounds a lot more controlled than in their early days, and that might just be the problem: maybe it sounds a bit too controlled for its own good, if that makes any sense. To make matters worse, there just aren’t enough fast, thrashy songs on here. Whenever the album speeds up and leaves the realm of stomping mid-tempo dullness, it gains a sense of urgency that’s otherwise lacking; “Raised in Hell”, “Infectious” or “Flight of the Hydra” are good examples for this. Far too often, however, the album is stuck in mid gear and, save for a couple of tracks with great hooks and catchy choruses (“God’s Forsaken”, “Kings of Evil”), simply doesn’t do enough to keep the listener’s attention, especially not for its entire duration of 55 minutes. To make matters worse, at least two of the songs on offer are more or less complete duds: “Domus Mundi” and “Swarm” have a more experimental and almost industrial edge to them, making them sound disjointed and ultimately out of place.

In the end, “Cast in Stone” is not as bad as the above paragraphs might indicate, but it’s also not the original lineup’s glorious return to form that it’s sometimes made out to be. It passes as a decent record with nice production (clear yet sufficiently rough around the edges) and a couple of pretty enjoyable songs. Those simply looking for some dirty and mean thrashin’ ‘n’ rollin’ will find some good stuff here, but those hoping for a truly captivating album, one that sucks you right in and makes you want to come back for repeated listens, may want to turn elsewhere. “Cast in Stone” has its moments and can be fun for a while, but quickly loses what little luster it has.

Reunited and It Feels So Awful - 10%

Apteronotus, May 26th, 2014

Venom is a band whose contributions to metal are so powerful that it is difficult to accept that they are also guilty of releasing “Cast In Stone.” The year was 1997, and with worm Castings on Stone the band released their first full-length album to showcase the Cronos-Abaddon-Mantas lineup since “Possessed” back in 1985. Reuniting with the same intensity, chemistry, and passion displayed by a divorced couple chatting while picking up their children from a neutral location, Venom offers definitive proof that an all star lineup can mean absolutely nothing. Sometimes people wonder how bad music can really be when everything is produced fine and everyone pretty much knows how to play their instruments - this is the answer. While production and performance traits are typically regarded as strengths, they only make things worse here by allowing Venom to more clearly convey how awful the album is. Don’t waste your time listening to this. Each one of the 14 songs is awful, each riff is awful, and each syllable gargling or growling out of Cronos’s mouth is awful. Ideas like “passion” and “feel” can be really intangible with music until you hear an album like this that is completely lacking in both. As the band goes through the motions of making music, everything becomes so predictable that you essentially suffer through the entire faux-Venom album just by hearing the first note. Similar to post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Venom probably reunited for around one hour and simply recorded the meeting because there couldn’t have been any premeditated thought behind writing these songs. This process would have meant that everyone was on the same page musically, so the band had to devolve into predictable, pathetic, and poppy song structures and rock pastiches. Now, no one can accuse Venom of having ever been a technical band. But, when you have endless pop-rock styled “hooks” in your songs and pandering choruses, it is a depressingly far cry from the band’s influential and edgier past. Compare the gang chants on the infantile song “Infectious” that stupidly spurt out each of the word’s syllables “In” “fec” “tous” every fifteen seconds, with the classic “Teacher’s Pet” where gang chants of drunken revelry create the sense of genuine juvenile lust and ribaldry. This album is a shamefully bald attempt to go in a more commercial route to become popular again. On each song you can tell which small bit of crap you are supposed to remember and shout to your headbanger friends. Interviews from around the time even show Abaddon citing Marilyn Manson as an influence. If that doesn’t make you reach for the nearest antacid to counteract the vomit in the back of your throat, then maybe this album is for you. But when you have shit like the two notes that make up half of “Domus Mundi” farting around until the sun explodes, it is hard to imagine anyone liking this. (That particular song also has an appearance of “shitty 90’s robot voice,” which for those too young to know, was a megaphone type vocal effect used to ruin songs before musical criminals adopted autotune.)

There is a rocky path for a band once on the extreme end of metal trying to become relevant again as quickly and effortlessly as possible. First, Venom starts ripping unrelated pages out of books like “stock rock riffs that people who hate metal think are heavy” and “song structure for the cognitively impaired” then throws these page into an ugly hat to write the next song. I challenge anyone not to become irritated after the 500th time that: Cronos says “You’re All Gonna Die,” Mantas plays the same pentatonic guitar solo again, or the band uses an obviously stock song idea. For examples of the default-setting nature of the album you don’t even need to look further than the song intros. Clean intro? Check, “Destroyed & Damned.” Drumroll intro? Check, “All Devils Eve.” Breathing intro? Check, some other shitty song. And there’s more to hate! Each one of these intros is completely uninspired and could have been taken from a small cheap sound library and pasted before the songs that also might themselves be compiled from a rotten sound library. This sense of automation is so strong in the songwriting that it would seem like the band was engaging in self-parody - that is if it weren’t so obviously poppy mainstream pandering. One interesting thing is how parts of the album manage to stick out as particularly musically repulsive in an album that has so little musical merit. In fact, the especially awful parts are the only thing clearly showing that the rest of the album is a step above worthlessness.

Even the cliched Eastern mood of the final outro serves as another wink to the listener that says “look at us, we are safe, please buy our album.” Imputing these kinds of selfish motivations onto a series of notes is completely justified here because of how enjoyably filthy Venom used to be. For those who haven’t suffered enough and need more proof, there is also a bonus CD metastization of re-recorded songs that really help to show how a band can destroy songs without playing any notes incorrectly or making productions mistakes. The intro to the second CD is also helpful as an obvious sign of the band’s attitude when they have a spooky voice announce “Ladies and Gentlemen, from the very depths of Hell, Venom!” A window into the band’s thought process “we are still relevant, look how 90’s tough we are, pay attention” and a stark contrast from the moody monologues from the band’s past. To be clear though, the band’s past doesn’t make this album any worse or better, Castings on Castings would still be an awful abomination of pop ethos imposed onto formulaic metal if an unknown band had released it. That would be fitting too, because this release deserves to be unknown. I’m going to bury this album at the bottom of a 10-pound vat of hemorrhoid cream. That way, if I ever get a hemorrhoid so severe that I need to use ten pounds of cream, I can make myself feel better by seeing Castings at the bottom, all creamy, and thinking: “hey, things could be worse.”

Originally written for Contaminated Tones.

Truly engraved in stone - 92%

Infernalblackflame, November 18th, 2010

Venom, one of those legendary bands from United Kingdom. The most interesting fact about that band is that they have created the word (well, compound word): black metal. Why did I choose to review this album than Black Metal or At War With Satan?? It’s because it features the last album with the original line up from the first era album (last album where they all featured in was Possessed in 95) and after 13 long years, they decided to work together and give us Cast In Stone.

Indeed, the structure and style of the songs haven’t changed, but the only thing different from Possessed and Black Metal is that it’s more violent, more evil, more everything HUH! We begin the album with an evil one, heavy guitar riff with an incredible heavy bass sound, such riffs being mostly all along the album which makes it more violent than ‘raw’ than the first one. There are some violent fast tracks (Fly of the Hydra is the perfect example) which make the album much more original & polyvalent than the previous, as shown for tracks 6 and 14, made by Abaddon (surely planned for his solo project if anyone's heard it, it's kind of electronic heavy techno) that we can hear a big different. He gives us some tribal drum at the beginning with weird ambient in the middle of the sound, something we've never heard from the other album.

Swarm, interesting song and original too with some Egyptian whispering behind a little electronic drum beat mixed with some winds and the song ends with an incredible solitary swell of ambience which gives the album that punch of darkness. The drumming style of Abaddon hasn't changed over the years and the same goes for Cronos with his vocals, why change something which already works well.

That’s why I’ve chosen this album than the other, all the songs give us something new and original than the previous and even the new ones. All tracks on this album deserve a few listens because they are all different, we can’t say ‘hey that track almost has the same riff as their song X’.

Track to listen: ALL.

Simply not a good album - 44%

Muloc7253, January 17th, 2009

Wow, what happened to Venom? This album was supposed to be a reunion of the classic line-up and thus a return to the classic days of Welcome to Hell, alas it seems that by this point Venom just don't have it in them anymore.

There is absolutely no spirit or enthusiasm on this album at all, not a trace. The whole band just sound like they don't want to be there and don't care about the music they're recording at all. Back in their early days a lot of people didn't like them because they demphasized technicality and clarity in favour of wild enthusiasm and crude catchiness, but here they have none of that.

Sure, it really isn't THAT different from vintage Venom, soundwise, but it just sounds like the Possessed album regurgitated over again, with whatever little charm that LP had completely sucked out. I can't really put my finger on why the songwriting is so weak other than maybe they just didn't put as much effort in, or they had simply ran out of juice by this point. Maybe they favoured mid-paced songs more than faster monsters like Witching Hour and Black Metal, or maybe the riffs are just too bland and similiar, I don't know. Cronos has a bit more of a harder snarl to his voice, but it doesn't sound genuine at all, there's nothing as wicked as "bloodluuuuuuuuust" or that wicked snarl thing at the beginning of 'Teacher's Pet'. 'Destroyed and Damned' has a nice melodic introduction, and 'Infectous' is decent in that it's a little more chaotic than the reserved, controlled nature of the other songs, but it's just not enough.

This album's simply boring and even though it's no offensive it does absolutely nothing and goes on way too long. Only recommended to completists, this album does nothing but prove that UK black metal of the 90s sucks, and they should have broke up when Mantas left after Possessed.

Built up to be much, much more - 75%

cronosmantas, March 1st, 2006

1996 was built up to be a big year for metal as it was the reunion of the original three members of Venom: Cronos, Mantas, and Abaddon. With Venom broke up after the Demolition Man years and Cronos’s solo band failing, it was actually perfect time for a reunion. They kicked off the re-union with a killer tour with Slayer and the band introduced a good new song called The Evil One. Unfortunately the album that resulted wasn’t the grand reunion everyone was hoping for.

The album opens with the song The Evil One, and like I mentioned before, it’s a good song. It’s a slower, more foreboding track. Raised in Hell and All Devil’s Eve are more reminiscent of Venom of old but sadly both songs clock in Under 3 minutes. Bleeding follows and it’s a rather lame track. This time however the short running time is for the listener as the lame song is over with rather fast.

After Bleeding comes the real shocker, a song called Destroyed and Damned. The first half of this song actually played off as a balled. What the fuck!? Venom playing a ballad? Well, sort of as half way through it kicks into a thrash metal assault. Good song and an interesting experiment for the band. The next track Doomus Mundi would also be an experimental song. This time it has the band experiment with industrial sounds. WTF?! This is no doubt the result of Abaddon as he left the band after this album to start his solo Industrial band. He actually remade the song for his 2000 solo album I Am Legion except the song was re-titled Hollow Voices. I didn’t mind the song but no doubt most Venom fans will be left scratching their heads.

Flight of the Hydra and God’s Forsaken are decent thrash tracks, but after that the album takes a real noise dive. Every song after that is basically filler. That’s the problem with an album with 14 tracks as there is bound to be filler; there just seems to be more than usual on this album.

Another problem with the album is the production. Sure it’s better sounding then their first albums, but still at this time in their career, Venom should be getting top notch production like Slayer. The production just sounds half-assed as if they wanted to get this album recorded and releases as fast as possible.

Some versions of this album also came with a bonus disc called “Classics Re-Recorded” with some old Venom songs re-recorded with “better” production. Is this an attempt to make up for the lacks of the new album itself or is it just the band rewarding their die hard fans? The more I listen to the album, the more I lean towards the first part of the question.

Ironically I actually preferred some of Venom albums with Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan and Cronos’s solo releases as opposed to this. This reunion album also cancelled the release of Cronos’s third solo album Triumvirate which is a shame as it would have probably been better than this. Thankfully Venom returned (without Abaddon) in 2000 to record the kickass album Resurrection which makes me a little more forgiving on Cast in Stone.

Nice brutal reunion - 84%

sepultribe, April 26th, 2005

Well they got back together, the classic lineup, and put together 14 songs for Cast in Stone. Now I always get a bad impression when a metal band has more than 10 songs, because that usually means filler. Well I was right to think that. But they sure did put out some good material for once since ’85. This isn’t the thrashy Venom like back in the day. This is a tad bit slower more brutal riffage. Normally I would be like “Great they’ve slowed down like all the others, its probably shit” but I gave it a chance and I don’t regret it. There are still some fast thrashers like “Raised in Hell” and “Flight of the Hydra.” But the majority is crushing metal that’s definitely far from the black metal label they got tagged with. Is this really the same production team as back in the day for Welcome to Hell?? This production sounds awesome. The sound is mammoth like and so is the song writing. But another thing redeemable about the album is its diversity.

Right from the beginning that guitar opening just reels you in for a 3 minute midtempo crusher. Evil One pretty much gives you a definite feel for the album. Other midtempo ones are Destroyed and Damned, Bleeding, and Kings of Evil. Bleeding goes in between slow verses (“Bleeeeeeeeeeding”) to faster sections, both of which have great riffs. Destroyed and Damned starts out….. quite odd. It has some emotive guitar work with a somber spoken part. It seems almost like a depressive ballad until about 2 minutes into it and it becomes an extremely heavy slow song.

Kings of Evil starts out with just Cronos playing a little rhythm on bass then adds vicious vocals. After a while the rest of the band joins in with an unholy high scream. It picks up the pace with the chorus but gets kind of boring. A couple of the best songs are the faster ones Raised in Hell, and Flight of the Hydra. Raised in Hell just slaps you in the face after Evil One and leaves you breathless afterwards. Flight of the Hydra starts out with cool guitar work and then goes into a very fast part chaotic part, also a great chorus. Highlight of the album.

Now with the good comes the mediocre… and sometimes shit. Like Swarm. Honestly this is one horrible attempt at atmosphere with stupid electronics thrown in. Domus Mundi also starts out with some sequenced sample of percussion. Gods Forsaken, Mortals, and Your All Gonna Die are all forgettable and could have been left out. So it could have been an awesome 9 song album but this is forgivable to an extent.

Well that was a trip… wait a sec there’s a whole second disc. The second disc is a collection of lesser known Venom classics redone in the studio. It starts out with their opener “Ladies and Gentlemen, from the very depths of Hell… VENOM!!!” and then goes into a very nicely done version of Bloodlust. They go through some other good songs like Acid Queen, Warhead, Manitou, and Venom. They songs pretty much remain the same except with definitely better production.

I wouldn’t recommend Cast in Stone to anybody wanting to get into Venom. This is mainly for Venom fans but it’s a very nice deal, with the added second disk and a nice package including a mini poster, pentagram and all. Highlights are Evil One, Raised in Hell, Bleeding, and Flight of the Hyrda. Venom fans rejoice.