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A kind of comeback?!? - 70%

Dead1, February 21st, 2016
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Spinefarm Records U.K.

The twenty-first century has not been kind to extreme metal pioneers Venom. Four releases into their reunion and they have struggled to hit the proverbial nail on the head. As such, it was difficult to expect much on the new album, From The Very Depths. Yet somehow, Cronos and friends have managed to reverse this trend and come out with an album that despite its overall generic sound is still quite enjoyable.

Sure this isn't going to revolutionise heavy metal like Welcome To Hell and Black Metal did all those decades ago. It isn't even going to be remembered as a great example of their craft. But then neither are most of the albums being released in speed and thrash metal these days.

Unlike the last few previous albums that were generally mid-tempo affairs flavoured by flawed attempts at modernity, From The Very Depths looks very much to their past for inspiration. And by past, we're talking their more late 1980s/early 1990s thrashy albums than the punky speed metal of their first three albums.

This is first and foremost an album of chuggy thrash riffs backed up by Cronos' distinctive bark and massive bass sound. And whilst there is no denying they are generic as hell, they are enjoyable due to their catchiness and classic sound. There is less variety than on previous affairs but that is a good thing given how hit and miss some of that variety was. Instead, where variety is used it is generally to good effect like the huge sounding "Evil Law," complete with Slayer-esque guitar hooks or brooding (by Venom standards) "Smoke."

And unlike the previous albums, the band doesn't sound forced. Indeed it sounds more like someone's lit a fire under them and are determined to show the world that there is more to them than a smattering of pioneering albums released thirty years ago.

The album does suffer from the usual Venom indulgence of being too long. And this is where that lack of variety bites with a number of the faster songs blurring into one another. At other times they get too hung up on a cool riff and overplay it.

Despite its flaws, From The Very Depths is a welcome addition for us Venom fans who were starting to wonder whether there was any life left in the old warhorse. It's a revitalisation of the band and hopefully a sign of better things to come.

Nyuck Nyuck! - 41%

GuntherTheUndying, February 21st, 2015

Pointing out that Venom zoomed past the last exit to relevancy years ago is like telling your neighbor he can save fifteen percent or more on his car insurance by switching to GEICO—everybody knows that. Venom has been striding contentedly in mediocrity since “Metal Black,” a dull piece that was underwhelming compared to even the group’s lesser works like “Resurrection” or the tolerable “Cast in Stone.” Albums like “Hell” and “Fallen Angels” seemed to have been made just to remind the world that Venom was still a band, in case you had endured a traumatic head injury and suffered from transient global amnesia. Cronos, the last remaining member of Venom’s golden years after Mantas and Abaddon jumped ship once the joys of their reunion had run dry, continues puffing out more prosaic stuff in the vein of latter-day Venom on “From the Very Depths.” After listening to it several times, I’m convinced Venom’s ineptitude is now the size of Satan’s penor.

I can’t deride the performances. Cronos and the other musicians have some heat to give off; Cronos’ barks are sharp, and guitarist Rage has decent solos plastered everywhere. But “From the Very Depths” is ruined from side to side because the large components continue to fan the flames of the group’s stodgy post-reunion direction. The lax, predictable texture of second-rate thrash metal anthems and the ample amount of mid-paced numbers continue to be the two tricks in the book. Here, the riffs and motifs they’ve been regurgitating for years are staler than ever; Venom’s beating of the dead horse seems like the only option. The lyrics are more of the same: I’m guessing Cronos gets his ideas by pulling scraps of paper upon which evil themes and metal clichés were jotted down out of a hat to come up with song titles like “Long Haired Punks” and “Evil Law.”

Venom was never revered for exceptional songwriting—even the twenty-minute “At War with Satan” retained the raw, sloppy signature of the Venom moniker. However, the trio had a sort of charm to its disorderly rampages that is missing here. “From the Very Depths” comes off as a clean record, its sound quality echoing the polished drum and guitar textures of most metal projects in 2015. Yet the group is continuing to heave out traditional Venom cuts that try to conjure up the grit and raw fury of “Welcome to Hell” and “Black Metal.” The times have caught up to Venom, and the frenzied style that made the band’s first few records masterpieces is rendered obsolete by tracks that are too predictable, too clinical, too uneventful, too bland to savor the flavor.

“Temptation” is especially a chore to sit through, what with the shoddy mid-paced riffs stopping and starting and Cronos shouting the song title ad nauseam. “Stigmata Satanas” and “Mephistopheles” suffer from similar symptoms, two insipid groove-laden flops in an album of mostly underwhelming moments. The Motörhead vibe of “The Death of Rock ‘n’ Roll” is enjoyable, and its brief spells of nostalgia are acceptable, but “From the Very Depths” is mostly a vapid listen. The fact that it lasts for over fifty minutes makes the experience far too fattening for its own good, and I think I wouldn’t have let this one slide even if it had come with two complimentary harlots from Hell. Hey, one could say Venom has fallen to the very depths! Nyuck nyuck!

This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com

You will confess - 87%

Felix 1666, February 19th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Spinefarm Records U.K.

Of course, there is no need to introduce Venom. The glorious early works of the band have left their mark until today. Thousands of line-up changes destroyed the magic of the British legend as well as lukewarm releases. I am not telling you something new when I say that the band is based upon the fame of days gone by. But Venom is always good for a surprise. Against all odds, the three-piece tries to impress us with a new studio album and yes, from my point of view, the old veteran Cronos and his comrades-in-arms are at least partly successful. They reach a remarkable hit rate while delivering ten good or even excellent numbers. Only the two relatively useless intros, the third title and the final track are more or less significantly weaker.

The Demolition Man, the temporary lead vocalist, performed powerfully. But Cronos shows on "From the Very Depths" once again that his rancid voice has its own charm. With the right portion of fury, his demonic approach is still absolutely convincing. Moreover, his vocal lines shape some sections of the album in an impressive way. For example, I refer to the verses of "Smoke". They thrive on his crude yet appropriate performance. No question that Cronos has not forgotten how to spell the words "Black" and "Metal", although the album cannot be described as a pure black metal record. The average velocity is surprisingly slow and the music combines again dirty thrash elements with gloomy parts. While finding the right balance between these ingredients, the band creates an atmosphere of uneasiness. Fortunately, the modern yet rumbling sound does not lack of vehemence. The bass of Cronos resists the powerful guitar successfully while setting its own accents. No instrument has received preferential treatment from Cronos who also produced the album. Quite the opposite, he did a great job. The mighty drums emphasize this statement.

Let´s concentrate on the songs themselves while neglecting the intro that adds no value to the full-length. Already the title track attacks you with its intensive and original guitar lines. The song sets the bar high, but the group tries its best to fulfill the increased expectations. Inter alia, the band scores with a more or less diversified song material. I recommend to compare the haunting "Smoke" (its beginning reminds me a bit of "Mystique" from "Possessed") with the following "Temptation" which is based on double-bass drums and massive guitar chords. The different compositional approaches become quite clear, but that´s not all. The next track ("Long Haired Punk") focuses on speed while demonstrating Venom´s joy of playing. This series could easily be continued, but I guess that I am at risk to write a track-by-track review... Thus, let me try to describe it differently. Without delivering exclusively future classics, "From the Very Depths" avoids fillers. There is a mostly simple but good idea behind almost each and every track. Although the pieces offer a wide range of various currents, the band scores with an homogeneous output. I admit that I am surprised by the overall quality of the full-length. Honestly, I would have been satisfied with a 70% album after ambivalent records such as "Metal Black".

The compact album does not appear as the work of battle-weary metal soldiers. The riffs are effective and heavy, the rhythmic approach is not too simple and songs like the monstrous "Evil Law" do not lack of depth. The modern Venom sound like a band which grows old with dignity. Okay, some of the lyrics have been obviously written under the influence of drugs. I have no other explanation for nonsensical lines such as "We´re killing Kid Creole". Nevertheless, my conclusion is that this is the best output under the banner of Venom since "The Waste Lands", at least if it stands the test of time. But even if that is not the case, "From the Very Depths" enriches the discography of a legend and whets the appetite for more. If you are still uncertain about the album´s quality, just listen to late highlights like "Mephistopheles" and "Wings of Valkyrie". (As a marginal note, the latter one offers a short German line "eins, zwei, drei, vier". It goes without saying that I like it...) Thumbs up for an unfussy and authentic full-length, although the band´s classics like "At War with Satan" are out of reach.

Slow-Acting Antivenom - 60%

doomknocker, February 17th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Spinefarm Records U.K.

Where would we be without this group of British brutes? How would countless millions have faired without the crude, blurry blueprints of black and death metal drawn up at the dawn of the 80s? And who would have thought that some blokes just making intentionally controversial noise (while not being all that proficient at their instruments...they really weren't back then, admit it) could have had such a gigantic impact? But I don't have to tell you that, now do I? Nope, I'm here, instead, to see what the legendary trio has been up to in the past year or so, with this being the result...

Now I've not exactly been the biggest Venom fan in the world (in fact, I'm not all that keen on the required listens for what they're worth...), so as it stands individually "From the Very Depths" certainly has its fair share of bite mixed with a seriously old school vibe, that indescribable force that's felt but can't be explained all that well. Still maintaining the feel of "The Devil's Motorhead" yet still being as Venomous as they've ever been, this kind of material doesn't warrant any sort of deep-seeking or thinking, oh no sirree...everything about "From the Very Depths" is delightfully two-dimensional, straightforward and, above all else, rockin'. Songs are easy to get into, not too simple as to be bored with it yet not so complicated as to require a compass to progress. But that's always been the name of the game with Cronos and Co.; straight jacking right in your fool face from every possible avenue and every possible steel-clad fist. Vocals are snarly and twisted, guitars have a smooth rustiness to them, the bass has a slightly distorted bite and the drums maintain a clean and clear punch able to cut through everything else with plenty of power yet not a whole lot of depth to the percussive lines. And when it all comes together things are, for the most part, dark, dingy and plentifully heavy, but occasionally a fun, almost jaunty tune comes your way (the verse progressions of "Stigmata Satanas" get the feet a'tappin', surprisingly enough, as does the harmonic lead section of "Wings of Valkyrie".).

It's quite noticeable that the band had, at least, a jolly ol' time bringing these tunes to musical flesh, and if nothing else this could be the brightest shining moment from end to end. I say this because, as the album progresses, the apparent sense of creative fun ends up ebbing in favor of a "been there, done that" sensation, curious to know where else the music can go and not really getting that kind of reward or payoff. From about "Crucified" onward, they're not really paving new roads or treading undiscovered territory either, and many of the songs run through a similar tempo and arrangement scheme, though not exactly ripping each other off outside of maintaining that singular sense of meter and speed. That tends to make the second half of the album drag on as you hope for something new to let you have it outside of the occasional different shift in focus ("Ouverture" is a nice deterrence, however, with its trippy, stroll-through-a-film-noir-city-at-night atmosphere, and the live(?) track "Rise" has energy to spare). So if nothing else, prospective listeners could very well get a kick out of the first half before the fuel begins to run out.

So ultimately, "From the Very Depths" is, at the very least, entertaining and competently performed, and as far as Venom goes it's definitely one of their tighter efforts, but the simplisticism and lack of dynamics tends to get stale the further in you go. But I guess just take it for what it is and you may find a tune or two worth your time. Maybe.

Some Great Moments but Flawed - 70%

mjollnir, February 9th, 2015

We all know Venom, the band that spawned a lot of what would become the extreme metal genres. They were thrash before there was thrash. They coined the term black metal. They influenced many of metal's heaviest bands all the while being part of the NWOBHM that sprung up in the UK during the late 70s. Although Conrad (Cronos) Lant is the only original member left, he has decided to carry on the Venom torch an astounding thirty-six years after their formation even though the band has disbanded and reformed several times over the years. Their most recent releases have been hit or miss and even though it seems that some have written them off....I haven't quite yet.

So 2015 brings us Venom's fourteenth full length album, From The Very Depths and it is this album that gave me some hope that this legendary band still has some life left in them. Now, granted, I have not heard anything since Metal Black, which was not a bad album, just not as strong as I would like. That said, I saw them in September of 2006 and they slayed, although the set was extremely short, so they have yet to put a bad taste in my mouth. Sometimes it's that bad taste that will prevent listener from even giving a band's new releases a chance. But when you have a song open an album (there's an intro that seems useless) like the title track to this album, it might be time to give the band another chance. This song just kicks your teeth in from the start. This is the Venom we all know and love, pummeling riffs, screaming solos, and Cronos's gruff vocals screaming about worshiping Satan. "The Death of Rock N Roll" shows the band's punk/metal hybrid roots with much more emphasis on the metal but maintaining the punky vibe. To round out the opening trio of crushers is "Smoke." This is a slow pounding song that just pummels you with a doomy heaviness. This is Venom doing doom rather well.

There's more to this album than that trio, though. "Stigmata Satanas" is another evil sounding crusher of a song. The riffs are just pounding on this song and it is just sheer heaviness. Cronos is sounding as evil as ever. "Crucified" is another song that just slays with pounding rhythms and evil riffs. These might not be the most innovative songs that the band has done but that does not take away from the sheer enjoyment of the songs. These are headbangers, through and through. "Grinding Teeth" is a Venom speed metal song that has that punk vibe just hanging there but it's mostly crushing metal that only Venom can produce. It;s after that song that the album seems to run out of steam a bit. The useless "Overture" that leads into "Mephistopheles," a song that starts off strong but falls away as it goes. This isn't a horrible song, but with the intro build up this should have been better. It just doesn't seem to go anywhere but leaves you hanging like there should have been more. "Wings of Valkyrie" plods along and is a skip worthy song. Sad because with a name like that it should have been better. "Rise" finishes the album and lifts it up just a bit after the plodding before it.

So what this album shows is that Venom is capable of writing really good songs. They should have cut their losses and released the album without the last four tracks. This album is far from perfect, but it's no turd either. Listen to songs two through ten, skip the rest.


The Elitist Metalhead

Enchanting Songs to Break Your Heart - 70%

Death_Thrasher, February 2nd, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Spinefarm Records U.K.

With ‘Cast in Stone’, Cronos and pals began mixing their trademark speeding, punk-inflected proto-thrash with a hefty dose of ‘90s groove and bits of Metallica-ish melody (gulp!) with mixed results. It’s a formula they’ve stuck to for the past 20 years and six albums. To put that in perspective, their early clattering black metal era spans four albums and about five years. So if you’re expecting lo-fi Lucifer worship you’re not only going to be disappointed, you've probably been disappointed for about 30 years.

That is not to say ‘From the Very Depth’s isn't worth a listen. Taken on its own merits, it is in fact probably the most energised and vicious Venom album since the oil-choked, blood-encrusted ‘Metal Black’. Among its 14 tracks are some real whiplash-inducing gems: the churning menace of ‘From the Very Depths’, the thundering full-tilt aggression of ‘Grinding Teeth’, the addictive swagger of ‘Stigmata Satanas’; all genuinely thrilling moments. Like on ‘Fallen Angels’ there is a distinct undercurrent of old-school Judas Priest/Motörhead influence here, more discernible than on the three self-consciously ‘brutal’ albums with Anton on drums. Perhaps Dante’s injected some rock ‘n’ roll back into the band - an ironic prospect, considering the title of the third (excellent) track on here.

The production is much the same as ‘Fallen Angels’; clear, meaty and organic. It sounds like an honest attempt to replicate the live sound, closer to ‘Cast in Stone’ than the clinically tight ‘Resurrection’, for example. Individual performances are very solid, with Cronos’ vocals predictably the highlight of the experience. He belts out his usual hymns of Satan and slaughter with as much fury as ever, sticking to what he does best and only straying from the beaten track once (on the melodic verses of the surprisingly enjoyable 'Smoke'). Dante’s drums are thunderous, tight and played with character. Rage is suitably wild-sounding but remains terminally inferior to the inimitable Mantas. That’s quite a big club he’s in though, and in fairness he does whip out some very nice solos - not least the lead on ‘Crucified', one of the most memorable I've heard from him since he joined in 2007.

A problem that has plagued basically every Venom album since ‘Cast in Stone’ is filler. Venom always seem to produce enough material to create a good 30 minute record, yet pad it with mediocre tracks to make it a 50-60 minute album. So is the case with ‘From the Very Depths’; if Venom cut ‘Ouverture’ (surely included for the sole purpose of printing that pun), ‘Mephistopheles’, ‘Temptation’ , ‘Wings of Valkyrie’ and ‘Evil Law’ they would have about 30 minutes of quality material. In fairness, of the tracks listed above, only ‘Evil Law’ is actually bad; five excruciating minutes of trudging banality with ‘evil’ non English lyrics beyond rescue even with Cronos on the mic.

So it’s inconsistent and it doesn't sound like ‘Black Metal’. That’s fine, Venom haven’t sounded like ‘Black Metal’ in a long time and they haven’t put out a truly consistent album since, err, ‘Black Metal’. The key to enjoying ‘From the Very Depths’ is to acknowledge but not cling to Venom’s past; revel in the vitriol and variety alike, as there’s much of both on offer here.

Venom - From the Very Depths - 40%

ThrashManiacAYD, January 26th, 2015

Is there actually any point in Venom releasing new albums these days? If any metal band should never be able to exist outside of a certain realm it is these Geordie demigods circa 1981-84. A very long time ago of course, and with now 11 albums following that classic opening triumvirate they have never gotten close to releasing anything even 1% as relevant since, a fact that doesn’t change with "From the Very Depths”. It is commonly accepted from open-minded music fans that all bands should be allowed to mature and develop as they please. That is wrong; Venom just cannot.

After all then it is somewhat ironic that "From the Very Depths" rarely sounds like the Venom I, and most likely the overwhelming percentage of metalheads, know and love. There is simplified aggression aplenty throughout the fourteen tracks, but dip in at any point and you will find overwrought chugging lacking any sense of purpose or value; hardly a surprise given the career trajectory of Venom since their all conquering output in the early 80s. My first full listen was especially disappointing as track after track washed by with little to savour, nor anything of notoriety being expended by the trio that is now rounded out by guitarist Rage and drummer Danté. Subsequent listens have raised my overall impressions from the very depths yet I can just hardly find the reasoning to implore this on any metal fan searching for the best of the underground.

At times sounding like fellow luminaries Discharge ("Long Haired Punks”), often like latter Testament material, notably in Cronos’ bellowing roar being strangely akin to Chuck Billy ("Evil Law”, "Grinding Teeth”, "Rise"), and frequently like a modern day version of Carnivore, it all feels far too safe in execution. While Rage can lay claim to a few decent solos spread liberally across the album, there is more to lament than the inevitable loss of unrestrained evil that defines their early era as at so few points do I feel the band are stretching themselves in the song-writing department. In small doses the punky spirit of "The Death of Rock N Roll" is acceptable enough or the crunchy dynamics of "Stigmata Satanas" and "Crucified" would pass master if one is after this kind of simple, bass-driven riffage, but these belie an acceptance of mid-level mediocrity one would expect to hear from a young, local support act. This facet is joined at the gallows by a lyrical performance in which most choruses are spent regurgitating the track title over and over; although having never been a band for whom one studies the lyrics maybe we are wise to forget this?

Venom will roll on regardless of the success of "From the Very Depths", sitting near the top of any festival line-up they approach as no amount of replay of "Welcome to Hell" and "Black Metal" material shall ever suffice metaldom. But don’t expect to get too worked up over this latest offering as its bland ideas and derivative songs are what I would more commonly expect from a band starting out today, not a band who predate extreme metal.

Originally written for Rockfreaks.net