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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.