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Time That Could Have Been Better Wasted - 61%

bayern, March 29th, 2018

I couldn’t care less when Cronos left his comrades after the divisive “Calm Before the Storm” as I was one of the few metal heads in my hometown who never became very fond of the fathers of black metal and their rowdy exploits. It wasn’t a big deal at all as something had to happen in the band’s camp since they were losing it way before an actual threat (the grunge/groove/industrial wave) had even started looming on the horizon; and a next very probable step seemed to be a real cold lake… sorry, shower poured over the more or less disillusioned fanbase…

Thankfully, such a horrifying scenario was postponed, and also permanently erased as it became evident later, as the band pulled themselves together, not without the help of Mantas who decided to return for at least one more spell. It looked like the good old Venom, only without Cronos of course, and Tony Dolan aka the Demolition Man from Atomkraft filling in the vacated position behind the mike, the ship was ready to enter 90’s waters. And it did, first with the quite convincing “Prime Evil” where finally full-fledged thrash was the order of the way; then with the marginally weaker and mellower, but still entertaining “Temples of Ice”.

Chapter III from the Dolan series was the album reviewed here that is perhaps the only Venom release at that stage which had no expectations to fulfil whatsoever: the new vogues were already a fact, 80’s veterans were shedding their skin left and right, the interest in their feats was fading fast... In other words, the “anything goes” spirit was running rampant freeing the musicians from any obligations to audience, critics, and even themselves. In this train of thought albums released at that time shouldn’t be judged so harshly since without any tension to keep the band members on their toes, the level of song-writing and compositional execution had dropped way beyond the masterpiece-level standards… and fast.

Not that Venom were ever anywhere near those standards, even during their more successful early years, but at the same time it’s hard to point at any album they’ve released as an actual flop despite the number of fans who swear by the mentioned “Calm Before the Storm” as being one... No, not really, and the one here isn’t either although it’s far from a glorious epitaph to the Tony Dolan period. Like the previous instalment already suggested, thrash isn’t the ruling force here anymore as the band have obviously had their fun with it and were more interested in producing larger-than-life stylistic amalgams either because of a lack of ideas, or due to their decision to join the “anything goes” carnival… as the latter option was definitely better than a prime “evil” groove/aggro tribute.

No, this opus here steers clear from such shite for most of the time and walks its own path, for better or worse, the guys throwing a monstrous doom metal opus (the 8-min “Cursed”) at the beginning which later evolves further with more dynamic semi-galloping strokes, but remains on the dark brooding, atmospheric side with haunting keyboard tunes adding more to the instilled strangeness. If the band have suddenly decided to follow their compatriots Cathedral and My Dying Bride down the doomy road, then this newly epitomized approach, based on the opener alone, doesn’t look so shabby at all, but “I'm Paralysed” is a short frolic speedster, the total opposite to the infernal seriousness of the preceding number. So much for conquering the doomy throne “Black Legions” delineating the album further from the officiant, also ambitious, start being a power/speedy merry-go-rounder influencing “Riddle of Steel”, another brief speed metal-ish hymn.

From doom to Atomkraft as this last couple of tracks quite resembles the style of Dolan’s older act, but before the once intimidating stalwarts turn to meek copycats arrives “Need to Kill” which brings back the thrash with angrier, more belligerent riffs although the latter are stifled in the second half by the downbeat quiet finale. “Kissing the Beast” carries on with the speed metal fiesta, a brisk invigorating piece with even a mosh-stirring potential the accumulated inertia killed immediately with the mild heavy rocker “Crucified”, with “Shadow King” doing very little to make things right being just a bit more energetic heavy/power metal anthem. “Wolverine” is a brave attempt at capturing some magic from the band’s early recordings with boisterous thrashy rhythms, but again, without a distinct follow-up it can only do as much as “Clarisse” is a tender lyrical ballad with Dolan semi-reciting throughout, livening up towards the end for a more upbeat heavy epitaph.

A very mixed bag as a whole failing to convince anyone that the Dolan chapter should be prolonged any further as the guys had seemingly exhausted their creative resources by that point, throwing everything into the melting pot as a last resort, befuddling the fans as to what they should expect from this effort: doom, thrash, speed, power, hard rock, or a dubious amalgam of all those styles that the final result had turned out. The seeping gothic atmosphere from the opener was again way more preferable than any grungy/alternative deviations, but mixed with the nearly jocund speedy flair exhibited right after it doesn’t hold water for long as the band were obviously not so fond of keeping it around… It’s tough to tell what they were fond of at the time, to be honest, except of the already mentioned “anything goes” stance. And even if that was the case the English veterans could hardly be considered among its more capable practitioners as the stylistic meanderings here were too arbitrary and inconsecutive to fully disguise the creative cul-de-sac the band were heading towards.

Yes, the treacherous wastelands into which the 90’s swiftly turned into spared no one… regardless of whether you were parading as a most enthusiastic groove/post-thrash advocate or were spitting heroically at the new vogues with bouts of old school metallisms. In order to make heads turn during those times, an old veteran had to produce a minor sensation, like an unheralded reunion with a departed band member, for instance… It worked for Merciful Fate, it worked for Accept, it had to work for the fathers of black metal, for crying out loud… And it did, albeit for one isolated stint (“Cast in Stone”) as by the time of “Resurrection” three years later Abaddon, the only permanent member at that stage, was gone. Mantas followed suit shortly after leaving Cronos the sole remainder of the once glorious power trio…

Quite a saga we have on our hands, with more or less expected twists and turns, and one that goes on till this day, having recently acquired a double-edge status, the new edge named Venom Inc., logically featuring the other two from the original line-up, Mantas and Abaddon that is, plus guess who… Tony Dolan of course! The Demolition Man is back in action the two fractions having already started to vehemently race each other, leaving the fans guessing as to when a potential merger would take place…maybe at the next wastelands’ expansion? With Cronos on the bass, and Dolan behind the mike…