(Wil Cifer reviews the new album by Venom.)
One of those bands whose name alone makes them legends. They often get credited for creating black metal, due to an album called, well… Black Metal. As a kid I took down their poster upon realizing they only used satanic imagery as a gimmick, like Slayer (and finding out Slayer were not satanists was like finding out Santa Claus wasn’t real). So this album puts Venom in the hot seat as it’s time to once again prove themselves.
The last album I paid attention to was Prime Evil which came out in ’89. This had “Demolition Man” on it rather than Cronos. So Venom really came to an end after Resurrection, and this is more of a Cronos solo album than a Venom album. The rest of the band is Danny Needham, who also bangs the skins for Tony Martin, and guitarist Stuart Dixon from Order of the Black Sun. Of course, using the Venom name is smarter than calling this Cronos. No one will buy a Cronos shirt, but you better bet they will be buying Venom shirts.
From the Depths opens with a much more metal sound than the original band ever had.The effects on Cronos’ voice give him the needed command. I always regarded the band to be more punk than metal, in a similar manner to the way Motorhead is more rock than metal. “The Death of Rock n Roll” finds the band back on the straightforward Motorhead road. The rock slant takes a more Black Album Metallica direction on the groove-fixated “Smoke”. It has a powerful chug despite being more like post-Pantera metal. That makes this album come across like Cross Purposes Black Sabbath in the sense that Venom begin to take on the sound of the bands they influenced rather than being themselves. Having said that, Cronos comes to an acceptable compromise between past and present on “Temptation”. He tosses in some of the trappings of a more modern metal sound, but is far from pandering to the masses.
Needham gets the job done behind the kit. Cronos‘ bass tone has always ruled and makes its comeback on “Longhaired Punks”, which lives up to it’s name. There is a powerful pound to the jarring headbang of “Stigmata Satanas”, with a main riff that feels more like newer Slayer. The simple chanted chorus is effective, as the focus falls on Cronos doing what he does best on the verses.
“Crucified” sounds like it almost could have been on Motorhead’s Orgasmatron album until you get to the melodic break before the solo. More Metallica-like riffs roar out from “Evil Law”, on which Cronos puts a decent amount of huskiness into his voice .
The almost power-metal chug of “Grinding Teeth” takes you back to some of W.A.S.P’s heavier moments. This song shows that Cronos comes from the time of classic metal, where songs were written to pack a concise punch. And so there are none of the sprawling ten-minute drone-filled epics we now think of as black metal. That allows the band to pack this album with 12 songs. This well-honed songwriting sensibility means the band never feel like they are wearing out their welcome in hell. Much of his is due to Cronos‘ charisma. The heaviest song on the album, “Mephistopholese”, has a Ministry-like element to it, while the classic metal bashing of “Wings of Valkyrie” is both memorable and heavy.
Left to his own devices, Cronos has laid on the altar a well-produced album that should hit all the right spots for fans who have have been awaiting another Venom album, as long as they aren’t dead set on another At War With Satan — but it is as close as you can get without bringing back the other founding members.