N.W.O.B.H.M. Wednesday: Venom-From the Very Depths
If you do a quick subject search on the term "Venom" on our site you are likely to see that that particular word appears in plenty of our reviews. As far as being an influence on other bands (from punk metal groups to the extreme metal variety) there are few acts like Venom. Save for maybe Motörhead (a band which, along with outfits such as Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, actually influenced Venom) there are not too many bands that can claim to have such far-reaching influences and overall impact on really HEAVY metal. That being the case and all (and seeing as both Metal Mark and I really enjoy Venom's early albums) you would be forgiven for assuming that HMTM has covered Venom time and time again. After looking through our archives though in anticipation of this review it seems as if we haven't really talked about the band since our first N.W.O.B.H.M. Wednesday coverage of them and that was actually back in mid-March of 2011! For the curious I've provided the link to that article at the bottom of this review, but I still admit to being somewhat puzzled by that realization. Whatever the case, Cronos (Venom's main-man and the group's lead singer/bass player) returns with studio album number fourteen(!), "From the Very Depths". The group's first full-length release since 2011's "Fallen Angels", "From the Very Depths" features 14 tracks and has a total run-time of 51:51. Now, two further admissions before we move on. First, "From the Very Depths" is the first new album from Venom that I have heard in it's entirety since 1984's "At War with Satan". Sure, I've heard my fair share of misc. Venom songs along the way and I've had other album's from this N.W.O.B.H.M. outfit played for me. But, as far as hearing Venom's other albums start to finish and all that jazz? Well, it just hasn't happened. All of which ties into point number two. This CD is actually the first new Venom album that I have picked up since snagging a re-release of 1982's "Black Metal" on CD about a month or so back. It just so happened that I was at my local music, movies and video games store (no names please unless they want to pay me for advertising! LOL!) and on a whim I picked the group's latest release up. Quite honestly I had read mixed reviews for this album before getting it with a trade-in slip, but I had also heard one the album's stand-out tracks in "Long Haired Punks" and I figured "Why not?". As others have rightly pointed out, "Long Haired Punks" exists somewhere between the sloppiness of "Welcome to Hell"-era Venom and the music of Discharge. In no way is that a bad thing if you ask me, but it does stand at the fore-front of one of this album's greatest arguments/chief points. "From the Very Depths" is oftentimes Venom sounding more like other bands than themselves. Or if you will, "From the Very Depths" is not the Venom of old, but rather Venom just being Venom (or Cronos just being Cronos!) and playing music for their own sake with the mentality that definitive and distinct genres be damned! The very cool track that is "The Death of Rock N Roll" pays homage to that ideal as Cronos and company (guitarist Rage and drummer Danté) maximizes the impact that is punk rockin' metal by pumping it up with large amounts of heavy rock & garage metal! The result is spectacular and to me this one number makes the price of admission justified!! Meanwhile we have the title cut of album number fourteen having been made especially for old Venom fans! Insane solos combine with crushing riffs and the over-the-top vocals of Cronos for what just might be classic Venom for the new age of metal. Glorious! With "Smoke" channeling the doom influences of old (Sabbath anyone?) and Venom's ability to slip their other early influences such as Motörhead and Judas priest into this album's mix there ends up being more here to love then hate! Crushing numbers such as "Stigmata Satanas" give hope that Venom has turned the corner while the evil "Crucified" further shows how the addition of guitarist Rage and drummer Danté has really paid off! While Rage might not be Mantas his soloing is still good enough to make a speed metal track like "Grinding Teeth" truly rattle and shake! Yes, other friendly folks before me have rightly pointed out how songs like "Grinding Teeth" and "Rise" bear a slight resemblance to thrash metal bands like Testament and there are even moments when Venom might just be trying to emulate (early) Metallica and (to a lesser point) Slayer. But, for what it is (and thanks in no small part to the enduring growls of Cronos) it's not all that shabby as even a thrash metal version of Venom has a lot to offer for those willing to take a chance! Moving on, "Crucified" isn't this album's only evil-sounding track as the evilness of "Evil Law" is spelled out in the song's title! Even if it isn't all that good it's still a distinctive Venom song which nobody can deny! It's as cheesy as the Venom of old which kind of counter-balances it's overall stupidity! Of the 14 tracks here on album number 14 there are 10 or 11 that are worthwhile (album closer "Rise" being one that I happen to like even if the consensus is still out on it!) with some cuts ("Overture", "Mephistopheles" and "Wings of Valkyrie") simply screaming "FILLER"! Had Venom trimmed a few of the weaker tracks out of their new album it would have possibly been seem as a bit of a comeback for these N.W.O.B.H.M./black metal warriors. But, even as an album where you will want to have the skip button handy it's still a worthwhile release and I for one do not regret trading for it on CD.
Metal Mark and I talk about Venom: