Released: 2015, Frontiers Records
Chris Impellitteri returns with his 10th full-length album and first in 6 years with VENOM. Once again, Rob Rock lends his helium high vocals to the project, the man losing nary a bit of his range. Like most bands named after guitarists, you basically know what you are going to get with Impellitteri, and he delivers. VENOM is another in a long line of albums where the guitarist’s riffs and rhythm styles are almost like lead solos in their own right. Not going unnoticed is how much heavier this is than the usual fare for Frontiers Records, which just proves the label’s continued commitment to seek out great metal, regardless of the style.
VENOM is actually a pretty heavy album with riffs that are staggering in their technical proficiency. Drummer John Dette displays fleet footwork, the drums propelling and pacing many of these tunes to an up tempo onslaught. Soaring over it all are the impressive and ageless vocals of Rob Rock that help carry these songs to higher levels than they might appear on first listen. The title track opens things, and appropriately sets the direction of the album with its lightning fast riff and speedy tempo throughout. The first four songs actually sound quite similar, but the band throws in some variety with a clean picked intro for “Face The Enemy”, which is a more direct and mid-paced thumper that wisely reins in the overblown complexity of the first half of the album.
“Time Machine and “Holding On” are two of the best songs and they close the album on a worthy note. Production is loud, clear, and absolutely bulldozing, particularly in the drums and guitar. Perhaps most impressively is the energy and exuberance displayed by Impellitteri and Rock, neither of these guys being exactly youthful. For Impellitteri to play this style of “athletic guitar” as Michael Amott has called it, and at his age, is a testament to his endurance. It is here that I am tempted to launch a treatise on technical guitarists as songwriters but I will refrain. Suffice it to say that VENOM is a near perfect album for guitar aficionados. It’s true that some songs do not stand up well under close inspection, but overall VENOM is an impressive album with the right blend of heaviness, melodicism and technical execution to appeal to a wide range of metal fans.