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Metal Black
April 2006
Released: 2006, Sanctuary Records
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland

Venom, as I know it, ceased to exist after 1983’s AT WAR WITH SATAN album. Sure, there have been a steady stream of releases since but nothing matched up to the unholy triumvirate of WELCOME TO HELL, BLACK METAL and AT WAR WITH SATAN. The albums released in the ‘90s were abominations not even befitting of the mighty Venom moniker and while 2000’s RESURRECTION was a bit of a return to form, the original magic seemed long out of reach. In the six years since RESURRECTION’s release, only bassist/vocalist Cronos remains from the original lineup—drummer Abaddon left after 1997’s quasi-reunion album, CAST IN STONE, and Mantas skipped out after RESURRECTION—paving the way for a new lineup featuring Cronos’ brother, Antton, on drums and the return of Mykvs (he played on 1987’s CALM BEFORE THE STORM) on six-string. Venom circa 2006 has ventured back to its roots with METAL BLACK, an album trying hard to recapture the energy, sound, rawness and attitude of their early work with varying degrees of success. All the essential themes are present—Satan, death, Hell—and the production, while not nearly as rustic as say, WELCOME TO HELL, still leaves a lot to be desired. Cronos sounds as vicious and pissed off as ever and Antton and Mykvs are superior musicians to their predecessors, conjuring an evil spell of cursed punk/thrash from start to finish. While this should send Venom’s legions into fits of grim-faced ecstasy, a cautious path must be trodden as 20+ years is a big gap and where BLACK METAL still rocks on a nostalgic level, METAL BLACK is not the wholly rapturous return the band hoped for.

“Antechrist,” “Burn In Hell” and “House of Pain” tear at your flesh like the Hounds of Hell with loads of old-school attitude, spiked riffs and a thunderous rhythm behind Cronos’ raspy, snarled vocals. “Antechrist” could easily have been lifted from WELCOME TO HELL and the punkish drum intro to “Burn In Hell” embodies the NWOBHM sound that Venom helped to usher in. “House of Pain” is slower, but the driving groove is modern enough to show that Venom can bridge the generational gap successfully without losing sight of where they came from. Mykvs’ pinch harmonics are a nice touch and Antton’s drums rattle your skull. “A Good Day To Die” is propelled by another punishing groove and Cronos’ vitriolic, sneered growl is perfect. Mykvs’ solos on the brutal “Assassin” and “Sleep When I’m Dead” threaten to leave Mantas’ memory in the dust, with The Brothers Lant teaming up for a particularly blistering rhythm section on the latter. To complement the brilliance of the opening three tracks on METAL BLACK, “Maleficarvm” (the original title of the album) is a doom-y, evil-sounding track that stands out as a highlight not only here but is a sure inclusion to future Venom live sets. Combining Sabbath-like riffs, double bass and enough hails to conjure Lucifer himself, a double-dose of raised horns cannot help but be raised while listening to “Maleficarvm.” Building on the momentum, “Metal Black” finishes the proceedings up with one of the fastest, darkest and heaviest tracks Venom has ever laid down. “This ain’t music for light-hearted folk” bellows Cronos and he couldn’t be more right. This track embodies everything Venom set out to do with WELCOME TO HELL—ironically, 2006 is the 25th anniversary of that monumental release—and that is to invoke all that is evil, nasty and nefarious upon a hungry metal population yearning for a chiropractor’s wet dream of 60 minutes of straight headbanging with no frills.

At one hour, METAL BLACK goes on a bit too long and a few tracks hover around or even surpass the five-minute mark. A little Venom goes a long way and powerhouses like “Metal Black,” “Antechrist” and “Burn In Hell” leave you wanting more whereas a few others could have been trimmed of some fat. The most obvious negative of METAL BLACK lies within its title and cover art. 1982’s BLACK METAL is easily the band’s best-known and most influential offering, so to name this album METAL BLACK and have an almost identical cover not only cheapens the value of the new album immediately but really smacks of desperation. Venom may not be on the cusp of metal these days but a blatant rip-off of their own legacy to sell more records is just sad.

Cosmetic and technical arguments aside, METAL BLACK is a surprising entry from the godfathers of British Black metal. Cronos must be over fifty by now and for him to still be barking out hymns to Mephistopheles is testament to his own dedication to the band and the music. Old fans of the band can pick up METAL BLACK and not fear hearing down-tuned guitars, breakdowns or wankery and new fans can see what influenced seminal bands like Metallica and Possessed. Listening to METAL BLACK takes me back to a time when Venom was scary again…and that’s a good thing.

KILLER KUTS: “Antechrist,” “Burn In Hell,” “House of Pain,” “A Good Day To Die,” “Assassin,” “Sleep When I’m Dead,” “Maleficarvm,” “Metal Black”
Track Listing

1. Antechrist
2. Burn In Hell
3. House of Pain
4. Death & Dying
5. Rege Satanas
6. Darkest Realm
7. A Good Day To Die
8. Assassin
9. Lucifer Rising
10. Blessed Dead
11. Hours of Darkness
12. Sleep When I'm Dead
13. Maleficarvm
14. Metal Black


Conrad “Cronos” Lant—Vocals/Bass
Mike “Mykvs” Hickey—Guitar
Antony “Antton” Lant—Drums

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