Released: 2012, VON Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
In 1994, Kerrang magazine published it’s now infamous “black metal” issue, which featured a cover story on the Varg Vikernes/Euronymous murder case and pages upon pages dedicated to the supposed inner workings of the Norwegian black metal scene. It’s been argued that this issue was responsible for catapulting black metal onto center stage of the metal world and sending impressionable young fans into a frenzy to learn more about the bands featured in the article. And I’ll say that it worked. I bought the issue at my local Peaches Records store and read it cover to cover until the pages started to fall out of the binding. I also used it as a guide for what bands/albums to track down through the various mail order services available at the time, and discovered some great music along the way.
I mention this because there was a quote attributed to Vikernes in the issue about an American black metal band named VON and their 1992 SATANIC BLOOD demo. In the article, Vikernes supposedly purported that VON stood for “Victory, Orgasm, Nazi”, which combined with the obscureness of the reference, such an outrageous acronym just HAD to mean that this would be the most cult recording ever. And thus a legend in the black metal scene was born without really having done anything except record a demo twenty years ago. Thought the acronym has since been debunked and Vikernes himself has denied the quote, that statement alone is the only reason why anyone knows or cares about VON in 2012.
This brings us to the band’s official debut release, a debut that’s two decades in the making no less, the unsurprisingly titled SATANIC BLOOD. The press sheet mentions that the album features 19 tracks from the band’s “incubation” period, which basically translates to “everything the band ever wrote back from the day.” The catch, however, is that none of it is really any good. In all fairness, if this had received wider distribution decades ago amongst records like A BLAZE IN THE NORTHERN SKY or DEATHCRUSH, who knows how VON could’ve blown up in the scene. But that didn’t happen, with only a rough sounding sloppy demo of primitive black metal to represent the band over time. And this new release sounds worse than a rough sounding sloppy demo of primitive black metal, it sounds like a new studio release that’s been made to intentionally sound like a rough sounding sloppy demo of primitive black metal (there’s a big difference). It's too clean, too bright, too polished, and it’s all too much of the same. Save for the ambient closing track “Litanies of Von”, each of the other 18 tracks sound alike – jangly buzzsaw discordant riffs and vocals mixed well below the point of human aural comprehension. No real effort, no real concept, just fast jangly discordant buzzsaw riffs multiplied 18 times.
It just seems like this current incarnation of VON is riding a wave of nostalgia to sell concert tickets and a few CDs along the way. And I’m positive that some folks will buy, but I’ll wager that most will recognize this as the cash in opportunity that it is. I’d prefer to have a cleaned up version of the original demo, maybe alongside a batch of newer tunes, but I guess that beggars can’t be choosers. But I doubt that many will be begging to listen to SATANIC BLOOD more than once. Check it out for yourself via the band’s website and official webstore.