Home / CD Review: Venom – Metal Black

CD Review: Venom – Metal Black

Please Share...Print this pageTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0Share on Tumblr0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

Legendary metal act Venom is back with Metal Black, its first album since 2000’s Resurrection. This long-running band has influenced many of the metal acts you know and love, such as Metallica and Slayer. In addition to the new album, 2006 also marks the 25th anniversary of its debut album, 1981’s Welcome to Hell.

Before going any further, I must claim vast amounts of ignorance when it comes to Venom’s back catalog. Sure, I have heard of the group, but I had never heard Venom before this album. I guess that could be taken one of two ways: You may opt to dismiss my opinion out of hand since I am not intimately familiar with a band that influenced so many. Alternatively, you could say, perhaps we will have a new fan to welcome into the fold, or someone with an unbiased opinion who won’t be influenced by any status the band has attained or previous successes. After that little exposition, do you still want to know what I think about the album? If so, please continue to read. If not, I will bid you adieu; perhaps our paths will cross again in the future.

When I first received this pre-release copy, packaged in a plain jewel case with no liner notes, labeled with a basic white sticker bearing the name Venom, the album title and, on the back, a simple song listing, I thought that this couldn’t be the same Venom I had read about in long-ago Metallica interviews. Or could it? I initially worked on the assumption that it wasn’t. Then I did a little looking and found that yes, indeed, this was new music from that Venom.

After the first couple of times that I listened to Metal Black all the way through, I must say that I was not terribly impressed. There did not seem to be much substance to the music. Frankly, it felt like a generic metal band that had not yet found its voice. The recording is rough; at times it sounded like the guitars and drums were out of synch, almost like a live album. The lyrical content covered the old death-metal standbys of Satan and death: Song titles include “Antechrist,” “Burn in Hell,” “Death & Dying,” and “Lucifer Rising.” The riffs were heavy and the double bass relentless, but they didn’t really stand out as anything all that special. Needless to say, I wasn’t sure what to think of this alleged legend.

So, I listened to the CD a few more times, hoping to find something to latch onto, some sign as to why Venom was so influential in its early years. Then, while listening, something dawned on me: This is what the heart of those early years of death metal were like. A new world of heavy music was unfolding, a world Venom helped usher in that presented music that was raw, primal and full of energy.

Therein lies the beauty of this album. Metal Black is a throwback to those hands-off early days: Back then, death-metal records were underproduced purposely. They allowed energy to flow directly through the instruments into the mix board. Minimal intervention was used in compiling the tracks. Using that approach, on Venom’s latest LP, guitars come through with crushing riffs, drums and bass fold in around them, and vocals come in on top.

Was that change in viewpoint the signal of a new dawn for my appreciation of the music? Yes and no. Listening through that newly realized filter allowed me to gain respect for Venom and what it appears to be attempting. It allowed me to let my guard down and just get swept up in the destructive riffs emanating from my speakers. And let me tell you, the music on this album is heavy. This was some of the heaviest music I have heard in some time that didn’t fall under some other new-wave metal label. The drum work is also fast and thunderous, and keeps time with the banging of your head.

At the same time, I did not feel the music. It was heavy and fast, to be sure, but the words did not sink in and the technical merits of the performance seemed to be lacking. I like riff-based music occasionally, but I also like musical gymnastics of acts such as Iron Maiden or Dream Theater. I know, I know, this is a different style, but other bands have fused technical aspects with the heavy riffing. So, I do not believe that I am sold on Venom based on this album alone, even though my opinion has changed since my first disastrous listenings.

Some have compared this album to Metallica’s St.Anger, not in execution, but in intent. Where the Metallica album was meant to hearken back to their early, rawer-edged days but didn’t really succeed, Metal Black goes a long way in its quest to evoke the early days of death metal. The trio of founder Cronos, Antton, and Mykvs has done a good job at bringing this metal fan a taste of those early days. Put into the context of an early metal release, I could see this as a breakthrough album. Sadly, though, in this day and age, Metal Black is little more than a nostalgic time capsule. It’s headbanging heavy and easy to get into, but nothing terribly special.

Bottomline. Venom may not have made an instant fan in this guy, but it has made an interesting argument for the return of old-school death metal at its most raw. The unapologetically heavy guitar riffs are the best part of the album. This is recommended for fans, or for those curious about the band, but it may not be the best starting place for newcomers.

Mildly Recommended. **.5 / *****

Track Listing:
01. Antechrist: Click HERE to listen to a streaming demo.
02. Burn In Hell
03. House of Pain

04. Death & Dying
05. Rege Satanas
06. Darkest Realm
07. A Good Day to Die
08. Assassin
09. Lucifer Rising
10. Blessed Dead
11. Hours of Darkness
12. Sleep When I’m Dead
13. Maleficarvm
14. Metal Black

The album will be released by Sanctuary Records:
Germany: 3/24/06
Europe: 3/27/06
US: 4/4/06

Draven99's Musings

Powered by

About Draven99

  • Guppusmaximus

    Great review…But, Venom wasn’t Death Metal they were Black Metal henceforth “Metal Black” like the times when you were a kid spinning albums backwards to try and hear all the supposed evil stuff, Remember that?? Maybe it was just me..lol. Like the beginning of Iron Maiden’s “Still Life” which is german backwards with some burps..*smirk*. This was a genre that died with Candlemass(In my opinion) but they were never as brutal as Venom. Death Metal didn’t really start until 1987 with Death…Come on, You know that!!

    Anyways, You are correct, early Black Metal was very straight forward. They were trying to rip your head off sonically…Just like early Metallica, It was Heavy and Straight forward but nothing technically brilliant.Back then it was all about the live show which today it’s all about the Pro-Tools.So, the tape served more as memories of the ghastly moshing that ensued in The PIT!!!

    Again great review. I guess you could say I was never a real fan either because I didn’t own any albums but my brother used to play their stuff all the time.

    Dude, that Metallica album “St. Anger” was such garbage… I’m just saying

  • Guppusmaximus

    I get caught up in that era…Sorry. My point was that I feel it would be hard to pay homage if it didn’t sound dated….

  • I always had a different take on black v death metal. I have seen Venom described as both, and they sound more death to me. When I think of black metal, I think more of Emperor and theeir ilk, sonic brutality but with more melody than death. When I listen to Venom, I don’t hear melody.

    Also remember, I was very late getting into music, cutting my teeth on the hair metal of the late 80’s.

    And for the record, St.Anger grew on me. Not to say it’s good, but it’s not as bad as many would have you believe.

  • Guppusmaximus

    Well for me Death Metal was all about the lack of melody(Back then)like the drudging Doom & Woe of the guitars and drums with the Diaphram exploding Growls,i.e Obituary,Death,(it’s hard for me to remember all the stuff out then)

    Venom was very full of energy and more melody to me than the Death Metal acts.So wasn’t the lot of Black Metal bands then,i.e; Mercyful Fate,Celtic Frost…

    I’m sorry about your bad experience…No one should have to endure that much crap to listen to the real deal…lol. I’ll be honest, My metal beginnings were with Iron Maiden,Armored Saint, Black & Blue,Twisted Sister,Quiet Riot,Stryper,Ratt. So, the Glam Rock wasn’t to far away for me but luckily I had friends who would’ve beat the piss out of me if I listened to that crap…Actually some of those bands turned to that Money Machine.

    Sorry, Man… I hardly ever listen to other people, so, I listened to St. Anger on my own.
    What a disgrace…F*ck I remember buying “And Justice…” on tape when it first came out and it F*cking rocked so this almost felt the same because it wasn’t the media glistened release but when I popped it in… I was pissed!!

  • Guppusmaximus

    Ya know…Wikipedia is great. I forgot Suffocation and Carcass(Catagory:Death Metal). I will definately have to rumage through my collection to listen to that stuff again…

  • “Metal Black”, haha, I had no idea about this release. I have never thought of Venom as black metal or death metal, they were always thrash to me, in many ways the first real thrash band, a NWOBHM band who turned out to be very influential of extreme music in general (I include the like of thrash, death, black metal etc in that).

    I think the only real black metal connection is a distant influence and the fact that their second album was called “Black Metal”. And I must say that I think they’re a good case of a band where the groups to be influenced by them actually turned out to be much better than the originators (see also Bathory).

  • Venom’s website describes them as the original inventors and founders of black metal.

    When the whole thrash/speed thing started up, I was quite interested in this really heavy band from Europe. They were so different from most of the bands that were around then. Those were really exciting days. I really like their song called “Black Metal.”

  • In interviews for Ressurection I remember Cronos said something like (paraphrasing) if you like the sound of our old records you can turn the volume all the way up and stick your head underwater while listening to the new one, implying a clean, modern sound is superior to raw recordings. I guess he changed his mind.

  • adam kelly

    fuckin venom kicks ass, venom was always called black metal, and they may have started it but todays bands that are called black metal are just a bunch of gothic bitches. venom is the true lords of under world thrash and without them, there probably wouldnt be a big “dark and evil satanic” metal scene. venom rocks. Just like Venom said, DIE HARD!

  • son of the wolf

    dude venom isnt death metal and you cant say black metal is defined by bands like emperor or dimmu borgir cause they are the second wave of black metal they just followed in venoms footsteps. bands like venom, bathory, celtic frost, were what made black metal, they defined it. it was thrash but satanic themed which gave the term black metal esp from venoms second album. so what im saying is venom is true black metal.