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.