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enom is certainly the cause of many a row between metallers.
Yes, they did write an album called Black Metal. No, they didn’t create the genre, whether you like it or not. After all, if you’d bothered to listen to the album carefully, you’d know it was NWOBHM through and through, replete with early thrash undertones. (Give or take an unintentional segue into proto-doom with ‘Buried Alive’
As NWOBHM bands go, Venom was certainly one of the most distinctive (alongside some obscure outfit called, err, Iron Maiden) and stands out even now from the crowd of so-so to very good bands that seemed to wax like randy guinea pigs during the height of the scene. But, apart from the Satanic themes, they were no black metal band, in terms of sound or in intent. So there.
No, the real wretched crib in which the black metal genre spent its nascent years was care of Bathory and its debut self-titled album, coincidentally released in 1984 (officially the coolest year EVAR). True, Hellhammer doubled up as the midwife, while it was Mercyful Fate who so mercilessly burgled Arthur Brown’s schtick cupboard, but all roads black and frostbitten ultimately lead from Bathory.
Just listen to it, for goodness’ sake, and take particular note how Burzum’sWar rips off Necromansy without even a tip of the hat. There’s no better way to troll (see what I did there?) Norwegian black metallers than by pointing out that Sweden got there first. Because they did. And Venom wasn’t even in the running.
No surer proof of this can be found than in Venom’s [quote] it may not be ground-breaking
but it’s great fun and it
doesn’t put a foot wrong[/quote]latest release, From the Very Depths, because it doesn’t sound at all like black metal in the first place. It’s hard, heavy, post-thrash metal that, admittedly, doesn’t sound much like Venom in the traditional sense either, apart from the serious punk vibe. Really, it’s just original member Cronos joining up with a load of new musicians and making a sort of modern, polished-sounding heavy metal album, albeit under the Venom banner.
That’s not to say it’s awful, because in fact it’s very entertaining stuff; it blasts away with a passion, features some crushing hooks and has the sort of boundless enthusiasm that drags you along with it from start to finish. The only deviation from this is one track called ‘Long Haired Punks’. It sounds like a homage to Darkthrone’s own spiky post-black metal, punk and retro-metal infused phase, which of course paid homage to bands like, err, Venom.
It’s so meta, it’s chewing its own arsehole. All in all, it may not be ground-breaking but it’s great fun and it doesn’t put a foot wrong. What else do you need from Venom now?
Next up is Matter As Regent by Portuguese crew Wells Valley. It never bodes well when a band describes itself as ‘post-metal’ (what does this mean in practice? They’re a Tupperware band instead?), but they’re more a modern doom/sludge outfit with hints of progressive metal instead.
Their new album, for its part, has some stand-out moments, but there is a prevailing torpor to the proceedings that mean that the record overall drags a little bit and doesn’t really engage, even though it’s plain the band are trying their best to do this. It’s not a lack of talent; more an absence of the right recipe.
An altogether more soothing experience is offered by Brazilian neo-folkies Olam Ein Sofand their new offering,Reino de Cramfer. Ornate and faintly unsettling, it’s predominantly complex acoustic guitar arrangements with ethereal female vocals. Melancholic and lyrical at the same time, it certainly has the full-on ‘Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May’ vibe pinned down, just prior to the entire village dying of the Summer Sweats and a dash of Anthrax.
A rewardingly rich experience nonetheless, the main problem is that it can get repetitive if enjoyed in one sitting. It’s best sampled in small chunks.
Speaking of which, and bringing us full circle, we end with a small (but perfectly deformed) EP by Canadian death metallers, Conquer. Ploughing the same grisly occult ‘n’ blasphemy furrow so enthusiastically ploughed by the likes of Deicide, Morbid Angel and Incantation, A Worm’s Demise has a masterful grasp of its material, effortlessly moving the tempo up and down while never lessening the malice or the brutality in its tone.
The three tracks are varied, well-crafted and enjoyably nasty and promise a great deal from this band in the future. Did I mention it’s free on Bandcamp?
Alexander Hay is a writer and polemicist based online and in print.