Monday 21 January 2019

Venom - Storm the Gates (2018)

Country: UK
Style: Black/Thrash Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 14 Dec 2018
Sites: Facebook | Metal Archives | Official Website

I often say that when I discovered the Friday Rock Show on BBC Radio 1 back in mid-1984, DJ Tommy Vance introduced me to everything from Steely Dan to Venom all at once.

Venom were truly dangerous back then because the mainstream had absolutely no idea how to deal with them. A Welcome to Hell shirt wasn't a fashion statement; it was a way to isolate yourself entirely from the mundane world, whose occupants would carefully watch you walking down the street like you had a severed hand in each hand. The musical landscape we explore today is unrecognisable from 1984 in large part because of Venom's influence on it. If time has rendered them a lot less scary, it hasn't forgotten them. They remain relevant and they still rock.

It's been three years since the last Venom album and the lineup nowadays is the perennial Cronos, along with Rage on guitar and Danté on drums, as it was on Fallen Angels and From the Very Depths. Maybe I need to go back to those two albums for a fresh listen because, to me, this sounds off. Now, Venom are hardly renowned for their state of the art production values, but there are points here where it sounds even worse than usual. Did the entire band cram into a shower stall to record Suffering Dictates? Cronos's unmistakable vocal sneer is more than a little deeper, almost lost, within the mix than I've come to expect. I'm used to that being up front and in my face, where the forces of darkness damn well intended it to be.

That said, the songs here generally don't disappoint. Bring Out Your Dead is a weak opener, but Notorious carries that old school Venom vibe, even as it updates that sound a little for the new millennium. I Dark Lord chugs along agreeably too, even if doesn't sound quite evil enough because of that subdued production, especially at the end, which ought to be far more raw and visceral than it comes across. I'm sure it will be live with Cronos at the front of the stage three feet away from the audience.

Oddly, the album seems to get heavier as it runs on. 100 Miles to Hell is great stuff and enough reason to buy this album on its own and, by the time we get to Dark Night (Of the Soul) five tracks in, the guitars feel more brutal, the bass broader and the drums more relentless. Cronos's sneer is more apparent too and that's a welcome return. So is the upping of the pace for The Mighty Have Fallen, which would have been a better album opener if the title didn't suggest a message that thankfully isn't true.

The mighty may need a real producer and fans of the mighty may quickly forget a few of the lesser tracks, but the mighty have definitely not fallen. I look forward to seeing them live again and hearing some of this material in the set. In the meantime, this is another Venom album that sounds like another Venom album and that's never a bad thing.

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