5 June 2013

Venom - Calm Before The Storm

Well stone me, I knew I'd do a blog about Venom eventually but I NEVER thought it would be for this album! I'd always thought it would be for one of the first four. Funny how things work out. Still, on with the show...

This is the fifth album in the Venom discography and the final one to feature bassist/vocalist Cronos (before the 90's reunion). It's also the first album without guitarist Mantas who'd left after the previous album (Possessed). His replacements were Mike Hickey and James Clare who are both very skilled guitarists and are clearly better than Mantas - but they lack the quite frankly rough-as-fuck charm that his playing had and what made the songs so special. They try to, but it doesn't work. And that is the problem with this album - apart from better guitarists and production, it's really no further forward in terms of ideas or style. This was bad because by the time this album came out in 1987, thrash metal was in full swing and the young pretenders who'd been influenced by them were not just snapping at their heels but had usurped their position. Simply put, there were faster and heavier bands by the time this album came out. Sure, Venom's early stuff set the benchmark of influence (and as we all know, the title of the second album became the name of a whole new sub-genre of music - Black Metal) but by this album, they were treading water. After this album, everyone except the drummer quit which, to me, says it all. Venom - who were never the most lyrically and musically gifted band - were a spent force. Devoid of ideas and inspiration. The songs on this album appear to be mostly about Satan and Shagging (Shagging Satan?) and are unmemorable. Mind, 'Beauty And the Beast' is a cracking tune - but 'Muscle' just sounds like a novelty song gone wrong, an in-joke that should have either been left on the cutting room floor or reserved as a band members outtake. 'Deadline' is another good number as is 'Metal Punk' but it's just not good enough. While some bands have a signature sound which doesn't need tampering with and therefore can get away with releasing albums which have little need to experiment or develop (Iron Maiden, Motorhead, AC/DC being perfect examples), this is not one of them. As mentioned, the young guard were were starting to devour them like ravenous dogs.

If you're new to Venom and feel like checking them out, then don't get this album. Instead, try hunting down any of the first four albums as they're classics. If you still feel the need to listen to this album, then go ahead - but set all expectations low...

3/10 - Not for everyone but played well.

This album is available on iTunes.

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