I love Venom. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love Venom, the band that single handedly and unintentionally created the genre we know as “black metal.” “Welcome to Hell,” Venom’s bold, coarse debut, introduced the world to Satan, and remains one of my favorite albums of all time. But words don’t come close to capturing the ripple effect of 1982’s “Black Metal”, which I’m not afraid to say is absolute shit compared to the material on “Welcome to Hell” and “At War with Satan”. Most metalheads agree that Venom deserves the same respect as legendary metal bands of the highest calibre. An angel falls from heaven every time a hipster puts on a Venom shirt. I’d like to think this notion inspired the title of the group’s most recent release, “Fallen Angels”.
To be honest, I don’t go out of my way to listen to post-1986 Venom. Perhaps due in part to the changeover from Cronos to Tony “The Demolition Man” Dolan in 1989, which brought a different feel altogether to the proceedings for a few years and albums. But to their credit, and with the return of the mighty red leather booted one, the band has been nothing short of prolific since then, even putting out a few commendable full-lengths (“Calm Before The Storm”, “Resurrection”) and some I’d rather not talk about (“Metal Black“, “Hell“). “Fallen Angels” proves that ol’ Cronos still has it, with vitriol to spare, grooving with guitarist Rage and drummer Dante like a well-oiled machine. The spark and spirit he injects into the music is undeniable. Cronos sounds like he’s truly back in gear and sitting comfortably and confidently in his throne of power as one of black metal’s pre-eminent forefathers.
Venom’s history makes “Fallen Angels” an emotionally difficult album to review. It’s virtually impossible to listen to without subconsciously comparing it to 80’s Venom. Forgive me. I kneel before the almighty Cronos and offer my soul to the black metal gods.
The opening track, ‘Lest We Forget,’ is a short and sweet acoustic intro. The album would survive without it, but it doesn’t do any real harm. It’s actually quite misleading, as second track ‘Death Be Thy Name’ provides some of the more punchy and memorable moments on “Fallen Angels”. The clear vocals and audible instrumentation have a polished, modern feel, partly due to my maladjusted ears, accustomed to the lack of production and youthful energy that made early Venom legendary. But don’t get me wrong; the production does suck, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
My poor heart has been torn asunder by ‘Punk’s Not Dead.’ It is completely out of control. And hilariously awesome. Pure worship of old school punk and its followers that would make Wattie proud. Cronos even gives Johnny Rotten a proper shout out with a sneering “destroy!” Despite being ridiculous, it’s still fucking fun.
When it comes down to it, there’s no need to go into much detail regarding the better part of this album – it’s pure post-90’s Venom, nothing revolutionary, no wild attempts at avant-garde bullshit. It’s Cronos, guys. “Fallen Angels” is like that dude at every party who you can count on to bring a 30 rack of Bud and crazy stories about Lemmy.
At its core, ‘Hail Satanas’ is catchy punk metal. Vigorous riffs and an obligatory demonic sound bite. It’s an energetic number to thrash around to. And who doesn’t enjoy yelling the occasional “Hail Satan?”
The harder side of Venom shines through in ‘Beggarman.’ Fast and full-bodied, Cronos’ signature vocals takes on an edge ‘Damnation of Souls’ is sludgier than ‘Beggerman,’ but has the same fuck-all attitude, and snarling ‘Lap of the Gods’ is simply solid old school heavy metal. ‘Pedal to the Metal’ is one of the cooler offerings on “Fallen Angels”. Fast-paced and heavy with a Motörhead feel, it’s a solid metal anthem. ‘Nemesis’ isn’t bad either, pumping more life into the guitar work and giving it some bite. Last track ‘Hammerhead’ literally tells you it’s a “headbanger,” and it is. The beefy chorus is bangover friendly, making you feel the “metal in your soul.” A fitting curtain call.
Punk’s not dead motherfuckers (“you can’t kill a way of life!”). And as evidenced by the overall consistency and energy of this album, neither is the fire that still burns in Cronos’ blackened heart. Although kind of lame at times, it’s lame in a heavy metal older brother type of way. Musically, it’s basically inoffensive and there are some very strong moments. Lyrically, I could have written the entire thing in third grade. Whatever, it’s in no way a poor record; it’s definitely fun to have beers to and comfortably unvarying from Venom’s work in the past decade or so. This is an album that should be on any dedicated Venom fans shelf, but if you’re a Venom virgin (and that’s sad) you should listen to “Welcome to Hell” first, and then make an informed decision. Fuck the McRib: Cronos is what’s truly back.