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Venom Played Its Only U.S. Show At Fun Fun Fun Fest

“I thought Venom is on tour and playing San Antonio in January?” This was the type of confusion I read on the Internet concerning the Venom camps. I explained that the “Venom” that’s going on tour is Venom Inc., which includes ex-Venom guitarist Mantas and Demolition Man who took over for Cronos for a short period. The Venom I referred to on my posts is the namesake band featuring the true voice and bass of Venom, Cronos. The band’s appearance at Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest marked their only show in the U.S.

Venom was the first headline act that I caught all weekend. On Friday, I missed Coheed And Cambria to make sure I got down to ACL Live in time to catch all of the Skinny Puppy set. The day before Mayhem took precedence over watching either Jane’s Addiction, NOFX or Wu-Tang Clan. Before being treated to the band that coined the term “black metal,” though, I took in a string of veteran, influential hardcore artists.

Having formed in only 2009, Off! is a bit of a newcomer, but its members go as far back in the hardcore scene as 1979. Front man Keith Morris is best known for fronting Black Flag and Circle Jerks. Other members include Burning Brides front man, Dimitri Coats, Redd Kross bassist Steven Shane McDonald, and Rocket From The Crypt/Hot Snakes drummer Mario Rubalcaba. In typical old school hardcore fashion, the band tore through about thirty songs in forty-five minutes. When compared to the Dwarves, who played on Friday, that’s actually long. The band did it with a one-two punch combination of songs from trinity of aggression “First Four EPs,” “Off!” and “Wasted Years.” The group played fast and ugly, but there were plenty of anthems in their songs. Morris instilled some knowledge on the crowd between songs, among the topics were politics and for “Panic Attacks, anxiety. Off! was a personal favorite hardcore band at this year’s fest.

Los Angeles straight edge group, Chain of Strength has its foundation in the late eighties and early nineties. The band was around for only a couple of years and released two EPs before dissolving. Bassist Alex Barreto played with Alien Ant Farm for a short time. Then, the band reformed in 2012 and are now here appearing at FFF. The group put on an intense performance. Its members moved back and forth around the stage, jumped, swiveled their guitars around their shoulders. Curt Canales screamed his lungs out with the help of gang choruses while bass lines led the charge to furious stop and start attacks. Chain of Strength made a big impression on this old school hardcore-loving crowd.

Dag Nasty was the last group in this trio of pavement-pounding hardcore bands. They belong to the fabled Washington D.C. hardcore scene that produced Bad Brains, Scream (Dave Grohl), Minor Threat, The Faith and many more. The group was founded by Minor Threat guitarist Brian Baker and influenced by The Faith. They were much more melody-based than the previous bands. They are considered the fathers of emo-core. Listening to some of their material I could see Atreyu being influenced by them. Shawn Brown screamed as the rest of the hardcore punk bands, but he also sang cleanly. Instead of just picking fast, there was more variation in Baker’s playing. His riffs had a greater sense of groove. Even with the inclusion of melody, Dag Nasty played plenty of fast, aggressive parts. I saw many people singing along with Brown, which exemplified the band’s influence.

L7 definitely has punk attitude and is very punk in pieces, but much less punk rock than the bands that preceded them. L7 joins Babes In Toyland from Friday’s show as being an all-female band whose very nineties based in sound and looks. They experienced some success in the nineties. L7 influenced the riot grrrl! movement. They split in 2001 and reformed two years ago. They played groove-based grunge rock that even reminded of Nirvana in parts. Black Sabbath probably played a role in their sound, although they don’t have the diabolic trudging sound that doom bands posses. Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner produced thick riffs with heavy tones, while Spark’s voice exuded attitude. The group played two songs that brought forth memories from twenty years ago. Those were their two commercial hits “Shitlist” and “Pretend We’re Dead.” Sparks’ wavering vocals during the chorus on “Shitlist” and her screams during this track were one of the highlights of their set.

Fun Fun Fun Fest hosted several power trios over the weekend, but there were none as powerful as the mighty Venom. The group consisting of original Cronos (bass/voice), Rage (ex-Order of the Black Sun, guitars) and Dante (Tony Martin, drums), played a good mix of new and classic, NWOBHM material. Amid the iconic Baphomet symbol backdrop, the group opened with a track from “From The Very Depths” called “Rise.” The crowd went nuts just because it was their opener, but you could tell they were lusting for classic material. “Long Haired Punks” was another track from their new album that even though it didn’t get the attention of “Black Metal” or “Welcome to Hell,” it was a fitting song for the crossover crowd of metal heads and punks. Dante’s drum rolls and Rage’s finger tapping makes “Grinding Teeth” a modern classic, but what everybody wanted to hear was the old stuff.

“Die Hard” and “Bloodlust” were the first old school tracks broken out by Venom. “Buried Alive” was preceded by the intro sounds of a shoveling dirt. That was one of the highlights in their set. The post chorus galloping riffs of “Countess Bathory” proved some of the best riffs to head bang to during the entire weekend. They played “Black Metal” as an ending track, which Cronos enhanced at the end listing other genres of metal when he should have just been saying “Black Metal.” It was sort of an homage to the ever changing sounds of metal. Then the group left the stage only to return to play an encore of two of their most evil songs, “In League with Satan” and closed with “Witching Hour,” which has be one of the most influential songs on the development of thrash metal.

Venom may no longer present legendary musicians like Mantas and Abanddon, in fact there is a fight between members for claim to the name. While I preferred the guitars of Mantas in Mpire of Evil, in the end, though, the voice of a group weighs most heavily and Cronos’ presence with spikes and leather, semi-fret less bass and his distinct gruff voice won over the day. Rage’s solos impressed while Dante’s was a giant behind the drums. The true Venom rarely tours and mostly plays festivals, so this was an opportunity of a lifetime that wasn’t to be missed. Thank you Fun Fun Fun Fest for making this happen!

Venom’s set list is as follows:

2. Die Hard
3. Bloodlust
4. Long Haired Punks
5. Buried Alive
6. Resurrection
7. Welcome to Hell
8. Countess Bathory
9. Grinding Teeth
10. Pedal to the Metal
11. Warhead
12. Black Metal

13. In League with Satan
14. Witching Hour

Rex_84's avatar

An avid metal head for over twenty years, Darren Cowan has written for several metal publications and attended concerts throughout various regions of the U.S.

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