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Venom - "Hell" (CD)

Venom - "Hell" CD cover image

"Hell" track listing:

1. Straight To Hell (4:26)
2. The Power And The Glory (5:10)
3. Hand Of God (4:33)
4. Fall From Grace (3:27)
5. Hell (5:06)
6. Evil Perfection (3:34)
7. Stab U In The Back (4:31)
8. Armageddon (3:26)
9. Kill The Music (3:13)
10. Evilution Devilution (4:27)
11. Blood Sky (5:11)
12. USA For Satan (4:49)
13. Dirge/The Awakening (3:32)

Reviewed by on August 17, 2008

"More than twenty years down the road and Cronos is still belting out tongue in cheek devil worshiping vocals for Venom, injecting a little bit of the eighties into the modern day."

Way back in 1982 vocalist Cronos of Venom uttered the infamous phrase “Lay down your souls to the gods rock ‘n roll, BLACK METAL!” Those words started a musical revolution, ushered in the era of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and finally gave a name to the burgeoning style of extreme music just being born simultaneously in multiple countries across Europe. More than twenty years down the road and Cronos is still belting out tongue-in-cheek devil worshiping vocals for Venom, injecting a little bit of the eighties into the modern day. While Venom still isn’t anything like the genre they gave a name to, their history in the music industry alone makes their newest effort, “Hell,” worth a listen or two, especially to fans of the New Wave or old school thrash styles.

“Hell” is a direct, all or nothing assault, lacking any sort of contingency plan or attempt to attack from multiple angles. The album doesn’t contain anything explicitly new or innovative, and there most definitely aren’t multiple layers to work through or puzzle over. The band doesn’t even attempt to work in any hidden meanings or lyrics that need to be interpreted. The idea behind the album is simple and to the point, and that is to get fists pumping into the air and epithets to the horned lord on the lips of every fan of metal within earshot. Forget about subtlety or discretion, because these songs just want to smash faces in with sledgehammers.

There is a pretty heavy thrash sound throughout the album, but it never gets overly fast, generally staying firmly in the slow to mid tempo range. The bass is also kept very high in the mix so that it often takes the forefront and the guitar keeps the rhythm going. Chronos’ vocals are low and guttural on each song, but they never get anywhere close to a death metal style, so every word rings clear without having to crack open the lyric insert. The understandable vocals will please those who don’t mind lyrics that aren’t meant to be taken seriously, but anyone looking for some meaning in the songs will occasionally wish they couldn’t hear what was being said. With titles like “USA for Satan,” “Evilution Devilution,” and “Straight to Hell,” the songs would probably be considered parodies of themselves if they weren’t coming from the band that basically started the whole genre.

A few guitar tricks and sound effects get thrown into the mix to spice things up or stir up controversy. The album opens with a heavily feedback-laden guitar screeching out sounds to give the impression of flying full speed down a dark section of highway, and the highway leads to hell, of course. While this particular trick starts the song off strong and keeps the interest up, others such as the “demonic” voices at the beginning of the title track fall a bit more flat, and are more likely to invoke snickering instead of fear. The distorted and deteriorating guitar rendition of the national anthem, alongside a very drunk sounding Cronos attempting to slur out something unintelligible, at the end of “USA for Satan” seems like it was crafted to court controversy and stir up press about the song. However, since the only people who would really get angry about that sort of thing certainly won’t be listening to an album titled “Hell,” it seems like a wasted effort.

Whether for nostalgia alone or a desire to listen to a more lighthearted take on the absolute evil that metal so often represents, “Hell” is worth listening to at least once. Whether it becomes a prized part of the listener’s musical collection or just a novelty to show off to fellow metal heads remains to be seen.

Highs: Heavy, satanic, and above all fun to listen to.

Lows: Some silly lyrics and a complete lack of complexity or anything new to hear in multiple listens through

Bottom line: Metal pioneers doing pretty much exactly what they did when they first started, but it's still worth listening to.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)