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Von - "Satanic Blood" (CD)

Von - "Satanic Blood" CD cover image

"Satanic Blood" track listing:

1. Jesus Stain (3:40)
2. Devil Pig (2:27)
3. Venien (2:21)
4. Release (1:07)
5. Veadtuck (3:08)
6. Vennt (1:47)
7. Evisc (1:30)
8. Goat Christ (1:27)
9. Dissection InHuman (3:55)
10. Chalice Of Blood (3:31)
11. Blood Von (3:40)
12. Christ Fire (2:51)
13. Backskin (3:10)
14. Watain (2:41)
15. Blood Angel (1:09)
16. Lamb (1:29)
17. Satanic Blood (2:36)
18. Satan (Bonus CD Track) (7:51)
19. Litanies Of Von (Bonus CD Track) (7:34)

Reviewed by on November 9, 2012

"In 1992, Von was something to be feared; in 2012, that feeling is still present, but in less quantity. In its place is a tired retread of a sound that regresses back to the infancy of black metal."

Two decades ago, Von, a band from San Francisco, California, became one of the influential figures in black metal. They released a hundred copies of their demo “Satanic Blood,” which somehow spread from the Bay Area all the way across the ocean and back. In the days of tape-trading, the demo was a sought-after collector’s item. The band broke up before releasing a full-length album. Founding members Venien and Goat reunited in 2010 for a show before Von split off into enough projects to need a Venn diagram to explain.

Venien continued on with the project, bringing in outside musicians to help finish the band’s debut release. “Satanic Blood” takes songs written from the early days, re-records them, and adds in a few new ones. In 1992, Von was something to be feared; in 2012, that feeling is still present, but in less quantity. In its place is a tired retread of a sound that regresses back to the infancy of black metal, before bands like Emperor and Immortal made the genre into more than just raw static.

For those who have heard only whispers about Von, “Satanic Blood” will be an adventure. Avid followers of black metal may think “Satanic Blood” is more like a compilation than a new album. Almost every song from Von’s first demo is present, unchanged with the addition of slightly-improved production. Songs from various EPs and demos can be found, and it all fits into a quaint package of 19 songs. That’s an excessive level of black metal for anybody to have to deal with, especially with music this banal and monotonous.

Von plays fast, they play sloppy, and they like to grunt blasphemy like it’s going out of fashion (which it has). There’s something almost innocent about this album, like Venien and company were so determined to get this out that they didn’t mind how tired this material sounded. Age has done little to give this material reverence, as song after song trails by with nothing left behind except confusion and shoulder-shrugging. If this album had came to pass back when the band was first active, an argument could be made for its potential significance in the black metal culture.

“Satanic Blood” is at its most peculiar when the band slows the hell down and plays actual riffs that aren’t just a tremolo-picked blur. The instrumental “Veadtuck” is a mid-tempo reprieve that calms the album down for a few minutes, which was its role in the demo as well. “Dissection InHuman” and “Blood Von” mess around with guitar effects and industrial-tinged sound scapes. “Chalice Of Blood” is a head turner, one of the few songs that still resonates with relevance.

The album begins with a fresh tune, “Jesus Stain,” which is a cataclysmic start that pumps the listener up. Variation is non-existent, but the wall of sound isn’t as repetitive as it becomes later on. The anthem “Satanic Blood” finishes out the old material, but those who find the CD version will get two bonus tracks, “Satan” and “Litanies Of Von.” Each one is twice as long as the average song length, and they both are too long. The latter song is just seven-and-a-half minutes of ambient noise and wandering growls that is enough after two minutes.

Somewhere out there is a group of people who will be stoked to hear that Von put out a full-length after years of inactivity, and “Satanic Blood” should quench their desire. A lack of fresh material will disappoint the listeners who somehow got their hands on the demo back in the mid-‘90s, or found the demo online. An official release is a welcomed addition to their catalog, though some may question the fact that Venien wasn’t directly involved in the original demo (he helped compose the material, but was not present during its recording). “Satanic Blood” is a relic that would have been stamped that way a decade ago, let alone now among the vast sub-genres and innovations that black metal has.

Highs: Primitive black metal that builds off the fury of their noteworthy demo of the same name, "Veadtuck" and "Chalice Of Blood" are strong standouts, new song "Jesus Stain" is a beast

Lows: Repetitive, very little new material for die-hard fans, sound hasn't dated well

Bottom line: After two decades, Von releases a proper full-length of raw black metal that comes off as too retro for its own good.

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls

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)