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Von - "Dark Gods: Seven Billion Slaves" (CD)

Von - "Dark Gods: Seven Billion Slaves" CD cover image

"Dark Gods: Seven Billion Slaves" track listing:

1. They Have Come (3:23)
2. Ancient Flesh of the Dark Gods (10:09)
3. Hands of Black Death (6:14)
4. Dark Gods (2:59)
5. MONSTER! (5:32)
6. DevilWhore (6:02)
7. iAmInHuMan (6:03)
8. RawRot (7:40)
9. Black Eyes (6:07)

Reviewed by on March 29, 2013

"Taking cues from the bonus tracks from the “Satanic Blood” CD, “Satan” and “Litanies of Von,” Von makes progress in stepping away from their storied past to something more devious and abstract."

Von, the kvlt black metal icons, reignited their career with last year’s “Satanic Blood.” A compilation of re-recorded material spanning from the band’s early years up until the present, the official debut was one-note and jammed with rudimentary tracks that felt dated. Less than six months later, Von has a whole new record to spread their unholy banter. “Dark Gods: Seven Billion Slaves” is part one of a trilogy, and a new beginning for the Californian group. Taking cues from the bonus tracks from the “Satanic Blood” CD, “Satan” and “Litanies of Von,” Von makes progress in stepping away from its storied past to something more devious and abstract.

“Dark Gods: Seven Billion Slaves” comes off like the album that Von was trying to do all along, but had to get that pesky first full-length out of the way. The song ideas are more thought out and arranged, so there aren’t two-minute bursts of static, toneless black metal to endure. The traditional-leaning “Dark Gods” is the shortest track, just grazing past three minutes. The other songs aim for a bleaker set of rules, using its raw production values to illuminate the rigid sonic landscape the album stays glued to. It’s engaging in a manner that was missing on “Satanic Blood.”

“Ancient Flesh of the Dark Gods” is a massive way to open the album, coming off the moody instrumental “They Have Come.” Ten minutes of calculated black metal transitions between guitar-driven ambience and soulless blasting. The vocals are light, though bassist/vocalist Venien is joined by the vocalist from Coffinworm for most of the song. Venien’s vocals are scraggly grunts that never change in pitch, and his love of enunciating every word is drawn out. With much of the album, nothing instrumentally is jaw-dropping, but drummer Charlie Fell (Nachtmystium) is a well-timed machine with his beats.

When the band hones in with songs like that one and “Hands of Black Death,” it’s clearer that Venien’s vision for Von is fully realized. Songs from their earlier output, like “Veadtuck” and “Dissection InHuman,” were the outline for this album. The mood quakes and shivers in anticipation for when any chance for hope is dashed by the tremolo-led riffs. Sometimes, that moment never comes, and that tease is a devilish move. “Black Eyes” does this, and it’s even more of a tease because of its status as the closer.

It’s disappointing that this consistency is not matched throughout, as things gets hairy around the halfway mark. “Rawrot” starts out great, but slowly nosedives with an extended passage of repetition that has little worth. “DevilWhore” is a four-minute song stacked up to go over six minutes, and “iAmInHuMan” passes by on sheer caustic energy alone. A strong first half is taken over by uneven material, and it brings down what starts off as a promising start.

Von has gotten its fair volume of criticism, with Venien running the ship, but “Dark Gods: Seven Billion Slaves” is what the band needs to distance itself from the infamous “Satanic Blood” demo. The album has the space to add dynamics missing from much of their earlier songs. Bloated songwriting plagues the second half of the album, an unfortunate circumstance after the goodwill built up on the first few tunes. Two more albums in the “Dark Gods” saga are on the way, and it’ll be interesting to see where this album fits in once the concept has been fully developed.

Highs: Fleshed out in ways "Satanic Blood" was missing, great start and finish, band nails the unsettling atmosphere

Lows: Middle of the album takes a tumble in quality, raw production takes away power from the guitar riffs, montone vocals

Bottom line: A stronger output than their debut album, though suffering from bloated songwriting and a shaky middle.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 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)