Venomous Maximus – Firewalker (Shadow Kingdom)

Tuesday, 2nd June 2015
Rating: 8/10

Fact is, there are so many ho-hum, uninteresting bearded dude bands ‘a-happening at the moment, that it was easy to initially take a pass on Houston’s Venomous Maximus. The American metal scene doesn’t do a good job of producing bands of variety, yet lo and behold, here’s an actual band with songs, melodies, hooks, good vocals, and dynamics. Not much of a surprise Shadow Kingdom Records snagged ‘em, though, but good for the label – they’re true bastions of the true, which obviously, Venomous Maximus is. Same goes for the band’s sophomore album Firewalker, which is the genuine article.

Hovering somewhere between the riff-focused realm of Mastodon, the 80’s quasi gallop of say, Metal Church (that may be a reach), and the home-spun qualities of Slough Feg, Venomous Maximus display virtually no shortage of good ideas across Firewalker’s running order. The Thin Lizzy-twinge of “Through the Black” is an instant highlight, as harmonized guitars fly over the place; vocalist/guitarist Greg Higgins is upfront and immovable on “Dark Waves,” which will probably elicit some clap-a-longs based on its cadence, while the pure rock fury of “Angel Heart” is another ace-in-the-riff-hole, with Higgins’ striking delivery lending weight to an otherwise groove-laden tune.

Higgins will probably be the deciding factor for many when it comes to Venomous Maximus. His clean, well-enunciated delivery has almost an 80’s-pop feel to it, which in a strange way, recalls Rick Ocasek of The Cars. (This is a good thing, mind you.) But in totality, Firewalker is strength-to-strength across the board, with the band being thoroughly adept in the riff department, and vocal department, which as we just stated, is a testament to Higgins. So in turn, excellent stuff anywhere; totally refreshing too, especially if we want to look at the grander scheme of things. Most newbie American metal bands don’t have the versatility of Venomous Maximus, that’s for sure.

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