Venom – Hell (Sanctuary Records)

Friday, 15th March 2013
Rating: 7/10

Hell sounds like a mess, naturally. It’s Venom we’re talking about and if the band were to ever take a second to compose themselves on a musical level, it wouldn’t be Venom, right? The follow-up to 2006’s hardly impressiveAntechristHell is surprisingly good in spots, with the band’s legendary overt, totally unpolished approach still holding strong after all of these years.

Singer/bassist Cronos remains the only original member, with drummer Antton and new guitarist Rage rounding out what is probably the 83rd version of Venom. There is some palpable sense of chemistry to be found, as strong cuts like “The Power and the Glory” and “Fall From Grace” are total throwbacks to the band’s glory days of Welcome to Hell and Black Metal.

The standout song Hell is far and away “Hand of God,” an unintentional anthem that is so simple, it’s stupid, kinda like Prong’s “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck.” The execution of the song, where Antton is made the guide via a basic kickdrum beat has got to be either a stroke of songwriting genius or Venom once again stumbling upon a really good idea and turning it into satanic gold. Either way, the song is a monster and is the hallmark of the album.

There are some steps in the wrong direction, most notably the childish (on all fronts) opener “Straight to Hell,” the clumsy “Evil Perfection,” and the out-of-synch “Armageddon,” all of which are mild reminders that when pointed in the wrong direction, Venom can go toe-to-toe with your average high school garage band and probably lose.

We don’t need to reiterate Venom’s influence on metal, ‘cause it’s been done to death, but at the same time, it’s important to note this is the first Venom album of quality in quite some time. Hell won’t make anyone forget about those seminal early albums, but it will keep Venom out of the pure nostalgia ranks. Let us pray they never discover the metronome and Pro-Tools. What a terrible world it would be.

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