Venomous Maximus – Beg Upon the Light (Cutthroat Records)

Wednesday, 27th March 2013
Rating: 7/10

“Occult rock/metal,” eh? Haven’t heard any of this in 2012. Venomous Maximus happens to be a horde of rockers hailing from Houston, Texas, culling from the usual spate of vintage rock influences (i.e. Blue Cheer, Pentagram, Sabbath, et al), and proceeding to wear them on their sleeve like it was a psychedelic gauntlet. There’s a new one: A psychedelic gauntlet. Perhaps Blistering should go into the arm attire business…

Beg Upon the Light is the band’s debut, following up 2010’s supposedly well-received The Mission EP. Its big lay to claim must be the fact it doesn’t sound like a blasé Ghost/The Devil’s Blood rip-off, instead channeling the wily riff-based approach of vintage Pentagram, with doses of Mercyful Fate’s proto metal and per the norm, Black Sabbath circa Masters of Reality. It’s hard to knock the riffs the band trot out, as the simmering “Battle for the Cross” is sure shake the dandruff from stoned-out rockers, while “Give Up the Witch” hones in some Stained Class-styled mastery that makes it the pick of the litter.

What keeps Beg Upon the Light on its back is the uncomfortable-sounding vocals of Gregg Higgins, who oftentimes sounds like he was plucked off the street and shuttled into the studio. It’s hard to make sense out of his unfocused vocal style, for they’re a bit like a hoarse King Diamond (sans falsetto), and when coupled with a barrage of annoying effects (delay being the most noticeable), Higgins brings the whole ship down, preventing would-be rockers such as “Path of Doom,” “Father Time” and the eponymous “Venomous Maximus” from hitting the target.

Sure to be an en vogue late-year release, Beg Upon the Light would be better served as an instrumental guitar rock album, where upon the band’s calculated and groovy riff ideas could take flight. Instead, we’re treated to an album that will no doubt be overrated, just because Venomous Maximus happen to be in the right place at the right time.

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