Venomous Maximus – Beg Upon the Light (Napalm Records)

Tuesday, 16th July 2013
Rating: 8.5/10

Perhaps the most integral part of a traditional rock band is also the most difficult to secure.  I must have listened to hundreds of what could have been notable bands, diminished by a bad voice or maybe worse – a lack of a voice of their own.   Of course, this is only part of the magical recipe, but it’s so vital.  Disclaimer: this reviewer doesn’t give much credence to the spate of instrumental “metal” bands that came out of the woodwork in the last handful of years.  They’re okay, but just…kinda…false.

Houston’s Venomous Maximus are not one of those bands and possess one of the keys for success:  their own voice.  After releasing two EPs in the last three years, Beg Upon the Light is the band’s debut full-length, which consists of nine tracks, and refreshingly, commands attention for the duration of the album the way that a good movie will.

In some ways I feel a Mercyful Fate comparison might be valid due to both the thick occult doom metal these Texans crank out, coupled with the almost peculiar vocals of guitarist and singer Gregg Higgins.  I don’t want to suggest a comparison to King Diamond ‘s over-the-top signature shrieking– rather,  in respect to the idea of the vocals as a distinct element that really stand out.  Actually, Higgins’ vocals might sound more like if Primordial’s A.A. Nemtheanga were moonlighting as a carnival barker.  In fact, if I were to think of a combination of comparisons to this sound, I might suggest that Venomous Maximus sound what like you’d get by throwing Candlemass, Primordial, Slough Feg and Merciful Fate into a big metal blender.

This self-described “dark metal” band plays a very engaging style of doomy, heavy, at-times-psychedelic, sometimes bizarre and totally rockin’ metal.  The sound is big, atmospheric, riff heavy, and here is the accomplishment of this band: presence.  That’s why this band and this album work where many others don’t.  Presence is not an easy thing to find.

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