Unfortunately, a huge lack of depth is what you will find in the new album by the trailblazers of Black Metal.
The beginning of the 80’s witnessed the birth of the most obscure form of extreme music, Black Metal, thanks almost exclusively to British Black Metal pioneers Venom. For instance, Heavy Metal icons such as Slayer, Cradle of Filth, Kreator, Candlemass, Paradise Lost, among several other Thrash, Speed, Black Metal and NWOBHM bands, were heavily influenced by their music, with songs like Welcome To Hell, Black Metal, Witching Hour, In League With Satan and Countess Bathory becoming legitimate satanic anthems. Now with From the Very Depths, the fourteenth studio album by this Newcastle-based band formed in the distant year of 1979, Cronos and his crew want to keep the fire of their venomous kingdom burning and disturbing the minds of the weak.
However, if Venom’s first two albums, Welcome to Hell (1981) and Black Metal (1982), are the epitome of this devilish subgenre of heavy music, pretty much all of their following releases lacked innovation, intensity and, consequently, importance (I doubt you can name a relevant song of any of their other albums). From the Very Depths is no exception to that, with its musicality being so rudimentary they seem more like an amateur garage band than those trailblazers of Extreme Metal with so many decades on the road. Cronos, La Rage and Dante stick to the very basics of heavy music, with not a single moment of creativity showcased throughout the album. That would not have been an issue if they were as good as Motörhead or AC/DC, but their extremely limited skills make From the Very Depths an album with absolutely no depth.
But is From the Very Depths really that bad? Well, if you keep your expectations really low you might enjoy some parts of the album. After the intro Eruptus, which really transmits a sense Venom are rising from the very depths of hell, we have the title-track From the Very Depths, which despite not being Black Metal per se (it feels more like Thrash Metal) it’s a very good exhibit of dark and extreme music, with the resonant bass lines by Cronos setting the tone during the whole song. The following track, The Death of Rock ‘N’ Roll, has a dark Hardcore/Punk Rock atmosphere, with lyrics that couldn’t sound more Venom than that (“We met the devil at the gates / Not at the crossroads or by humiliate / The man of blues can sell his soul / We’d rather party with the demons… down below”). In addition, its nonstop instrumental helps enhance the electricity of this song, which in my opinion is the best of the album.
After that satisfactory start, the issues start to appear in From the Very Depths. Smoke is not only generic, especially its lyrics, but it also lacks that wickedness so necessary in Black Metal and it goes on for grueling five minutes. A song so long should have presented more variations or at least a minimum of energy in its riffs, don’t you agree? Temptation sounds like a rip-off of Venom themselves, where the bass lines mess its harmony instead of boosting it, turning it into another disposable track. Leastwise, Cronos’ harsh voice is still in good shape and the song doesn’t go on for torturing five minutes.
The band sounds a lot more cohesive and tuneful in Long Haired Punks, a tribute to Punk Rock and Heavy Metal that connects the heaviest and most deranged aspects of both music genres, with Cronos singing how Venom (and all other metal bands) are punks too (“Fight for survival, hitting the road, get out my way, time for a show / We blast metal, no hip hop or funk, demons from hell, long haired punks”), while Stigmata Satanas, with its very old school sonority, might be nothing outstanding but it’s quite nice, with its crude riffs and vocal lines blending really well with the lyrics, in special with its extremely simple but demonic chorus. On the other hand, Crucified is an awfully uninspired track with a flat rhythm that almost forces you to skip to the next song. The drums by Dante are sadly elementary, sounding like Meg White from the White Stripes without Jack White to salvage the song with more elaborate guitar lines.
Maybe with a more complex (or less monotone) instrumental, Evil Law could have been a really good song, because it contains that trademark devilish aura by Venom, including the wicked noises in the background. In regards to its lyrics (“Fakaa enday yay badah / Urka temeway tado / Coorza onyay femlay / Keelay spray ohapa do”), the only thing I can say is: what the hell is this supposed to mean? Anyway, Grinding Teeth brings back a decent mix of Thrash, Speed and Black Metal, which might sound interesting if it’s chosen for their live performances. Moreover, the band finally tries some different riffs and breaks, helping making the song more delightful.
After another short intro, Ouverture, we have another example of how amateur Venom still sound in Mephistopheles, which despite having a badass attitude it doesn’t offer anything really exciting to the listener. The same can be said about Wings of Valkyrie, a boring track where drums and riffs are negatively overshadowed by the extremely loud bass lines. Lastly, the good song Rise closes the album with the live audience in the background making it sound a lot more organic. If only they had added more of that rawness and brutality to the whole album, From the Very Depths could have been one of the best Extreme Metal albums of the year.
From a technical standpoint there’s almost nothing to be analyzed in From the Very Depths: it’s an album as basic and bland as it can be, with no memorable songs or fresh elements offered in its more than 50 minutes of music. As already mentioned, if you lower your standards (or if you love Venom more than your life) you will actually have some fun listening to From the Very Depths, but it’s hard for anyone else to get thrilled by an album that above all things lack any real depth. Sad to say, after almost 40 years of existence it looks like Venom will continue to be known just as the band who recorded Welcome to Hell and Black Metal.
Best moments of the album: From the Very Depths, The Death of Rock ‘N’ Roll and Long Haired Punks.
Worst moments of the album: Smoke, Temptation, Crucified and Wings of Valkyrie.
Released in 2015 Spinefarm Records
1. Eruptus 1:01
2. From the Very Depths 3:54
3. The Death of Rock ‘N’ Roll 3:09
4. Smoke 5:01
5. Temptation 3:52
6. Long Haired Punks 4:02
7. Stigmata Satanas 3:26
8. Crucified 4:06
9. Evil Law 5:03
10. Grinding Teeth 4:11
11. Ouverture 1:16
12. Mephistopheles 4:06
13. Wings of Valkyrie 4:00
14. Rise 4:34
Conrad “Cronos” Lant – vocals, bass guitar
Stuart “La Rage” Dixon – guitar, backing vocals
Danny “Dante” Needham – drums, backing vocals