Venom in 2015 are, in many ways, a radically different beast to the one that first coined the term ‘black metal’ over a generation ago. And yet, refreshingly, they are still very much Venom.
Normally when we talk about a metal band evolving, we are talking about massive stylistic shifts. Either they have fallen in love with prog and embraced the Mellotron, the keytar solo and the 23-minute song, or they have begun to think they are somehow above heavy metal and seem intent on alienating the fans that made them successful in the first place.
Anyone expecting Cronos and co. to do any of the above doesn’t know Venom very well. They still sound like the heavy fucking metal band that scared the crap out of Monte Conner (the man who signed Deicide) back in the early 1980s. That is not what has changed. No, what has changed over the past half-decade or so is the competence and professionalism of those in the band with Cronos./o:p
“Long gone are the days of us all making fucking mistakes,” the band’s founder tells Hammer. “We did that when we were 17, that’s gone now – there are no more gone now – there are no more mistakes. It’s a professional band with a professional album, which is what the fans deserve, because I won’t have anyone taking the piss out of the Legions [Venom fans]. The fact that they’ve stuck by us for all these years makes me so proud of the guys.”/o:p
The band’s 2011 album, Fallen Angels (the first with the current lineup of Rage on drums and Dante on guitar) and the new follow-up, From The Very Depths, were, Cronos insists, written in the same fashion as always, and while he is willing to expand on what they do, it still has to sound (as he puts it) “Venomous” to make the grade. But that does not mean the new record’s contruction is entirely the same as it always has been.
“I usually write all the fucking album – I’ve got so much stuff – so to be able to have two other musicians who are also putting ideas into it can only be a great thing,” says Cronos. “It adds more to the depth of the ideas than if I had done it myself. The first album that happened on, where I felt kinda betrayed, was on the Possessed album, when we’d booked a fucking stately home to record the album – which was a mistake! – and when we got there, and I turned around to the guys and said, ‘So what ideas have you got, then?’, I got met with a blank expression. I was like, ‘Oh shit! Just as well I’ve got more than an album’s worth of material, then.’ I felt betrayed. I thought, ‘Well why haven’t you guys been coming up with ideas?’ So it makes my life easier that [now] I’ve got two other people in the band who are keen and want to contribute to the songs.”
Dig a little deeper into the band’s workings, and you find that Cronos’s insistence that the writing method is unchanged is not quite accurate; Venom have a new creative technique in their arsenal – one that has contributed ideas to the new album, and is another example of the band’s increased skill in recent years.
Cronos explains: “One thing that we have done in rehearsals, which is kind of bizarre for Venom, is we do these jams, and it helps us, in a way, as musicians with the telepathy thing – so you get each other. Especially live; if something goes wrong, we pick up straight away what went wrong and put it right before the fans know anything’s wrong. We’ve been doing these jams where, say Dante will start a beat, Rage comes in with a guitar riff, I join in on the bass, and we don’t stop for half an hour, 45 minutes. It slows down, it speeds up, it changes key – it’s a jam, and this is the first lineup I’ve ever jammed with in Venom.
“It’s the only lineup that’s ever been capable of a jam, and it’s because we have that telepathy with each other, that we get each other and where we’re coming from with the music that we can do that. We were even laughing the other week when we were listening back to these jams and we said, ‘We’d blow people’s mind if we released this!’ They would be, like, ‘What the fuck? What’s Venom doing with this?’”
We await Venom’s Jazz Odyssey with bated breath.
FROM THE VERY DEPTHS IS OUT NOW VIA SPINEFARM/o:p
A beginner’s guide to Venom’s towering legacy
WELCOME TO HELL
Kicking open the gates of Hell amid the squall of the NWOBHM, Venom’s snarling, brutish 1981 debut is the true starting point for thrash, death and black metal. Without this, most of your favourite bands wouldn’t exist.
“Lay down your souls to the gods, rock’n’roll!” bellowed Cronos on Venom’s second album, in November 1982, inspiring a generation of malevolent urchins to take heavy music ever further into the bowels of Hades. An infernal masterpiece.
AT WAR WITH SATAN
Proving that there was more to Venom than chaos and noise, their third album, in 1984, boasted a ferocious and wildly inventive 20-minute title track alongside more brusque and violent missives from the abyss. Legend status secured.
CAST IN STONE
After a long period of personal (and personnel) turbulence, the original Venom triumvirate of Cronos, Mantas and Abaddon reconvened for this fiery comeback in 1997. Their primal chemistry was very much in evidence and the songs were ragers.
The first Venom album to feature the current lineup of Cronos, Rage and Dante, 2011’s Fallen Angels marked a new dawn in the band’s erratic but immortal story. The magic of the early days met a new sense of purpose, with exhilarating results./o:p