Venom, the venerable godfathers of black metal, are unique in the genre they’ve spawned. They just won’t die (or even get sentenced to life in prison). While there are few similarities between the original Sons of Satan and the waves of protégés who have made “black metal” a buzz word associated with church burnings, make-up, and murdering bandmates, Venom were the first to coin the phrase. In the early 80s, the term described their previously unheard style of dirty, lo-fi thrash metal centered around themes of depravity and evil. And while they never took themselves too seriously (nor did the music critics), their early offerings started a legacy to which every metal band since owes some small debt.The original trio of Venom — Cronos, Mantas, and Abaddon — stopped playing together back in the mid-80s, but reformed in 1997 to record the album Cast in Stone. This pummeling reunion album of new material and re-recorded classics has now been re-released with 5 rare tracks from their 1996 mini-album.
Cast in Stone picks up right where the original lineup left off. The album contains some straightforward, full-speed-ahead thrash reminiscent of the early days (“Flight of the Hydra,” “Raised In Hell”) while also including some slower, heavier songs that rely more on production value than sheer raw energy (“Destroyed & Damned,” “Judgment Day”). Overall, Venom does their legacy proud with this offering, never slowing down long enough to accuse them of being another washed up “reunion” band that is a sad parody of the original. To further prove this point, the band re-recorded 10 of their classics with a tighter, heavier production than the originals ever enjoyed. While they lose some of the “recorded in the basement of Hell” appeal of the original versions, they no doubt serve to chronicle the fact that these three men have been “To Hell and Back,” and are happy to share their experiences with legions of faithful headbangers.