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Revisiting “Metal Edge” Magazine: The CD Reviews – Part 12

These album overviews were originally written for Metal Edge Magazine when I was a contributor to their “Hear Us Out” CD reviews section back in 2006-2007. With the magazine wrapping up publication a few months ago, I decided to add them to the context of our PiercingMetal presentation. I felt that by doing this I would not only be raising the horns in remembrance of the magazine but would also be able to showcase just how different writing for a major publication was when it all came down to it. Since “Hear Us Out” notations were usually “100” words in length, these posts will feature several reviews each until we run out of them. The freelance writing tenure at Metal Edge Magazine was discussed on THIS LINK so please check that out when done. Here are the final reviews, so “Hear Us Out” one last time.

Various Artists: “Metal For The Masses V” (Century Media Records)

The great thing about this compilation is that it includes members of the whole Century Media family of labels and as result you get Into Eternity with Meshuggah with American Heartbreak. Two CD’s loaded with songs from existing and new signings make this a worthy slab of Metal, but lets not forget the DVD that features videos from the same rosters. It’s a great way to showcase the already known while allowing you time to absorb those that are new. You cannot go wrong with a release like that for who knows how many more fans it can make for legends and how many legends it can foster going forward.

Various Artists: “Saw III” Soundtrack (Artists Addiction Records)

Soundtracks are not often easy to review since many of them are sub-par but lucky us this is an exception. After the shaking in fear has stopped from seeing this movie, you can once again feel your blood boil hot with the power of the great bands presented here. Hot new acts like All That Remains, and Mastodon are tempered by the legends Slayer and Ministry while ever rising super powers like Lamb Of God and Meshuggah dole it out as well. A soundtrack helped Evanescence, perhaps this will make a spike marked dent on someone elses career. Yes, there will be blood.

Various Artists: “Sick Of It All: Our Impact Will Be Felt” (Abacus Records)

Slowly becoming the be-all label for finding slam worthy Hardcore and Metalcore, Abacus Records gives us a compilation that celebrates 20 years of the band Sick Of It All. This tribute takes some of the hottest talent in the genre and has them bring to life their own version of a SOIA classic. The idea works for a number of reasons as not only do you hear the hot bands of today but you get the chance to learn more about these forefathers of the Hardcore movement. It’s a great sampling of a wide variety of groups.

Venom: “Metal Black” (Sanctuary Records)

Venom have been referred to as being the “Fathers Of Black Metal” and this title is based on their releases such as “Black Metal” and “At War With Satan”. When the band was formed in 1982 there was not really anyone playing the kind of music much less about the kind of topics that they were bringing to the table. When you look back and listen to the early albums you will find that the original lineup of Cronos, Mantas and Abbadon (who were all named after demons) delivered a more Thrash Punk than Metal style and their lyrics while very dark could not have been meant to be taken very seriously. Cited by bands like Slayer and many others as the key influence to their own forays into Metal’s Dark side the group gives us “Metal Black”. The Sanctuary Records release finds Venom bringing their sound into 2006 but the only original member on the release would be Cronos with his growling vocals and thundering bass. We last saw Cronos on the Dave Grohl project “Probot” and now joining him would be Mykvs (guitar) and Antton (drums) with both members helping out on backing vocals. Together the group reminds the listener once again of the goings on down below and with “Antechrist” and “Rege Satanus” prove that they will never stray far from this influence for their music. Oddly enough this release is far different from the early albums and delivers a solid dose of Heavy Metal rumbling that I think can appeal to even the non-fan. It was better than I remember them and finds a little more musicality being showcased this time around. I had a couple of tracks that I liked the most such as “Burn In Hell” and “A Good Day to Die” which were fast-paced numbers along the lines of Motorhead. There were some levels of lyrical predictability here but overall it is possibly the best work that the band has delivered in years. If you find inspiration in the bands of yesterday then this will be worth looking into. Given the earlier disciples to their sound in the past who knows what the return of Venom in 2006 will find. Only time will tell if the next big thing listens to this and follows in their hoof prints.

Virgin Black: “Requiem: Mezzo Forte” (The End Records)

The 2nd of a Trilogy, this CD makes you feel you should be watching in an elaborate Opera house as opposed to a club setting. This is intense drama and passion that also cannot be appreciated on a first listen. As it thundered by in its lush orchestrations, I felt as though I was observing from an ornate balcony as I wondered how so much diversity was fit into the time presented. This is classical and dark, yet imposing and beautiful at the same time. It goes to show how fresh the “Metal” genre remains as new worlds of musical color are presented on a regular basis.

Wednesday 13: “Fang Bang” (Ryko Records)

Former Murderdolls singer/guitarist Wednesday 13 takes movie monsters, Cemetery romance and grave-robbing to give you ghoulish good time with “Fang Bang”. This quirkiness and the Punk Rock & Roll backbeat are sure to serve the minions of the macabre well as the living dead front man delivers some sinister and twisted tunes. Citing that this recording was more of a return to the style of Frankenstein Drag Queens than his Murderdolls music, the album is a lot of fun from start to finish. If the stuff was done in a serious fashion and not as tongue-in-cheek the subject matter being sung about would terrify a person because he really singing about some horrifying stuff. Instead, this musical adventure is something you might expect from the Crypt Keeper as Wednesday 13 sings as different characters on several songs such as a grave-robbing transvestite during “Happily Ever Cadaver” and someone who lived with his dead girlfriend for “Morgue Than Words”. It all sounds disgusting but it worked oh so very well and you will find them appealing enough to form your own Goth Punk mosh pit. It’s a musically slamming album with more catchy hooks than you can count as he brings Hollywood movie monsters to life on songs like “Haddonfield” and “Till Death Do Us Party”. If you never imagined yourself being moved to stomp during the antics of Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers well here is your excuse as these two numbers are among the albums strongest inclusions. Practically every chorus will have you humming once your first spin of the CD is finished. Wednesday 13 shows a really amusing and dark sense of humor that works well on every song (such as “Buried With Children”), and while most tracks are of this nature there seems to be some seriousness on “Die Sci-Fi”, which is a kind of trippy number, and “Burn The Flames” which finds 13 in his best Alice Cooper moment. It’s almost like the credits section as a movie closes. He provides lyrics for the tracks and that allows you in on the jokes of this very fun record. His very visual nature and horror show premise gives the impression that concerts will be an absolute blast. This bone shaking album will allow you monsters to mash a little more so grab a partner and start shaking – here is your new graveyard smash.

White Lion: Anthology 83-89 (Deadline Music)

White Lion was one of the more popular acts in the Hard Rock 80’s – you had the energetic blonde singer (Mike Tramp) and guitar virtuoso Vito Bratta who gave fans a plethora of rock solid hits. The Anthology had the chance to be something excellent but this is not the case as instead of official album tracks you get songs familiar names but are musically quite different. Loaded with outtakes, demos and acoustic tracks the album should have been called “Rarities” as otherwise its deceiving the listener. Given most of these tracks are lesser grade production value tracks it makes the entire disk a reminder of the great band in name more than music.

Wuthering Heights: “The Shadow Cabinet” (Sensory Records)

If you’re longing for speedy drumming, lightning guitar riffing and vocals that are as resounding as a call to battle then Wuthering Heights is just what the doctor ordered. The Danish group uses all the expected tricks but also mixes many classical and folk elements together and brings some truly epic tunes to your stereo. I felt old Blind Guardian as they played “Faith” and “Seize The Night” and completed my listen as a satisfied Metal maniac. With their fourth release, they show a powerful presence remains. Discovery lies ahead on this one. A live performance DVD is included.

ZO2: “Ain’t Is Beautiful” (Independent Artist)

Every so often, you come across a band that reminds you about the simple pleasures of Rock & roll and all of the magic that it possesses. This is the case with New York’s ZO2, who bring you back to a sound that is generally lost by a number of today’s bands that are concerned more about genre labels than the task at hand. “Ain’t It Beautiful” is the bands second independent release and don’t let the term “indie” sway you as the group comes from some truly inspirational foundations. Dave Z. (the bassist) is also a member of The Trans-Siberian Orchestra, while brother Paulie and drummer Joe Cassata each have ample background from numerous working bands, which at times were busier than established industry “professionals”. The group was also the opener for the entire run of dates for KISS’ “Rock The Nation” tour. The CD follows up their debut “Tuesdays & Thursdays” with a similar theme of Melodic Hard Rock that will appeal to all fans who loved what KISS and Aerosmith did in their earlier years. Their sound is by no means retro, but instead is a skillful blend of the old meeting the new and showing how fresh it can sound when you focus on the basic formulas. Add in the fact that they use three-part harmony vocals these guys give the listeners easily memorable choruses. Paulie has the kind of voice that many Rock singers aspire to for he is bluesy at times, passionate at others, and when it is called for – he can scream like a banshee. It is the kind of diversity you want in a front man and he surely delivers on all fronts and gets you on your feet with numbers like “Get Up Now” and “If You See Kay”. While these are two of the bands most inspired rockers, I loved “Comin’ Home” and “Isolate” the best as each of them just took me away to a live show with the vibe that they brought. The guys also show respect and homage to the Rock founders on “Get The Led Out”, a number that uses some sweet Zeppelin feels and style. The album sounds fantastic and was produced & co-written by Bob Held. It’s music that you will want to play loud, sing along to and memorize all at the same time. I’m convinced that bigger things await ZO2 and their fans. Anyone else want to come along?

With this post we are finished with this presentation but the other chapters in this series of “Revisiting Metal Edge Magazine” can be examined by clicking on the “metal edge magazine” tag in this and the other posts. I hope that you enjoyed these summaries as much as I enjoyed sharing them with you in this fashion.

Official Websites:
Venom: http://www.venomslegions.com/
Virgin Black: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_Black
Wednesday 13: http://officialwednesday13.com/
White Lion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Lion
Wuthering Heights: http://www.wuthering-heights.dk/
ZO2: http://www.zo2.com

“Hell” by Venom

Artist: Venom
Title: “Hell”
Label: Sanctuary Records
Release Date: 8/12/2008
Genre: Thrash Metal
Rating: 2.5/5

Despite the claims, I am and always have been one of those Metal fans who never felt that Venom was a Black Metal band as an outfit even though they might have coined the phrase and chose to run with it. Now while I might find their fan base screaming for my head in this “blasphemy” let’s be honest here and look back at how their older material always had more of a Thrash Metal meets gritty Hardcore Punk vibe to it. When you compare this stuff to the likes of bands such as Mayhem, Emperor and those who really walked the dark paths in the name of Metal after their inception then you shall probably agree with me. Still, they managed to remain an influential unit who would inspire the likes of Testament, Slayer and even Metallica based on the material that they were delivering and that is a good thing considering the incredible output these bands delivered during their own careers. Venom returns to us with their latest studio recording entitled simply as “Hell” and this is a follow up to 2006’s “Metal Black”. Since I had rather enjoyed that album I was interested in seeing how the band would do with its successor and therein lies the issue since even after a couple of listens I was not finding myself all that pleased with what I was hearing. It starts off strong with “Straight To Hell” and once again the band continues a solid thrashing as they inform the listener where they are destined to end up. The title track is also rather strong and has an impressive groove to it but when it comes to tracks like “Fall From Grace” I feel that they lose some of the momentum based on how it runs as a tune. To me this seemed more contrived as Cronos yells his main lyric while the drums of Antton slam behind him. What’s weird about it is how it swaps from one format of tune to another and it was not what I expected from Venom. It didn’t end there in the confusion as “Stab U In The Back” and “Kill The Music” sounded like something that was more suitable for Motorhead to be doing. The band redeems for a short time with “Blood Sky” and “Evilution Devilution” but then they deliver the Thrashing Punk themed “USA for Satan” which is downright stupid. Venom now has Rage on guitar who has replaced the talents of Mykvs who left sometime in 2007.
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“This Is Black Metal” by Various Artists

Artist: Various Artists
Title: “This Is Black Metal”
Label: MVD Entertainment
Release Date: 10/9/2007
Genre: Black Metal
Rating: 2/5

“This Is Black Metal” is quite simply a DVD that features a total of seven professional videos and live performance clips and the same number in interview footage segments from a good sampling of Black Metal’s elite. Yet while these bands are true luminaries in the genre most of the videos presented were available on deluxe editions of their individual CD’s and why only seven when it comes down to it? Was it a cost factor or due to licensing and permission perhaps – but either way there is not truly enough to sink your fangs into for this aspect of it and it will leave you saying “well, what else do you have for me”. When you watch the main program as one single view, you will notice that the videos are interspaced by interview segments with the band and all of these portions are conducted by former Adult Film Star Jasmin St. Claire. There are many who know that Jasmin is the hostess of her own straight-to-video DVD series called “Metal’s Darkside” and while this particular release was met with a very mixed opinion (including my own) I had to say that the interview segments seemed to be a little more on a par of getting something good out of the band as opposed to sitting there and shooting the shit inanely. Of the interview segments I found that the best one was with the Mighty Emperor and Satyr for those featured more insight into what Black Metal is about and aimed at than the others. Celtic Frosts interview seemed to show some promise but it was a very bad audio mix during it which made it arduous to listen to. The guys in Venom were more comical to watch than anything else and I felt that the Morbid Angel one was just ill-used space for a band of their caliber. We also get an interview with Ms. St. Claire but it is more focused on her background and life than digging deeper into her own Metal interests to an analytical end. I admit that I remain on the fence about her work in this area but I am happy to see some improvement from the last time that I saw some of her adventuring in this regard. I think that the fans of JSC will enjoy this the most since they get to see her continuing to do that which they love her doing.
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Venom @ Irving Plaza (9/5/2006)

Logo - Venom

Artist: Venom
Venue: Irving Plaza (New York, NY)
Opener: Goatwhore, Early Man
Date: 9/5/2006
Label: Sanctuary Records

The first round of tour dates for Venom had been cancelled citing “Immigration Issues”, and given the amount of political hoops to jump through to fix them it seemed that the shows with Devildriver as their opener would simply never take place. Yet it was only a few days after these dramas that the announcement of rescheduling would come and this time the group would perform with both Early Man and Goatwhore. The sigh of relief on this would be felt in the entire Metal community as it had been almost ten years since Venom performed on U.S. soil (this was a mere one off appearance on the Milwaukee Metal Fest) and more than twenty since any headlining appearance or full tour was done over here (1983 if I am not mistaken). The venue of choice would be Irving Plaza and judging by the attendees you could feel the Black Metal in every corner of the room. As I entered I would be surprised to find tickets still available and while it did not seem sold out completely there was an amazing attendance for the bands return. The reasoning for my surprise is because of the age difference in the larger part of the audience and years of Venom’s absence. Many of the folks were from back in the day, but the larger contingent seemed to be as young as when they last headlined here and perhaps even younger. It’s great to see this faction supporting the bands and not wasting time on the crap that is pushed down our throats by the mainstream music industry. In terms of Metal music, the phrase “youth is wasted on the young” does not apply whatsoever.
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“Cast In Stone” (remaster) by Venom

Artist: Venom
Title: “Cast In Stone” (remaster)
Label: Sanctuary Records
Release Date: 7/18/2006
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 3.5/5

Venom has long been considered one of the key forces behind the beginnings of Black Metal but no matter how many times I hear their music I really don’t understand how this is the case. The band in the early days did use Satanic themes and imagery but sonically were more Punk and early Thrash than anything else. The original release of “Cast In Stone” hit the streets in 1997, and this album was also instrumental in reuniting the original three members of the group. There had been a number of membership rotations over the years and the band was fading more and more from the public eye. Leader/singer/bassist Cronos was on tour with his self-named band and decided to once more give it a try with his Venom colleagues. “Cast In Stone” is a surprisingly strong album and while none of the tracks hold the anthemic nature of the bands “Black Metal” track, there is a solid amount of crunching Metal to absorb on it. “Raised In Hell” and “All Devil’s Eve” thunder by you at fast pace while songs like “Destroyed And Damned” trudge along like something Metallica could have featured on their Black album. Sanctuary Records did a great job on remastering this album as the clean and upfront production made it very easy for me to enjoy the release, and this is from someone who never followed the group. “Flight Of The Hydra” is perhaps my favorite track from the initial release while the quasi-Industrial “Domus Mundi” is my least favorite along with “Judgement Day” since it seemed so cliché. Overall there is a lot of quality playing and some widely varied styles approached on this release which was not often found on the bands earlier material.
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