Call 'em black metal if you still feel the need, but at this point VENOM should be considered simply VENOM. There's zilch to this band to align them with EMPEROR, GORGOROTH, BELPHEGOR, MAYHEM or BURZUM other than pentagrams, goats' heads and Lucifer. By now, though, if you haven't yet figured out VENOM's enchantment with Satan has been played like a cartoon figure, well, take a hike, already. The joke goes all the way back to when Clive Archer sang during 1979 and 1980 and went by the outrageous nickname "Jesus Christ."
Head honcho Cronos takes another Hellride with current drummer Danny "Danté" Needham and guitarist Stuart "Rage" Dixon on the band's latest blast of bedlam, "From the Very Depths". What strikes most about VENOM in 2015 is how much they sound tidy and specialized aside from their traditionally nutty selves. Where they pulled the progressive sequences and blaring guitar solos in the middle of the chunky and purposefully grueling "Evil Law" and "Wings of Valkyrie" defies logic in the VENOM-verse, but these augmentations do make the band even more fun than usual.
On the title track, Cronos urges you to bite blasphemy and worship you-know-who during the witching hour. If you know VENOM, you know to just laugh along with Cronos all the way from (and to) the very depths, since to take him seriously is to take Parliament wigs seriously. What's (unintentionally) funnier is all the fret play and scale frivolity emitting from Rage that seems pretty damned odd amidst the dirty bass and clubbing beats behind him. There's a decided in-joke to Rage's scale-happy acumen that makes the rip-snorting speed of "The Death of Rock 'n Roll" all the crazier. Rage's spectacular guitar solo during the slowdown prompts the listener to hone in, but don't get too much over your head with it since Cronos bellows "we're killing King Creole" before barfing all over the end of the cut.
The slower, wah-kissed march of "Smoke" might be the weirdest VENOM tune in forever, a power metal-meets-stoner blaster that does hit a grooving stride and coaxes a leisurely headbang. Once again, Rage's solo is off-the-chain. As "Temptation" hits a train-chugging tempo from Danté on the verses, the gorier chucks on the choruses meet them head-on. Add another blistering smoker from Rage and damn if this album doesn't begin to sound like it means business with less tongue in the cheek than usual.
Okay, let's not get too carried away. "Long Haired Punks" comes next and whatever you find funnier, the title, Cronos' hysterical ralphing of "demons from Hell, long haired punks", or the chaotic sprint-and-skid methods, the song's an undeniable ass-kicker. Cronos gets to deal up the flash with his railing bass on "Long Haired Punks" even as Rage goes berserk all over the joint for nearly a minute. Wilder still is the punk drive plowing through "Stigmata Satanas" afterwards and if you miss VENOM's intended jibe of turning a would-be black metal number into a crusty punk jam, then you're hanging in the wrong league. Ditto if you don't detect MOTÖRHEAD grooves tilling through "Crucified" like the anti-black metal black metal song it is.
"Grinding Teeth" is another of many songs on "From the Very Depths" that carries as much of a MOTÖRHEAD groove as VENOM itself, and that's why this album is a freaking hoot on top of being a hellishly good brain-buster. Most VENOM fans prefer the filthy din of "Welcome to Hell", "Black Metal" and "In League with Satan" for the trash classics they are. Yet, there's something a smidge more satisfying (in the band's fourth decade, shall we say) in hearing Cronos, Rage and Danté shoot for a touch of refinement upon their jokey clamor.