VENOM - "CAST IN STONE" (CBH/SPV)
The Gods Rock'n'Roll have kept us in a state of suspense for too long. At Dynamo Open Air '96 they gave vent to their intention to release a reunion album some day soon, until which time we had to be content with the "Venom '96" EP (which only featured a small snippet of a new song, "The Evil One", accompanied by re-recordings of a few classics). Would they stay together throughout the summer '97 American headlining tour? Would their egos leave each other unravished?
And then, quite suddenly, it lay there, longing to be bought, in the record shop: "Cast in Stone", the official Venom reunion album. They can now split again for all I care, for I have obtained with the purchase of said album something that will keep me happy for another 10 years until another reunion might happen!
"Cast in Stone" is actually a double CD, consisting of 14 new songs (including the full version of the most excellent "The Evil One") plus a 30+ minute bonus CD featuring re-recorded classics. And the packaging looks brilliant,too, with a nice hologrammesque effect on the cover, and all the lyrics ready for expert perusal.
I know I am not entirely unprejudiced with things concerning my Black Metal heroes but, damn it, "Cast in Stone" is one hell of a fine album! Cronos roars like only he can, Mantas plays a decent bit of guitar and Abaddon doesn't miss a beat anywhere. The lyrics are about the subject matter of the olden days, enriched with stuff about crime, judgement day and disease. Musically, the CD outperforms any of their earlier albums. I think only the legendary status of albums the likes of "Welcome to Hell" and "Black Metal" may prevent "Cast in Stone" from attaining the much coveted number 1 Venom album position.
The bonus CD contains modern versions of "Bloodlust", "Die Hard", "Acid Queen", "Burstin' Out", "Warhead", "Lady Lust", "Manitou" and "Rip Ride". Together with the tracks that appeared on the "Venom '96" EP, a nice collection of old stuff re-done.
But let's have a look at the actual new tracks. These certainly rock, kicking off with the absolutely brilliant "The Evil One" and ending with "Swarm" (which ends on an uncannily sublime Egyptian-sounding section, one of the highlight of the CD). In between we find thrash tracks like "Raised in Hell", "Flight of the Hydra" and "Infectious", as well as slightly more epically set-up tracks the likes of "Destroyed & Damned" and "Kings of Evil". None of the tracks (except the ending of "Swarm") are a surprise - it's just all really good, quality Venom material that will quench your venomous thirst for some time to come. Finally, the faul taste of "Calm before the Storm" has left my mouth.
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Written January 1998
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