Although modern VENOM albums have been about as mixed as possible in quality that never prevents me from hoping against hope for them to put out another album like “Resurrection." Thusly with “Fallen Angels," once again the expectations were up despite the recent track record and revolving door of members outside of vocalist/bassist Cronos. And…once again, disappointment reigns with the legends of Metal as is the trend in the last few years.
There are aspects to “Fallen Angels” that will appease long-standing fans of VENOM. This latest record has a decidedly older tone to it (not just production wise) with how aggressive some of the tracks can be. Where the last few albums have heftily utilized the Groove Metal elements of structure, this one pushes it to faster paces and throws down with a Thrashier sound. The riffs flurry more, the soloing returns in larger and more complex portions, the drumming pops and double basses it with a new found energy, and Cronos snarls with the bass riffs across it all. Songs like “Pedal To The Metal” or “Souls Of Damnation” easily invoke this comparison with the band’s Rock N Roll vibes, but Thrashy performances of going about it. In a way, it’s perhaps their greatest 'return to form' record since 2000.
Too bad VENOM once again falters on two key aspects to “Fallen Angels” that hinder the entire experience. Firstly, the writing simply isn’t there. It’s as hit or miss as they have been on the last few records in memorability and effectiveness. The riffs are completely forgettable beyond a handful and more often than not songs are too similar and sound as if they are going through the motions. Considering how much Cronos puts into making the vocal parts catchy with his snarling style, it would have been nice for the instrumental portions to follow suit.
Secondly, all the flaws are only made more apparent by the lacking production value of “Fallen Angels." Not that VENOM has ever had a great production value in recent years, but the poor mix and rough edges of the album’s sound make it even muddier. Cronos’ bass devours everything in the mix (making the guitar riffs seem even less memorable) and his over layered vocals don’t inspire the 'live quality' that the rest of the album would indicate. This lacking cohesion of sound and mix does nothing to help out the mixed writing.
VENOM fans are sure to find a few things to love here or there with the standout tracks like “Hammerhead” or the lumbering title track, but the overall quality of the record never inspires much more than that. It’s mixed in writing and awful in production and it hinders the old school approach brought to the table. VENOM’s lacking album writing abilities are starting to weigh on my faith in the band…
Songs to check out: “Hammerhead," “Fallen Angels," “Souls Of Damnation."
(Online May 9, 2012)