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.

I would miss Early Man but made sure to arrive just in the perfect time to see Goatwhore. This New Orleans based Black Metal group would be supporting their very recently released album “A Haunting Curse” (available on Metal Blade Records), and it is a smoldering piece of Metal. While U.S. natives the band has a very strong European style to their Black Metal which is showcased in the heavy use of melodies that we don’t often see the players of this style in the States approaching. Here is all about the brutality and heaviness which you get a full dose of in the Death Metal acts and I found it great to be present while this group raised the Black Metal bar for the North American side. Their CD is a recommendation as well, and will introduce the listener to their new members (drummer Zack Simmons and bassist Nathan Bergeron) who joined just prior to the recording. The pair seemed the perfect compliment to the vocals that Ben Falgoust (Soilent Green) was growling and to Sammy Duet’s guitar work. The band was also clad in the spiked gauntlets very popular in the genre. Watch for their name on some of these upcoming shows as they deliver on stage which is where it all counts in Metal. I have to admit that I felt them a little better match for a support act given the fact that both bands follow a lot of the same lyrical subject matter. In the end it just made more sense.

Soon after the stage cleared, Venom would arrive but it would be a slightly different group than the die hard fan might have remembered. This time around the only original member of the group would be Cronos (Mantas and Abbadon have been gone for years). Joining Cronos for the tour would essentially be a “new” Venom consisting of Mykvs and Antton who would handle the guitars and drums as well as backing vocals. The bands tour would be in support of their new recording on Sanctuary Records, a Metal opus entitled “Metal Black”. It’s a record that sticks to the bands evil premise but is more pure Metal than some of their others in terms of consistency. The album has been cited as impressive and finds the most advanced performance levels ever displayed in the bands history. Tonight Venom would not be a typical group and hold you down with too much music from a new record and instead temper their newest thunderous material with their long respected classics from their Black Metal history. Back in the day I was not the biggest fan of the group and followed the NWOBHM more yet over time I grew to accept and understand their influence on the genre and the bands that came after them. Without the beginnings of Venom, the groups that followed (Slayer, Celtic Frost, Mercyful Fate, and scores of Norwegian Black Metallers) might have given us something entirely different. The bands older material did not suffer under the talents of the new members and as a matter of fact I found them with new life breathed into them as the bodies flew over the barricades.

The venue security certainly had their hands full, if you can excuse the bad pun in that statement. As the show went on and tune after tune thundered by you could see that Cronos was finding himself very impressed with the turnout and the overall vibe he was getting from the audience. He spoke very minimally with the exceptions to thank everyone for the support and that it had been a long time coming for this show and that he was truly happy to have returned for the fans. He didn’t lose his sinister growl once during the show as he both pounded his bass and skulked across the stage like an imposing Dark God. Having reviewed the new album I was happy to see this new material stand up well along their classics and fit like puzzle pieces side to side. The technical abilities of both Mykvs and Antton raised the appeal of tunes like “Black Metal” and “At War With Satan” from the bands back catalog, and it was enough for the casual fan in me to walk away with the thumbs up on the performances all around. This was a great fourteen song set that left the audience wanting more and more after the closing chord had been played. Venom has returned, and it looks like they will do so again. Will we ever see a reunited original band membership to compliment the new blood in the future? Perhaps it will be the case in this musical day of reunion upon reunion. I can only recommend watching Metal news feeds and supporting what we have at hand for the time being. Raise the horns high for Venom.

Set List:
1. Black Metal
2. Welcome To Hell
3. Bloodlust
4. In Nomine Satanas
5. Antechrist
6. Seven Gates Of Hell
7. At War With Satan
8. Resurrection
9. Countess Bathory
10. Burn In Hell
11. Warhead
12. Metal Black
13. Die Hard
14. Witching Hour

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