Review Summary: If you've already heard Venom, then you've already heard everything this album has to offer... and done better.
I’d might as well just post that summary and leave, but I simply can’t stop lamenting the fact that one of extreme metal’s foremost pioneers has simply decided to artistically tread water for the last few decades now. Venom will always be well-regarded in the metal community for the innovative leaps forward they took for thrash, black metal, and death metal, but once the early 90s hit, there was simply no place for a band who suddenly became tragically behind the times. Everybody had already heard faster, harder shit by that point, and it would probably have been advisable for Venom to go harder and faster than ever before. Or, at least, experiment a little. Venom did neither of those things, instead opting to go for the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy for years to come.
And sadly, this philosophy continues into 2018’s Storm the Gates
. What we get is a dull platter of incredibly lightweight, meat-and-potatoes heavy metal with some of the most pedestrian riffs you’ll hear this year. Things do start off pretty promisingly, with suitably aggressive and thrashy riffs kicking off the decent “Bring Out Your Dead,” and I will admit that Cronos doesn’t sound half bad for his age. Unfortunately, you’ll soon find out that his voice has no range here. It’s the same semi-guttural, semi-constipated shout throughout the entire thing, with an occasional half-assed attempt at sounding melodic thrown in. This is something of a minor tragedy, as more diverse vocals could have mitigated the issue of boring songwriting; unfortunately, thatt’s not the case here. It’s all in one ear and out the other, and it starts sounding awful during songs like “Beaten to a Pulp,” in which his Cronos’ voice starts blending in with the guitar work to create a muddled mess in the production values. Venom have always taken pleasure in making poorly-produced music for the sake of aesthetics (this was one of the defining features of their early work, in fact), but the riffs here aren’t punchy or interesting enough to justify the ugly mix of Storm the Gates
The latter of those two issues is the main reason the album is such a letdown. Even for the standards of modern Venom, this material just isn’t interesting
. There are barely any standout tracks, because the same formula of “let’s play some thrash riffs, add a few faux-demonic 80s-Slayer squealing solos, and top it off with the most generic Satanic lyrics we can scrounge up” is repeated ad nauseum, to the point that I completely forgot where I was on the tracklisting quite a few times. I will, however, cover a few of the only highlights that stood out from the rest. “The Mighty Have Fallen” is probably the best song on offer, mostly because of the increased aggression of the riffing and double-bass-driven speed metal drumming. It’s not the most original thing in the world, but hearing that downtuned guitar sound spit out some black metal-inspired tremolo is pretty satisfying. There’s also a creepy atmosphere that pervades “I Dark Lord” and sets it apart from the rest, breaking the pace to serve up some slower riffs that are occasionally interspersed with a sprinkling of clean guitar leads. It sounds pretty cool. But is this enough to salvage the album as a whole? No. I’ll leave it at this: if you just want to hear some competently played riffs and aren’t too concerned with variation, you might get your fix in some way or another with Storm the Gates
. But with countless death metal and thrash metal bands doing their schtick better than they are, why would you bother?