Metal Black

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They were the first black metal band, and they're still at it -- 2006 saw the 25th anniversary of Newcastle's finest, Venom, and their umpteenth studio set, Metal Black (a play on words referencing their 1982 release, Black Metal). Original members Abaddon and Mantas are long gone, having been replaced by gentlemen who also go by singular names -- Antton and Mykvs (singer/bassist Cronos is the only member remaining from the 1981 black metal classic Welcome to Hell). But the thrash riffing and drumming, as well as the satanic-themed lyrics, remain a main catalyst for Venom's sound -- a blueprint that has been studied many times over the years by subsequent bands (most obviously by Venom disciples Slayer). As expected, Beelzebub would certainly approve of the majority of the song titles here -- "Burn in Hell," "Rege Satanas," "Lucifer Rising." And from a musical standpoint, longtime fans will certainly not be let down by the album-opening "Antechrist," as well as the dense riffing of such tracks as "House of Pain" and "Assassin." Metal Black is an impressively consistent Venom release -- a pleasant surprise since it comes this late in the group's career.

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