Venom Inc. is not considered the real Venom, even though that project features two of the three original Venom members, Mantas and Abaddon. Having two venomous bands simultaneously releasing albums, touring, and living off the legacy of the pioneering NWOBHM group is a little strange.
However the lineup of Venom proper: bassist/vocalist Cronos, the only original member, alongside guitarist Rage and drummer Dante, has been together for ten years. This is actually a couple of years longer than the classic lineup’s original run which only lasted from 1978 until 1985’s Possessed. Aging metalheads don’t need factoids like this to feel any older, but they sure don’t help.
The band coined the phrase ‘black metal’ by using that as the name of their 1982 sophomore album and helped usher in the genre with then-unparalleled rawness, speed, and a Satanic shtick. Truth be told, it’s been a while since Venom has released an album that one could call black metal. This may have more to do with how the genre has evolved over the past three decades, though Storm the Gates would probably be deemed simply a metal album these days if not for the band’s historical ties.
For a metal album, it certainly has its moments. “I Dark Lord” offers Sabbathian chug that showcases Dante’s formidable drum skills. “Dark Night (of the Soul)” reimagines the band’s proto-thrash-punk origins played more competently and with a precision the band lacked in the old days, even if Cronos’ ham-fisted lyrics seem a little silly coming from a man in his mid-50s.
“The Mighty Have Fallen” is meat-and-potatoes thrash-and-bash that satisfies. “Over My Dead Body” could be an outtake from At War with Satan with its mix of the primitive with the progressive. “We The Loud” could be Motörhead, and that’s never a bad thing.
It’s been a while since Venom has done anything remotely groundbreaking, so it would be foolhardy to expect anything along those lines. Among the mixed bag of decent but flawed releases since the last reunion in the late 90s fell apart, Storm the Gates might be a shade stronger. It runs nearly an hour, and while it blows past with all the subtlety of a freight train, after it’s gone you just have barren tracks left.