The Lazarus Pit: Venom’s ‘Metal Black’

Welcome back to The Lazarus Pit, a look back at should-be classic records that don’t get nearly enough love.

Today, we’re going back to 2006, when absolutely no one was paying attention to a little band called Venom. They released an album that absolutely no one wanted to listen to because it had a really stupid title: Metal Black. Clearly an homage to/glory-ride off of their classic Black Metal album, that ridiculous title paired with the fact that this record featured the, uh, not-quite-classic lineup of Cronos, Mykus and Antton made this one fly far under the radar of the average metalhead in 2006.

But that’s a shame, because the album totally rules, and is easily one of Venom’s finest.

First off, it’s really about time to talk about this album’s production. Metal Black has one of the best production sounds I’ve ever heard on a metal record (and it comes care of Cronos himself). It’s huge and heavy, but sounds completely natural and raw; there’s just enough in-the-red chaos but everything comes through incredibly clear. It connects on an emotional level but still has that kvlt chaos to it. It’s the midpoint between Monuments to Thieves and Heartwork and holy shit it is ever perfect. I’ve been ranting about this production sound to anyone within earshot for 14 years; I walk down the road whispering about it into strangers’ ears; I casually mention it to bands when I interview them, hoping it might make their albums sound a bit better next time around. Nothing works; no one listens. But I’ll never stop.

So, yeah, I dig the production, and then there’s opener “Antechrist,” which is, seriously, straight-up, one of the best Venom songs ever. It’s catchy, it sounds slightly evil and slightly campy, and it’s heavy. It’s everything we go to Venom for but usually leave feeling slightly dissatisfied with. It’s the delivery of the promise they taunted us with for years.

“Burn In Hell” is bonkers in how perfectly it captures the classic Venom vibe, ugly vox and all. What a chorus too, the band just going for it here.

“House of Pain” uses groove to actually be heavy, not hokey, and “Death & Dying” is another contender for best Venom song ever.

“Darkest Realm” absolutely rules, again, a mid-tempo chugger with a huge groove that manages to sound good, and is totally convincing. And here’s what I’m trying to say, I guess: this album is the most that Venom has ever convinced me.

“Lucifer Rising” makes me wonder when Venom learned how to write hooks like that, and “Blessed Dead” brings the speed just when you’re starting to think the album needs it.

I’ll be the first to admit that this album is way too long—it could literally be half as long and it would be even better. The deep cuts are good, and at times great, but just spin the first half and check out early for maximum enjoyment.

I’m continually astonished at how overlooked this album is. It’s got a lot of what I want out of a metal record, and it’s got everything that I want out of a Venom record. When I’m craving Venom, I either spin Black Metal or Metal Black (ugh), and, bless Cronos’ little blackened heart, if the latter was shorter I’d probably be saying today it’s Venom’s greatest record. But it’s right up there, man—next time you need your Venom fix, reach for this forgotten gem. I know none of us want to admit a Venom record without the classic trio on it could be so good, and I realize we all hate that album title, but Metal Black is an absolute classic.