Saturday, November 19, 2011

Venom - Prime Evil (1989)

Prime Evil is the sixth full-length studio effort from the legendary Venom. However, it is from the band's dark period, post-Cronos. Released in October 1989, this record saw the band making a comeback of sorts, abandoning the Hard Rock feeling of Calm Before the Storm for more of a Thrash Metal approach. This was an improvement, but still too little, too late. After Welcome to Hell and Black Metal, Venom ceased to exist for a lot of fans. Albums such as At War With Satan and Possessed were decent enough, but never managed to reach the same heights as their old stuff, at a time when the band really needed to deliver something extraordinary. After leaving behind their Black Metal days in an attempt at garnering mainstream attention, they still could have come back with an incredibly strong album and put themselves back on the map, but Prime Evil simply failed in this regard.

The worst aspect of this L.P. would have to be the awful vocal performance of Tony "Demolition Man" Dolan. He lived up to his nickname, completely demolishing any chance that these songs had at being enjoyable. Most seem to think that he was a good replacement for Cronos, since he utilized a gruff vocal delivery, but his efforts are rather uninspiring and mediocre, at best. To make matters worse, he has an irritating habit of rolling his r's, almost all the time. This is so annoying that it kills many of the songs. This could have been a better album, had they found a different vocalist or managed to, somehow, bring Cronos back into the fold. Still, there was never any possibility of this being great since the songwriting is so average. There are some pretty good thrash riffs, here and there, but the majority of the tracks are average. In some ways, this picks up from where they left off with Possessed but, just like that release, there is just something missing. Prime Evil lacks the one or two really killer tunes that would have helped to push it to a higher level. That said, the music is definitely more in line with the band's roots than the preceding record. Most of these songs are quite solid, just not great. The only bad ones are "School Daze" and the re-recording of "Live Like an Angel, Die Like a Devil", which only goes to show just how far Venom had fallen. The playing is a little tighter, but the atmosphere is totally gone and the vocals are horrendous.

The production is good but still more on the raw and under-produced side. The drums are slightly to high in the mix, but otherwise everything is as it should be. The band had not joined many others in going for something slick and modern, yet, and still retained an older type of sound. The guitars are the driving force and it shows in the production. If only more time had been spent on the songwriting and arrangement.

Prime Evil is a solid Thrash Metal album and much more worthy of the Venom name than Calm Before the Storm. However, it is average and the new vocalist makes a good deal of the material difficult to listen to with his cringe-worthy performance. This is worth a listen, nonetheless, if you are able to get past the flaws. It does not hold up to the band's older releases, but it is alright when looked at as a separate entity.