Ahhh, it’s finally here. An album I had been looking forward to since I first heard the murmurs in the underground about Black Metal God Jeff “Mantas” Dunn getting together with fellow Venom alumni Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan and Anthony “Antton” Lant.
The band was originally called Primevil, but as there was already another band using that pretty cool moniker the guys sat down to come up with an alternative, something that would capture the spirit of the band.
Then, I assume, they got bored with that, decided on M:Pire of Evil and went to the pub.
Anyway, the slightly silly name aside, the band broke cover last year with an EP of (primarily) cover versions that were, if I’m honest, solid but fairly uninspiring. Not the sort of thing that would be on repeat… on the iPod… for 2 weeks… constantly…
Unlike the follow up.
Hell To The Holy opens up with Hellspawn, a proper old fashioned speed metal assault on the senses that sees the band pick up where they left off, with Mantas distinctive riffing and Tony Dolan’s deep, raw vocals combining to awesome effect. If you remember Venom’s Prime Evil album, well this track is a sort of spiritual successor to that. I’ve always rated Dolan as one of the best Metal singers we’ve ever produced and there is nothing on here to dissuade me from that opinion.
So, one track in and I was hooked, totally.
Track 2, Metal Messiah, opens with a riff that is pure Mantas with the unmistakable guitar tone that he devised the best part of 30 years ago still serving him well. This is arguably the most Venomous track on the album. I mean, just check out the guitar solo. Close your eyes and be transported to another time and place.
This is an album so stuffed with memorable hooks, killer riffs and proper sing-along choruses that it’s infectious. It’s an album that you have to keep listening to and one that, even after repeated listens, never gets old. The next two tracks, Waking Up Dead and Hell To The Holy, are as heavy a combo as you could ever hope to hear, and they lead you into the stand out track on an already outstanding album…
Snake Pit is an anthem (in the literal sense) for a whole generation of Heavy Metal fans. Not the ones you see today in their Next Guns’n'Roses t-shirts wandering about festivals complaining about the noise, but those of us brought up on a diet of unknown bands playing dank, noisy little clubs. It’s a raucous call to arms, a song that defies you not to headbang along. The fact that it includes one of the truly great Heavy Metal choruses is a bonus
Stake your place and bang your head, down in the Snakepit.
This is an album where the quality just never dips, but it may mot be entirely what everyone expects. Given the strong Venom DNA in the band M:Pire of Evil sound very different to the Black Metal God’s present incarnation, and have about as much in common with Classic Venom as, well, Venom do. OK, there are some thematic similarities, slipping in the odd reference to religion, metal and hailing that big red dude from down below, but what else would you expect?
In case you haven’t guessed yet, I think this is an awesome Heavy Metal album. It has all the elements that, for me, make the genre so great. Everything just comes together fucking brilliantly and it’s one of those records that it’s actually hard to stop listening to.
Mind you, even when you’re not listening to it you find yourself singing along as the choruses and hooks replay in your head. I know it’s not fashionable, or cool, but then again neither am I, but I just can’t get my head round just how good Hell To The Holy is. If we get a better debut album this year I’ll be amazed.
Hell, there won’t be that many better albums this year full stop.