HardReviews 3
by Martin Popoff

Witchfinder General - Live '83
(Nuclear War Now! Prod./Buried By Time And Dust Records)

Witchfinder General's stock has quietly grown over the 23 years they've been embalmed and becalmed like that icy dame in the gate of We Sold Our Soul For Rock 'n' Roll. Their two arch-NWOBHM albums, Death Penalty and Friends Of Hell are now widely considered two of the first precious doom albums ever, save for the works of Sabbath and a half dozen weaker pale arguments for fit. Now after years of countless doom imitators, discerning fan Russ Vrankovich has done a great metal service in arranging this authorized archival live CD. Unfortunately, the sound is pretty rough, but what's engrained in the molten madness is sweet and salacious carb-loading. The bulbous guitars of Phil Cope pour out of tortured woofers like, er, a Sabbath boot, say Live At Last, which, yes, is pretty much a boot. Incredibly, the band copasetic up and down-gear to his vibe and play these always belaboured songs slower than the originals (most pointedly opener Free Country, Quietus and Friends Of Hell), making them even more oppressive. Vocalist Zeeb Parkes is slightly more ragged and less accurate than he is on the studio albums, but the boyishness and spontaneity and preaching piety with which he worships these great songs... what a great moment in metal time. The 12 tracks and 67 dark grey minutes enclosed cover almost all of both albums, but unfortunately, no rarities. Fortunately though, the history lesson winds up with a thundering rendition of Love On Smack, arguably the band's most erudite gutting and broiling of the doom genre. See nwnprod.com for more.
Rating 7.5

Venom - Metal Black

Don't be expecting Resurrection Part II, harpies, 'cos Cronos is back with a new and less legitimate lineup and a more legitimate sound. Metal Black oddly mirrors a bit of what Celtic Frost are doing with Monotheist, and that is recapturing the early blue flame of what made each notorious back in the formative years, and then not really making a modern version of it, just a superlatively written one. Whereas no one knew what the hell Venom did to sound like crap we all wanted on our carpets back in '82, this time the vibe is good production sent into the red on all fronts. So there's a clacky sort of uneasy distortion to everything. It makes you chuckle, then tired. The songs also grab bag at the rudimentary nature of Cronos '70s-touched riffs (the K.K. clone is not here - they had another fight), making Metal Black in total, a bit like an accessible beer-drinking version of Black Metal. There's a mechanical, dark grimness though - it's like fatalist, glum beer drinking metal, like drinking to get rid of a hangover, which I've actually never tried. Slogging through 14 songs of this brain damage is a bit rough on the reddening ears, but you gotta beam hails at Cronos for knowing his Motorheaded lot in life.
Rating 7

Hard Reviews Page 4