There are some bands out there that the words “seminal” and “influential” seem invented for. There are some bands out there whose back catalogue is so full of such utter bangers that it’s easy (and quite right) to forgive them for the copious amount of shite that they’ve also recorded. There are bands out there that have always been divisive and cloaked in controversy. No single band I can think of right now ticks all these boxes with such a big, fat black marker as Venom. Which of course makes things inherently more interesting when a new album is released and this is the fifteenth studio album by Venom and…….well it’s a mixed bag and by that I mean equal amounts a bag of dicks and a bag of near gems.

Following on from 2015s “From The Very Depths” which amplified the “metal” aspect of Venom, “Storm The Gates” takes a look back at the formidable “punk” roots of early Venom and says “hold my beer”.

Opening with “Bring Out Your Dead” the opening of which sounds like someone in a suit of armour being pushed down a flight of stairs, I was taken aback by what I first thought was a cheap demo-ish production job. This was probably due to me listening to something a bit more polished beforehand as the production on “Storm The Gates” really suits the material and polish was never really Venom’s thing now was it?

Not a brilliant opener. Track 2 “Notorious” would have been a much better launch pad for this record. More metal sounding with Rage’s chugging guitars driving the song onwards like a drill boring into your brain.

“Yeah but how does Cronos sound?” Well….. like you’d think really. Gravelly, whiskey soaked and menacing but curiously a bit low in the mix and with the odd effect layered on top too. I’d have preferred the bulldozer bass wielding nutters voice to be more upfront but it’s a minor gripe really.

“I Dark Lord” is next and the old school Venom fans will love this. Dante’s drums are immense and the most Abaddon-a-like the lad has ever sounded. This is a dark brooding track with moments of percussive pummelling and could sit happily on “At War With Satan” such is its retro feel. Probably my favourite track on the record.  “100 Miles To Hell” is one of the best modern era Cronos Venom songs the band has done. A total raw black & roll tune and has a real Motorhead vibe to it.

Then we have “Dark Night Of The Soul” with the most ludicrous lyrics since “Teachers Pet” back on “Black Metal” …  shite and total filler. As is “Beaten To A Pulp” and the miserable dirge like “Destroyer” (no not a Twisted Sister cover…..unfortunately). “The Mighty Have Fallen” hits the gas, hard, and is pure speed metal punk…..but a bit crap with it. Still, after the preceding two tracks you’ll be grateful and I really dig the cheesey solo in it.

“Suffering Dictates” surprises with Cronos’ vocals being at the forefront then fucks it by covering them with shitty effects for part of it which is a shame as this track is another one with a classic Venom feel.

The remainder of the album is mostly filler and I was left wondering why the band didn’t just put out a four track EP of the better tunes and bin the trash. Of course there will be the fans to whom Venom can do no wrong and probably think I’m talking out of my arse but there you go.

It’s clear to see and hear what Venom have tried to do here. When Venom Inc. released the metal monolith that was “Ave” Mantas Abaddon and Tony had all but eschewed the punk leanings of the band and produced a fucking stormer of a heavy metal record in its own right and it was, rightly, very successful.

Cronos has gone the other way here, embracing the punkier side of the band with, to be honest more misses than hits but you’ve got to admire him for giving a big fat middle finger to the critics and carrying on regardless.

There will always be a dark, damp and cold place in my blackened heart for classic Venom but if they continue to churn out stuff that borders on the mediocre like the majority of this record……I’m gonna start charging Cronos rent.

(6/10 Mark Eve)