M-pire of Evil – Creatures of the Black (2011, Scarlet Records)
1. “Exciter” … 5:12
2. “Motorhead” … 2:58
3. “Reptile” … 4:48
4. “God Of Thunder” … 5:10
5. “Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be” … 3:55
6. “Creatures Of The Black” … 5:15
Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan – Bass & Vocals
Jeff “Mantas” Dunn – Guitars
Anthony “Antton” Lant – Drums
Black metal pioneers Venom have had quite a confusing shift in members over the years. The classic/best-selling/most influential version of the band consists of Conrad “Cronos” Lant (vocals/bass), Jeff “Mantas” Dunn (guitar) and Anthony “Abaddon” Bray (drums). Their run in Venom takes place from 1980-1986 and 1995-1999. All three members have come and gone over the years. At various times, one or two of the “classic” members would exit, leaving the remaining member(s) to carry on. After Mantas walked away in the late ’80s, Cronos & Abaddon tried Venom out as a four-piece before Cronos himself left the band (to start a solo career). Keeping the band a four-piece, Mantas rejoined along with new guitarist Al Barnes (What, no nickname?) and new vocalist/bassist Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan, formerly of Atomkraft. This signaled a slight change in sound for the band as they went for a more traditional, competent & better produced thrash/speed metal sound as opposed to the raw, sloppy Satanic metal that had helped create entire metal sub-genres in the early ’80s.
Eventually, in 1993, the Dolan-era came to an end and the band laid dormant. In 1995, the classic Venom line-up of Cronos/Mantas/Abaddon was back. More changes occurred. Abaddon left in 2000 and the drummer’s seat was filled by Cronos’ brother Anthony “Antton” Lant. Even more changes were in store. Mantas left in 2005, Antton left in 2009. According to Mantas, none of the classic members are ever going to work together again, but we’ll see.
Enter Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan once more. In 2010, Mantas & Antton teamed up with Dolan to give us a new group called Prime Evil. No, wait… That’s what they were called. They ended up changing their name once they became aware that another band was already using that name. Now they are known as M-pire of Evil. Though this trio has never played on a Venom album together, Dolan & Mantas have worked in Venom together and the same can be said of Mantas & Antton (they also played together a metal band called Dryll). I find it interesting that Cronos’ brother would leave Venom and then later hook-up his old guitar player and the singer who once replaced him in order to form a new group that obviously borrows a lot from Venom. It’s like we’re getting two Venom groups these days. Another former Venom member, guitarist Mike “Mykus” Hickey was going to be involved in the band but had prior commitments though the band is open to working with him whenever he has the time.
BTW – Does anybody know where Abaddon went?
To be honest, I’ve become interested in Venom only in the last year or two. The album I chose to start with was Prime Evil (the debut of the Dolan-era) because I had read it was not as over-the-top with all the Satanic imagery and lyrics as previous Venom releases had mostly been. I ended up liking the album a lot and I would have bought the other three Dolan releases (Tear Your Soul Apart, Temples of Ice and The Waste Lands) if not for the fact that they are out of print and thus very expensive. So to find out that M-pire of Evil existed was very exciting to me. This band’s formation had totally slipped by me in 2010 when it was announced.
This is the band’s debut: a six song E.P. with four covers and two originals. I gotta say, the cover songs are excellent. Not only did they choose four excellent bands to cover (Judas Priest, Motorhead, KISS, AC/DC) but they bring a level of raw power and aggression to these songs that has not been heard before (well, except maybe for “Motorhead”). I especially like their covers of “Exciter” and “God of Thunder”. When someone covers “Exciter”, the singer usually doesn’t have a gruff deep voice like Dolan does. It’s different but that’s why it works.
As for the two original tracks, those are really cool too. It’s really nothing different than what you’d hear on Prime Evil. Two raw thrashy numbers. “Reptile” features some Satanic gibberish chanting that kind of takes points away from the song for me, but musically, it’s a good thrashing number. Had I not just days ago posted my list of favorites E.P.s, Creatures of the Black would’ve been on there.
It seems like a full studio album could be coming very soon in early 2012 and I’m definitely looking forward to it. Fans of the Dolan years of Venom and fans of raw heavy metal in general should pick up Creatures of the Black.
Highlights: “Exciter”, “God of Thunder”, “Creatures of the Black”
Mercyful Fate – Melissa/The Beginning (2003, Roadrunner Records)
Original Release (Melissa): 1983, Megaforce Records
Original Release (The Beginning): 1987, Roadrunner Records
1. “Evil” … 4:45
2. “Curse of the Pharaohs” … 3:57
3. “Into the Coven” … 5:11
4. “At the Sound of the Demon Bell” … 5:23
5. “Black Funeral” … 2:50
6. “Satan’s Fall” … 11:23
7. “Melissa” … 6:40
1. “Doomed by the Living Dead” … 5:07
2. “A Corpse without Soul” … 6:52
3. “Nuns Have No Fun” … 4:17
4. “Devil Eyes” … 5:48
5. “Curse of the Pharaohs” … 3:50
6. “Evil” … 4:01
7. “Satan’s Fall” … 10:28
8. “Black Masses” … 4:30
9. “Black Funeral” … 2:52
It’s always great to come across these two-in-one releases. They’re usually price quite nicely and this one was no different as I picked it up from CD Universe for around $13. I know Melissa has a few other re-releases with bonus tracks, but you have to shop frugal and pairing the album with The Beginning (a compilation featuring their debut Nuns Have No Fun EP and a few other rare tracks) seemed like the best deal.
To most knowledgeable metal fans, Melissa, the debut album from Mercyful Fate, is already a known classic heavy metal release. Now I can say it myself that it is indeed a classic. I have held off on bands like Mercyful Fate, Slayer and Venom for so long. Yes, I know they are all groundbreaking bands that are revered in the world of metal, but such rampant talk about Satan and just evil in general has never interested me. Even though these bands have used the occult as a gimmick and to simply tell a story through song, it didn’t appeal to me for the longest time.
To this day, I still have no interest in Slayer or Venom but I’m slowly becoming a fan of Mercyful Fate and the reason I gave the band a chance again (I had sampled some of their stuff years ago) is because of the video game Guitar Hero: Metallica. In that game, Mercyful Fate re-recorded “Evil” and it’s a killer tune! Man, it’s nothing like what I had in mind from these guys. It’s a great early NWOBHM metal song but it also relies heavily on blues and classic rock. I love it, but I love the original version even more because King Diamond doesn’t sing so darn high like he does all throughout the 2008 version!
Melissa is definitely a heavy metal classic though, and I’m ashamed I hadn’t given it a chance sooner. As for The Beginning, it’s a great release as well, featuring all four songs from their first EP and the rest of the tracks are of television performances or rare demos. Another must-have for anyone who is just starting out on listening to Mercyful Fate, I think.
Highlights (Melissa): “Evil”, “Curse of the Pharaohs”, “Into the Coven”, “Satan’s Fall”, “Melissa”
Highlights: (The Beginning): “Doomed By the Living Dead”, “A Corpse Without a Soul”, “Nuns Have No Fun”, “Evil”, “Curse of the Pharaohs”, “Satan’s Fall”, “Black Masses”
Sentenced – The Cold White Light (2002, Century Media Records)
1. “Konevitsan Kirkonkellot” … 1:40
2. “Cross My Heart and Hope to Die” … 4:04
3. “Brief Is the Light” … 4:23
4. “Neverlasting” … 3:35
5. “Aika Multaa Muistot (Everything Is Nothing)” … 4:33
6. “Excuse Me While I Kill Myself” … 3:48
7. “Blood and Tears” … 4:15
8. “You Are the One” … 4:29
9. “Guilt and Regret” … 3:44
10. “The Luxury of a Grave” … 4:44
11. “No One There” … 6:14
Ville Laihiala – Vocals
Miika Tenkula – Guitar
Sami Lopakka – Guitar
Sami Kukkohovi – Bass
Vesa Ranta – Drums
Produced by: Hiili Hiilesmaa
Sentenced was a death/black metal, but then came The Cold White Light, their supposed “sell out” album where they lightened up and became more melodic. I’m not a death metal fan, so I haven’t even attempted their earliest material. I was only drawn to this one because many metalheads claimed it was a “pop metal sellout” album. I say what’s wrong with pop metal? The answer, according to this album, is absolutely nothing.
This isn’t pop metal in the 80s hairband sense, but the tunes are definitely catchy and have been stuck in my head for years since first hearing this album, and that’s a good thing. I don’t think they’ve changed their subject matter though, the songs are still about suicide, death, and death by suicide, to the ludicrous extreme as in “Excuse Me While I Kill Myself” where Laihiala sings “I kill myself, I blow my brains onto the wall, see you in hell”.
I can’t imagine anything being sung like that in a matter other than tongue-in-cheek though given that it’s actually a catchy chorus. Still, this definitely isn’t a “fun” album, these guys are from Finland after all, where the suicide rate is extremely high, so though it definitely rocks, you can’t help but let the lyrics seep into your brain, so this isn’t something I like to crank during the summer while I’m crusin’ down the road. “You Are the One” is actually a positive love song (not a ballad), though.
A fine album when I’m ready to be angry and all depressed and stuff.
Highlights: “Cross My Heart and Hope to Die”, “Brief Is the Light”, “Neverlasting”, “Aika Multaa Muistot (Everything Is Nothing)”, “Excuse Me While I Kill Myself”, “Blood and Tears”, “You Are the One”, “Guilt and Regret”