Release date: October 25, 2011
As the 70s ended and the 80s began, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was being led by bands such as Saxon, Def Leppard and Iron Maiden. But deep in the dankest of basements a more caliginous sound was brewing. A trio known as Venom was planting the first seeds of extreme metal. Venom’s sound was corroded, fast, and at times sloppy; its image, black, evil, and necrotic. With the release of its 1982 debut, Welcome to Hell, a new torch had been lit to light the passage for future generations.
Guitarist Jeffrey ‘Mantas’ Dunn was part of that epic trio that helped to influence thrash, speed, death and black metal genres. In fact, it was the band’s second album, Black Metal, from which the latter genre took its name.
While many critics panned the band as nothing more than a Satan worshiping Spinal Tap, Venom’s influence has been profound and unquestioned. Dunn who has been in and out of the line-up over the last three decades, has now formed a ear-bludgeoning trio with fellow Venom alumni, Tony ‘Demolition man’ Dolan (bass, vocals) and Antont ‘Antton’ Lant (drums). Originally named Prime Evil, from the title of Venom’s 1989 masterpiece which featured Dolan and Dunn, the band ultimately opted for Mpire of Evil.
This month Mpire of Evil will release a 6 track mini-album to prepare fans for the onslaught to come. Creatures of the Black will feature two original tracks, “Reptile” and “Creatures of the Black” along with four covers which represent the bands they were influenced by: “Exciter” by Judas Priest, “Motörhead” by Motörhead, “God Of Thunder” by Kiss, and “Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be” by AC/DC.
You can usually draw a good measure of the musicians by how they pay tribute to their heroes. From the opening cranium crushing chords of “Exciter” it is clear Mpire of Evil has set out to honor these great bands rather than simply reinterprit them in their own dark way. Certainly every ounce of this song is even heavier and more powerful than the mighty Priest, but the band has stayed true to the original. While one can only hope to do justice to Rob Halford’s vocals, a respectable job is done here. The band has managed to capture in the studio the live pummelling Priest gives this song on stage.
Next they tackle “Motörhead,” and Dolan’s bass is absolutely filthy on this track. Just what you’d want and expect. He also channels his inner Lemmy quite well.
The first of the band’s two originals is “Reptile”. A caustic, blistering black anthem; an eerie ode to the demon inside all of us. Beneath every man’s skin lies a reptile, cold and cunning, lethally dangerous and without remorse. Antton attacks his kit like a maniacal beast.
Antton steals the show on “God of Thunder”, putting true emphasis on the song title. This may be the most covered song in the KISS catalog, but I can’t recall anyone doing it greater justice. One has to enjoy it simply for the chest-caving drumwork, but the trio brings it all together in a rendition that rivals the original.
The band’s take on AC/DC’s “Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be” is an absolute rib-fracturing event. While the rhythm guitar is a tad trebley for my taste, overall this is a raucous take on a seldom covered classic.
The EP closes out with the title track, a dark, chugging monolith. The essenence of Venom and how they would/should sound today.
Mpire of Evil could have called this EP Weapons of Mass Destruction. Dunn’s guitar work is brutal and riveting, and Lant’s drumming could triturate marrow. Vocally Dolan does an excellent job of adapting to the covers, and his bass work deserves to be higher in the mix than it is. In all, Creatures of the Black offers listeners a serious sonic pummelling, that’s well worth the beatdown.
The band promises a full-length effort will follow sometime in early 2012, with a full tour planned for the same year.