I read an interview with Faith No More’s Mike Patton once. In it, they tried to credit him for his influence on “Nu Metal”. His response, and I paraphrase, was: don’t blame me for that shit…..”.

I always wonder if Cronos feels the same about his influence on Black Metal (which I’ll grant you takes its name from the second Venom record)? Venom are, after all, an incredible heavy metal group. Simple as that.

But then, you get to the title track of “Storm The Gates” in which Cronos – who formed the band as a 16 year old and has piloted them to the depths of hell ever since – yells during the first verse: “thou who art inn heaven, hallowed be thy shame, into oblivion, from hell its time to reign.”

Then you think, “nah mate Cronos don’t give a monkey’s about anything.”

He doesn’t need to either, because along with La Range on guitar and Dante on drums (both have been in the band for over a decade, making this a pretty stable line up) he’s got a sound that really, truly could only belong to this band.

They aren’t fully metal in the way that Manowar say are, but then they aren’t thrash either, and although there are some punky moments here across these 13 songs, it never quite gets all the way. Instead, it’s a vicious mash up of some of the most searing, engagingly heavy music anywhere.

“Bring Out Your Dead” slams hard, like its 1982, but ushers itself off in the back of a riff that it filthy, and the way it is delivered gives a theatrical turn a little like Hell.

Indeed, this is a record that lives and dies on its riffs and goodness me, each song has a cracker. “Notorious” chugs like a right evil bastard, and although you couldn’t call what Cronos does “singing” (and I’d bet he wouldn’t want you to either) there is a real catchy feel to most of these.

“I Dark Lord” sounds appropriately occult, but emerges from the depths to do some damage with a clawhammer of a rhythm. That’s the thing with Venom, they do this all from a metal root (or route, that fits too).

This is all done on their own terms, which is why “1000 Miles To Hell” doesn’t sound too dissimilar to  Orange Goblin, but is followed up by “Dark Night (Of The Soul)” which – surely- has Lemmy nodding in approval. Over the sort of thing that hasn’t been done since Motorhead were forced to end, the first couplet is a belter: “Hey you motherfucker, what you looking at? Born a fucking loser, acting like a twat….” There’s no need for any further discussion really.

“Beaten to A Pulp” is a reasonably accurate description of what this does, “Destroyer” is another with an intent more monolithic than mere NWOBHM stuff, but the beauty of “…..Gates” is that for every one of these, there’s one like “The Mighty Have Fallen” which slashes with its lead and heads off to the moshpit at a million miles an hour.

“Over My Dead Body” comes in with some drums that pummel, there is no other word, and “Suffering Dictates” is akin to Satan’s own nursery rhyme, not to mention the strange incantations it appears to relish.

“We The Loud” appears as if to make the motorhead comparisons again, while “Immortal” and I don’t care how many times I hear it, has a riff that sounds like Status Quo are playing a gig in the firey depths.

And that really, is why Venom are firstly so ace, but secondly, their own men. Say what you like about the likes of Bathory and Mayhem but never are you referencing Quo in a review, are you?

“At The Gates” is better than any band has a right to be this far into their career. It is, hands down, one of the metal albums of the year. Get your horns up to celebrate.

Rating 9.5/10