“Satanic”, “blood” and “angel” are probably the three most used words of American black metal band Von, having already had 2 releases under the working title of Satanic Blood, and numerous others with various permutations of the three words. 2 years after their reformation in 2010, the band releases Satanic Blood, the full length album, and the very first one after a whole string of demos and EPs before their split in 1992. The constant recycling and rehashing of old material and the living off their legacy as one of the pioneers of the style of black metal they play since their comeback (what with the reissues of their demos and EPs, and compilations) has resulted in them becoming somewhat like a gimmick, and to put it bluntly, hypes for Von‘s “full length” in 2012 weren’t exactly high.
And rightly so as well I think, for Satanic Blood once again sees the band reproducing songs that they have written and have already played to death since the beginning of their history. What is really on Satanic Blood are the re-recording of their discography with their current lineup, with what, 3 new songs? But no matter, it would nevertheless be interesting to hear what Von is able to put out on Satanic Blood.
The first thing that one notices is the vastly improved production quality compared to the demo days, where the murkiness and rawness are now replaced with a clearer sound. Album opener Jesus Stain is one of the new songs on the album, and I have to say this is quite a smart move on the part of the band, leaving quite an impression. The simple lead guitar lines easily create a chilling atmosphere, yet the band manages to retain that simplistic style of black metal that they have created with their Satanic Blood demo back in 1992. Obviously, simplicity remains one of the key emphases of the band, and this becomes rather obvious extremely quickly. Songs, both the old and the new, maintain the same structure of containing one or two riffs repeated for the entirety of the song, and the same frantic drumming that maintains almost the same tempo throughout the record. Even Venien’s vocals still remain the same as he did on the older material of Von. The only difference on the album, apart from the production quality, are the slight tweaking of the way some of the songs are executed, such as Satanic Blood.
Unfortunately, with songs that are as repetitive as such, things do start to get dry very quickly, and Satanic Blood quickly becomes an album that sounds like one riff that is played non-stop for almost an hour. And this is one of the major pitfalls of the album – the lack of variety perhaps works for bands like Blasphemy, but take it to such extreme, one gets put off rather easily and rather quickly. The trick to such a style of black metal, it seems, is to deliver it in short and brutal doses rather than in such an ample dosage. The other pitfall – obviously – is the lack of new songs, and old songs reinterpreted and re-recorded do not constitute as “new songs”. The production quality as well, while being more modern, lack that sinister and evil feel that the raw production provided.
For those encountering Von for the first time with this album, it is perhaps pretty easy to see how these once-great were one of the forefathers of the style of black metal bands like Beherit and Blasphemy now play. However, with Satanic Blood being at least the fourth or fifth time the band rehashes their material, they have sadly become a shadow of their past, alienating older fans of the band, and lacking the pull to attract newer and younger fans of black metal.