Jan 23, 2011

Venomin James - Crowe Valley Blues ...

You know as a reviewer, the overwhelming bulk of the albums I review come from the bands and labels themselves so I don't get much of a chance to review albums that I discovered myself. Sometimes however I have to review certain albums because they are just so good or I feel they are not getting the support they deserved. In the case of Venomin James, both is true. Ohio's Venomin James got together in 2005 and quickly started writing songs and performing live, they recorded and released themselves a EP titled "Summer Of Horror" which was given out at live shows. In 2007, they released "Left Hand Man" which was a killer album but it went largely unnoticed and went under the stoner-doom radar for most of the underground. From that moment from what I can gather, they began work writing for their next album "Crowe Valley Blues" and after a couple of years in the making it finally surfaced in 2010. Tradegy struck when original drummer Jared Koston died from Cancer on June 1st so hearing him on this album belting out some incredibly powerful drumming makes this album an extra emotional experience.

The product description on Amazon reads - "The quixotic moniker sludge merchants emanating from Kirtland, Ohio s version of the Bermuda Triangle, are a mystery, wrapped in an enigma. Swampy southern doom on the classic, traditional metal roster of the venerable Auburn Records. How does singer Jim Meador make sense of the contradictions? Most of the guys are from Kirtland, says Meador. It has this reputation, a weird vibe. It s an affluent area. It was the first encampment of Mormons. There have been cult slayings there. It has one of the highest elevations in the State, huge valleys. It s got a creepy feeling. Might explain the mindset of the music! We re real different. We don t fit the Auburn mold, he states matter of factly. It s hard rock with metal elements sprinkled throughout. A heavy organic feel. So how did Crowe Valley Blues come to join the Auburn family? When we released our first album, Left Hand Man, we sent it off to all the radio stations. Bill Peters (WJCU disc jockey and Auburn Records president) is the Pope of Cleveland metal. He called us to come down the station and do an on-air interview. We d run into some issues with other people saying they wanted to invest in us, but they turned out not to be trustworthy. His integrity and character is what made us want to work with Auburn. We produced our second album, Crowe Valley Blues, ourselves. Bill helped us with the mastering and will release it under his label. The DIY (do-it-yourself) ethic has long been part of VENOMIN JAMES, even prior to Meador s involvement. A lot of the first album was written before the drummer and I came onboard. We took what they had and rolled with it. It got great responses from all over, but especially Europe. Switching to the new disc, he continues, Crowe Valley Blues, I m really proud of it. Everyone contributed and we ve locked onto what our sound is. We ve got a chemistry and when we come together, we click on all cylinders. Most of it comes pretty easily. The production is a couple of notches higher than Left Hand Man and the songwriting is very strong. There s one song we held back from the Left Hand Man sessions, called Death s Wings . It didn t really fit the first album. We stripped it down and changed a few things for the new one. Everything else was written since the recording of that first record. That would include Cosmonaut , described by the vocalist as having, some twists and turns. It has a lot of intricate guitar work going on. Lyrically, it s a contemplation song, viewing your life from a macro perspective; viewing the time continuum from a larger prospective and realizing the things people fret about on a day-to-day basis, the things that bring them down (emotionally) are really insignificant. Another favorite for the frontman is Desert Rider . That s pretty straight forward. I listened to the demo and within five minutes, I d written the song. I started listening and I got the vision of being on a Harley, cruising through the desert, in New Mexico, at night. It s about dropping off the grid, reacquainting with ones self, isolation. I ve spent a lot of time in the desert (as part of his military tour of duty in Iraq). I love it. There s something about it, very mystical. Desolation and isolation brings you back to yourself, since you don't have any distractions. Turn on, tune in and drop out."

That product description makes it sound all so easy but when you hear this album, you are floored by their power, the infectious riffing but also the incredibly diverse range of influences you can hear within the grooves. Think Black Label Society, Bongzilla, Black Sabbath, Clutch, ZZ Top, Orange Goblin, Fu Manchu, Kyuss, Pentagram, Blue Cheer, Saint Vitus, Sir Lord Baltimore, Down,  Maegashira, Captain Beyond and Sleep. You must admit that is a very diverse range of bands and you can hear elements of all of those on "Crowe Valley Blues." The album was engineered and Mixed at Supernatural Sounds in Kultland, Ohio USA by Tomasz
Scull and Joe Fortunato and it sounds huge. It is an album that has the 'southern metal' aesthetic but they also mix that with doom grooves and 70's blues rock and classic heavy metal so it has it all. If I had compare them with any one band, it would be The Sword but where as their material can be patchy and predictable, Venomin James surprise you at every turn. It is not that they are original musically but they way they blend their influences is so precisely on the nuggets, you can't help but get a musical hard-on over their groovy, heavy riffs and catchy melodies. They are not trying to be innovative, the drumming is for the most part straight-forward for example but they excel at just being as kick-ass as possible.

There is no weak tracks on the album but some stand-out more than others. The opener "Desert Rider" slam's you against the wall with killer hooks and driving energy. "Cosmonaut" packs a hell of a lot into just 4 minutes with riffs that are not what you typically expect to hear. The centerpiece to the album, a tune called "Dire Days" is pure epic metal while "Under The Gun" will have you rolling around the floor with its infectious groove. The vocals of Jim Meador range from a deep southern-rock styled croon to a high-metallic wail and it really stands out from what the rest of the music is doing making it a unique element within the band. You get the feeling while listening to this album that is was made by people who truly love what they do, the honestly really shines through. Since this was released, I haven't heard much news about their whereabouts and like their previous album, not many people are talking this album up. I am surprised, this is a great album..........9/10
Venomin James
Venomin James @ MySpace

2 comments :

  1. Venomin James, Wacken 2011!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey brother - thanks for the kind words...be on the lookout for a couple of new releases from us this year: Left Hand Man on vinyl + bonus tracks, A live album, and Unholy Mountain is coming in July.

    Doom!

    ReplyDelete

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