In the realms of Black Metal, Von has become something of a legend. One demo tape (Satanic Blood) and a handful of live shows were all that this band had under their belt before disappearing into the fog that shrouds San Francisco most of the year. Satanic Blood became a highly sought after recording, mostly because Varg of Burzum pumped this band incessantly in interviews. Their minimalistic style became a serious influence on Norway’s seminal Black Metal scene. I actually got to see Von ages ago at one of their few live shows. In Black Metal circles, that’s akin to having met Jesus. I’ve seen twenty-something Black Metal kids damn near shit their pants when I tell them that I was in the audience at one of Von’s concerts. I’ve never quite understood the hype, mostly because I don’t worship other humans like they were gods. I’ve met members of Metallica, who are billionaires. Michael Bordin, the drummer for Faith No More and a guy that Ozzy Osbourne himself handpicked to be his live drummer, lived across the street from me. They’re just people. I look beyond the superficial layer of celebrity and see their work for what it is: art created by flesh and blood humans. Some view the reemergence of Von as a form of blasphemy. Those who have built shrines and altars devoted to Satanic Blood fear that the return of Von is some sort of cash-in. The re-recording of Satanic Blood may have been a cheap cash-in, mostly because the original recordings have been released, re-released, and re-released again so many times that pretty much anyone who wanted to hear the material has already heard it. Dark Gods: Seven Billion Slaves is an entirely new album. Some people are going to hate this simply because it exists. Those people are never going to be happy. They want Von to remain an obscure cult phenomenon that only the “true” deserve to hear. They want the Satanic Blood demo recordings to be the alpha and the omega for the group, regardless of what the founders of the band want. The question being, is this a Von album, or should the music on here have been released under a different name? Musically, this does have elements of the old Von sound. The structures are minimalistic, though unlike Satanic Blood, the songs are longer and more developed. Where Satanic Blood was a burst of raw anger akin to getting blasted in the face by a steel pipe out of nowhere, Dark Gods is more focused and complex. It isn’t Progressive Black Metal by a long shot, but it’s definitely a step up from the one-riff “kill your mom for Satan” Black Metal that was on display back in 1992. The new material has a darker atmosphere and it’s definitely heavier. It has a vibe that I remember from listening to old Corpse Molestation or Disembowelment. It almost seems as if Von decided to reinterpret Satanic Blood in a Doom/Death Metal style. It has that Burzum-esque minimalism, but with a slower, heavier sound. While I did grow to enjoy Satanic Blood for its minimalism and in-your-face brutality, I find myself liking Dark Gods because it’s so different. Venien could have rehashed Satanic Blood and milked it for everything that it was worth, but he chose not to do it. I’m also a sucker for dark atmosphere, and Dark Gods definitely has it. I asked earlier if this was a Von album, and for me, it definitely is. Just not the Von album that people were expecting.
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