The real old-schoolers out there are aware of the impact VENOM had on the thrash metal scene when they clawed their way out of the UK muck in 1981 with Welcome To Hell and put out Black Metal a year later. Diehard Venom fans also remember when frontman Cronos left and was replaced by Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan for three albums and an EP from ’89 – ’92, a move that went over surprisingly well at the start. Fast forward through years of attempted reunions and aborted projects to 2010, where Dolan teamed up once again with Venom guitarist Jeff “Mantas” Dunn to form MPIRE OF EVIL. It’s a venture that could have gone to hell after the release of the Creatures Of The Black EP in 2011 – and not in appreciated Venom fashion – but instead the band buckled down for a full album (Hell To The Holy) and a North American tour with Onslaught to help get the word out. It’s a move that seems to have worked.
This year will see the release of Crucified, an album featuring re-magined versions of Venom songs from the Dolan era. Some folks will dismiss the move as a cash grab, of course, but those that have been paying attention and / or were lucky enough to see Mpire Of Evil live will give the band their due. As one of a handful of people that heard the album well in advance of the release, I can tell you Crucified is a jaw-dropper for anyone that knows the original tracks.
Dolan recently discussed where the idea for Crucified came from and why the Mpire decided to follow through at this early stage of the game.
“When we were on tour going through California, Marc (Jackson / drums) asked if I had any Venom stuff on me. I did in fact have a compilation CD with me, so we pulled that out and he commented that some of the material was great and that we should do something with it. That planted the seed for Crucified in a way. I’d spoken to Jeff about it, and there are certain songs that we quite like, but I thought it would be wrong for us to pick the tracks to be re-recorded. I thought we should ask the fans who like that material to choose the tracks they’d like to hear. The three of us went and made our own lists of the songs we personally would like to re-do, then we got the lists from the fans on Facebook, and made a master list of all the songs chosen. Whenever a song came up more than five or six times, we marked that one down for the album. Basically, we had the tracklist selected for us by the fans.”
Asked if he was at all surprised by some of the fan selections, Dolan admits he did a few double-takes as the band was compiling the list.
“I suppose I was, yeah. There were tracks that I thought were on the weaker side that everyone else seemed to pick, including Jeff (laughs). And some of the songs that I thought would definitely be picked weren’t, which was a bit odd. Then, of course, we had to listen to the old recordings because we’re critical of ourselves and can hear all the bad stuff going on in those songs as far as the production and mis-timed playing. Basically, we decided to approach those songs as Mpire Of Evil and see what happened. One of the first tracks we did was ‘Temples Of Ice’ and the minute we started recording it, the song changed completely. We realized these songs were going to sound completely revitalized.”
Crucified isn’t a mere album of covers. Venom fans will recognize the songs, absolutely, but the new Mpire Of Evil renditions are the difference between getting slammed by a freight train and kiddie-smacked by a go-kart.
“That was what got us,” says Dolan. “You’ve said in a very basic way exactly what I’d stumble along trying to find the words to describe (laughs). Jeff and I were totally surprised. One of the songs I could never get into back in the day was ‘Kissing The Beast’. What I had in my head when I composed it isn’t what came out in the end because there were a lot of elements we just didn’t have at our disposal. When we finished it this time and I went to put vocals on, we were practically standing there in shock because it was as if we’d been able to realize the full potential of the song.”
“Doing Crucified, there was no pressure. We did this purely because we wanted to and I could do whatever I wanted vocally. I could let loose and I could talk through songs… I work in a very visual medium so that’s how I see things. I let the stories occur this time and it was so much nicer to be able to do that rather than feel the song had to be something else, because as soon as you try to step into matching a song with something else, you’re always going to lose some of yourself along the way.”
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Crucified, featuring re-recorded Venom tracks from the Dolan years, is due out in early 2013. Check out the artwork below.
The complete Crucified tracklist is as follows:
'Temples Of Ice'
'Kissing The Beast'
'Blackened Are The Priests'
'Need To Kill'
'Taking It All'