Impellitteri - 'Venom'

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Impellitteri - 'Venom'

The musicianship is jaw-dropping throughout and the album can be enjoyed solely on that level if you want.

The collaboration between guitarist Chris Impellitteri and renowned vocalist Rob Rock goes way back to Impellitteri's debut EP in 1987, and whilst the band's biggest success came with the more commercial Graham Bonnet-fronted 'Stand In Line' the following year – one of two brief tenures in the band by the ex-Rainbow & Alcatrazz singer – it's Rock that's the longest-standing and most perfect foil for Impellitteri's brand of Speed Metal. To be honest, the frenetic guitar and drums became more than a bit overused over the next few albums and the band fell off my radar somewhere around 1997's 'Eye Of The Hurricane'. But a recent re-appraisal of the excellent 'Answer To The Master' and their last release 'Wicked Maiden' was enough to make me curious about 'Venom', their tenth studio album and their first for six years.

Impellitteri, Rock and long-standing bassist James Amelio Pulli are joined here by the much-travelled John Dette, a man who's occupied the drum-stool for no less than Iced Earth, Slayer, Anthrax and Testament, so that should give you a good idea of what was required of him here. He doesn't disappoint either as the band rip through 'Domino Theory', 'Jehova' and the title track in a blur of double-bass drums, lightning riffs, bee-in-a-bottle solos and high octane vocals, but also slow it down slightly on the thumping 'Face The Enemy', mix-up the tempos of 'Nightmare' and even insert Iron Maiden-approved melodies into 'Time Machine'.

If it was the same all the way through it would get boring, so thankfully Rock pulls out melodic choruses with harmony vocals on the catchy 'Empire Of Lies' and 'We Own The Night', whilst the infectious riffs and lively rhythm section lift the superb 'Rise' and the chunky and eminently listenable closer 'Holding On' to greater heights. The musicianship is jaw-dropping throughout and the album can be enjoyed solely on that level if you want, but Rock does enough to bring melody to the fore and make things listenable between some ridiculously fast but highly-skilled Impellitteri riffs and solos.

Produced by the band themselves, the sound is clean and punchy with none of the down-tuned Grunginess of Modern Metal, and whilst some may find the guitar solos to be a little shrill and tinny, it must be hard to avoid that when you're playing with such speed and fluidity. My main surprise with 'Venom' is that it's released by Italian Melodic Rock label Frontiers Records; I hope it doesn't miss its target Metal audience simply because of that.

Phil Ashcroft

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