July 2, 2013 | , | 3.5

Von, Dark Gods: Seven Billion Slaves

Von: Dark Gods: Seven Billion Slaves

First formed in the late 80’s under the watchful glare of ringmaster Venien, Von have frequently been credited with influencing much of U.S. black metal through the years. This despite only having released two proper full-lengths in that time — the first a re-recording of previous demos and EP tracks in the form of Satanic Blood in 2012. And now, Venien is back with a whole new crew of blackened heathens to deliver the bleak, atonal sounds of the first of a trilogy of albums, Dark Gods: Seven Billion Slaves.

Hammering through discordant riffs, rampant drum work and vicious vocals, Von utilize a pretty goddamned raw production to bolster their latest full-length and give it an atmosphere of foreboding dread. The guitars throughout the album are cold and swirling, often times going about their own business with little regard for the rhythm section. And speaking of rhythm, the same can often be said for the drums — they are 100% bestial in nature when they get rolling, but also get ahead of themselves a bit. The result isn’t necessarily bad music. It’s just violent enough and off-kilter enough to keep you guessing as to where the band is going next.

The instrumental album opener, “They Have Come,” carries a dark atmosphere that is full of discomfort and despair, setting the tone for the first few tracks. “Ancient Flesh of the Dark Gods” is a ten minute behemoth of a song that shifts from cold, airy atmosphere to the frenzied blasting of the minions of Hell. It’s a big song that has a good deal going on within its length. The eerie vibe is carried over to the slow-building and frigid “Hands of Black Death.”

The moment you get to the title track, however, all bets are off. Von quickly eschews the atmosphere for an all out aural attack of blasphemy and malignant havok. The guitars are all over the place and have a creepy, disturbed circus clown feel to them as the drums plunder away haphazardly. Vocally, the growls are a bit echoey and distant, sliding in and out of the din like a great snake. “MONSTER!” continues the frantic blasting and chaotic guitars as Venien growls and spits amidst the infernal racket. And again, “DevilWhore” and “iAmInHuMan” both bring a whole other pile of ritualistic malevolence to the party — both are packed with swirling, caustic guitars and Venien’s rabid growls.

It takes a good while for this album to fully get under way, but by the time you hit “RawRot,” the band has been pummeling your ears for the last three tracks with odd time signatures, swirling guitars and just a pinch of hatred. If you can make it through the open few songs you’ll be fully rewarded with a raw, black metal attack that may be messy at times, but certainly will satiate your need for the macabre.