German metal quintet, Venues, started as a post-hardcore band and released their debut LP in 2019 before charismatic singer Nyves departed along with one of the guitarists. Losing the lead vocalist of a band can spell the end for some artists, but they sought new talent up and down the country and came across their current singer, Lela, at a Steel Panther show. You could be forgiven for thinking they discovered her at a Miss Germany pageant, but her addition to the group should be the shot in the arm they need to regain their momentum. The question is whether Venues can get back on track with their new line-up.
Let’s start with the positives. Venues deliver on their promise to ramp up the heavier elements in their sound and are much more metal on this record compared with 2019’s Aspire. Opener, ‘Razorblade Teeth’, combines Lela’s emotive tenor with the aggressive roar of co-vocalist, Robin, and signals a change in the guitar tunings for the band, with the distortion and crunch of the instruments lower on this LP. ‘Into the Fire’ is like a drop-tuned interpretation of punk rock with a neo-thrash bridge section and chugging open-string rhythm supporting the lead guitar wizardry. On ‘Shifting Colors’ they go out of their way to embrace a more groove-oriented metalcore template with chunky triplet riffs and a stadium rock solo. If the band’s debut put you off with its abundance of radio-friendly melodies and pop choruses, then, this one is the correction you wanted.
Unfortunately, for the discerning metal observer, Venues show much promise yet hesitate to unleash the full might of their dual guitar approach and excellent rhythm section. Instead, the band subordinate everything to the stupendous vocal power of their new singer and end up with a half-hearted attempt to incorporate heavier elements into their sound. This would have more chance of success if they ditched the formulaic verse-chorus structure once in a while. ‘Whydah Gally’ cannot decide whether to be radio rock or mainstream metalcore and chooses the former before throwing in a stomping breakdown towards the end. Yes, this placates the faithful and keeps those with more extreme tastes on board, but it comes across like a poor man’s version of Bring Me the Horizon.
‘Rite of Passage’ is the type of song that will land Venues a slot at the Slam Dunk Festival in England with the emo-punks and metalcore whippersnappers, but it holds little value here other than as an example of the stunning seduction of Lela’s vocals. The best thing we can say about ‘Deceptive Faces’ is that it contains no teenage angst themes. Finn McKinty of the Punk Rock MBA is right when he says that this type of safe metalcore is now so sterile and contrived. It might interest some to wonder what Paramore would sound like if they beefed up their sound, but the Scream Blast Repeat staff have no such curiosity.
Venues have taken the first step towards embracing the heavier side of their influences and deserve credit for eliminating the annoying pop elements that blemished their debut record. But their decision to anchor their art around the power of the chorus and the predictability of the “Beauty and the Beast” vocals make for a disappointing experience. This album needs more riffs, more double-kick grooves, looser song structures and less polish. Lela can take them to the next level, but the band need to be sure of their direction before attempting to boost their sound with a window dressing of metallic aggression.
The song-writing is decent, but the music is too safe. We need danger, not dour predictability or overproduced arrangements.
Release Date: 27/08/2021
Record Label: Arising Empire Records
Standout tracks: Razorblade Teeth, Into the Fire, Mountains
Suggested Further Listening: Skywalker – Late Eternity (2021), Horror Dance Squad – No Flag Will Fly Forever (2020), Bring Me the Horizon – Sempiternal (2013)