San Francisco band VON has had a career that anyone in underground extreme metal would sell their black soul for. It is truly an astonishing story of death and resurrection, with nearly 20 years in between in which the most respected bands in the world paid tribute, keeping the name alive like some eternal flame, held up as the vanguard of True Occult Black Metal. Between their demise in 1992 and the release of the first official studio album, 2012’s ‘Satanic Blood’, VON’s popularity and legend grew steadily. Varg Vikernes (Burzum ) spoke of them in early interviews and wore their shirts during his murder trial, resulting in VON’s name and photos of their logo being spread around the globe. Darkthrone likewise did much to spread the gospel of VON to anyone who would listen. Pete Helmkamp of Angel Corpse and Revenge has always championed them, and Watain, now one of the world’s biggest black metal bands, even named themselves after a VON track. All of this for a band who never recorded a proper album and never toured. They played a small handful of shows around the SF bay area in the late-80’s and early 90’s, recorded two very limited quantity demos, and split up. The material on those demos was so potent, so raw and visceral, so other-worldly in its deceptively simple and hypnotic sound despite its bestial aggression as to be a wholly unique, singular experience. In those recordings the ambience of the room could be heard, giving the sound a thick atmosphere that many tried to duplicate in their own recordings. The return of VON came in 2009 when Watain approached the original members to open for them at a special show in England. Not everyone showed interest, and some could not be located, so a new lineup was patched together comprised of original and new members.
The following year a limited 7” appeared. It was good black metal, but to me it didn’t sound like VON. It was a cleaner, faster, sharper sound. It could have been any competent band covering VON. It could have been Marduk.
Now we have the official release of the old classic demo songs, plus a brand new track, ‘Jesus Stain’, recorded with the new lineup. This CD captures VON in all its fury and eerie atmosphere. It is a powerful listening experience that holds up again and again, like the demos of old. They have successfully captured whatever black magic made the old band so compelling. ‘Jesus Stain’ fits perfectly in amongst the old material in style and structure, and happens to be a great song.
The mix here is quite interesting. The rhythm and low end are up front, with high guitar strains weaving through the dense wall of sound. Underneath are interesting dynamic subtleties that come and go; an eerie guitar noise using feedback and sometimes effects to stack on layers, giving the sound a deeper dimension and much more atmosphere.
VON is great, unique black metal and I am glad they have returned. ‘Satanic Blood’ is essential listening from this classic original band.
(Source: throwupyourhorns.com) *site defunct