Venator – Echoes From the Gutter Review

Ask any metal fan what “heavy metal” sounds like, and they will probably have an archetypal band pop into their head. Of course, that band will vary based on that particular person’s preferences, but we all have that one band that exemplifies what heavy metal means to us. While Judas Priest may not be my favorite band of all time, the aggressive sound demonstrated by their classic albums Defenders of the Faith and Painkiller represents what my brain instinctually thinks of as “heavy metal.” The pounding rhythms, the righteous screams, the sometimes molten, sometimes heartfelt guitars—these are the things that make heavy metal the greatest thing that humanity has ever produced. While my tastes are constantly shifting, I’ll always be a sucker for a band that can rock, shred, and wail like the metal gods themselves, so the album art and promo description demanded I give Echoes From the Gutter, the debut full-length from Austria’s Venator, a chance to impress.

Echoes From the Gutter finds Venator expanding upon the classic sound they established on the well-executed and well-received 2020 Paradiser EP, a sound that finds them worshipping with reverent fervor before the alter of the deities of early 80s British and American heavy metal. When I listen to these guys, I hear Defenders-era Judas Priest mixed with Jag Panzer, Angel Witch, and Omen; their songs are undeniably heavy and irresistibly catchy. Embedded single “Manic Man” is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. The intro is pure Priest/Maiden worship, and then the song settles into a simple but brutally effective groove that ushers in the tremendous vocal talents of Johannes Huemer. His voice is a sweet throwback to the 80s, and when he effortlessly handles the chorus of “Manic Man,” I can’t help but feel like I’m listening to a genuine classic from the decade of my birth.

While it may sound sacrilegious, I’d place a handful of these tracks near the same level of some of the genre’s greatest hits. “The Seventh Seal” is just completely saturated with Priest-meets-Jag Panzer swagger, and while Huemer’s screams may lack the control of a Halford or Conklin, his impassioned delivery and perfect cadence grant the track instant-classic status. The song is the first of a completely flawless foursome comprised of the anthemic “Red and Black,” the speed metal-adjacent “Nightrider,” and the aforementioned “Manic Man.” Arena rock makes a bit of an appearance towards the end of the album, as “Made of Light,” “The Rising,” “The Hexx,” and “Streets of Gold” add elements of hard rock and—gasp!—glam metal to their heavy metal sound.

And we’d be looking at a higher score if those elements worked better than half the time. “The Rising” and “The Hexx” are great anthems, using the more restrained and accessible textures to compliment Venator‘s core sound, but “Made of Light” and “Streets of Gold” feel like too much of a departure and end up pumping the breaks on an otherwise breakaway-speed joy ride. Those two tracks are perfectly fine, but had they been cut, we’d be looking at a nearly flawless 36-minute modern treatise on classic heavy metal. Guitarists Anton Holzner and Leon Ehrengruber win VIP honors for their performance on Echoes From the Gutter. They both have PhDs in 80s metal guitar, and their penchant for intoxicating songwriting demonstrates that their talents go far beyond mimicry. While Venator spends most of the album delivering the goods, “The Seventh Seal,” “Red and Black,” “Nightrider,” “Manic Man,” “The Rising,” and “The Hexx” represent the best of what can be found lying in Gutter.

I hoped Echoes From the Gutter was going to be cool when I grabbed it, but I was not expecting Venator to so authentically represent the sound of heavy metal’s heyday. A couple of outliers keep the album from achieving total greatness, but I anticipate seeing Echoes again on my Honorable Mentions list come year’s end. Venator has incredible talent paired with unbelievable songwriting ability and stellar production values, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Dying Victims Productions
Websites: venatorsteelcity.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/venatorheavymetal
Releases Worldwide: February 25th, 2022

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