I noticed a curious phenomenon while watching Amoeba Records ‘What’s In My Bag’ series recently, a lot of the metal heads featured seemed to be the most open-minded when it came to music and this can be easily applied to Dave Lombardo too. Best known for his career in Slayer, Lombardo was always its most creative member as well as its most productive, playing in countless bands including Suicidal Tendencies, Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, Philm, Dead Cross and now Venamoris with wife Paula.
Venamoris was founded in 2021 after Paula had reluctantly disclosed her period of being lead back-up singer for Las Vegas legend Wayne Newton to Dave and having played him some demos she had recorded throughout the years which impressed him greatly. The cover art meanwhile demonstrates an album that is about as far removed from Reign In Blood as you can get.
Let Me Be reminds one of Led Zeppelin’s Dazed And Confused with some trip-hop Portishead vibes thrown in along the way. I can see why Lombardo was so taken with his wife’s vocals, and they definitely recall Beth Gibbons of the aforementioned Portishead. The perfect opener. We Fall is achingly vulnerable and in less capable hands could come across as trite and clichéd. I was also reminded of the talented Haden Sisters and there is some lovely harmonizing present on the track that make it a delight to listen to. Meanwhile, This Is Me has you thinking of mid to late ‘80s Scritti Politti, with some of the balladry on offer but with a more minimal production.
Crimson Tears features some lovely Spanish guitar flourishes and there is both a darkness and a beauty present that nods to the late Julee Cruise; this by extension means it could have featured on any David Lynch movie. Miss Guided is a bit of a different beast, a distorted heavier sound is present and there is a swing to the track with a Sabbath-y garage stomp. Think The White Stripes with respect to the simplicity of the playing but far more interesting.
entrancing, diverse and soulful…
Drowning Emotion is pure unabashed elegant folk-pop reminding me of latter day The Cure (Wish/Wild Mood Swings era) in places with the emotive heart on sleeve approach and I Love It again recalls The Haden Sisters, which anyone familiar with my taste will know this is high praise indeed. In My Silence seems to have a faint country twang and aura but of the more cosmic sort ala Gram Parsons and there is a gut wrenching honesty about it that makes it so darn appealing.
It’s Gone has a sombre gothic alt-country vibe and reminds one of Tarnation, in particular Paula Frazer’s distinctive vocals. Tell Me How You Know is a paean to love and romance with a seductive bossa nova feel and Oceans marks a rare metal appearance on the record with a sly nod to Dave’s past but one which is tremendously catchy. Pop-metal if you like but thankfully not the sort that came from the Sunset Strip in the 1980s. So Good is smokey blues jazz that has you thinking of the best moments of Sade, as well as tracks such Evidence and Stripsearch by Faith No More. A hell of a way to conclude the record.
The year has barely begun yet I already have a potential contender for my Top Ten of 2023. This demonstrates to me how great ‘pop music’ can sound when done like this; entrancing, diverse and soulful, all things that have been sadly forgotten in an X-Factor/Simon Cowell world.
Scribed by: Reza Mills