It’s been three years since Cleveland, Ohio, heavy rockers Venomin James released their burly second album, Crowe Valley Blues, a record they supported by playing — among other places — at Germany’s famed Wacken festival in 2011. Just before the release, the band lost drummer Jared Koston to cancer, and late in 2012, Venomin James announced they were parting ways with vocalist Jim Meador as they looked to press on in a new direction. Their new single they released just yesterday, “Sailor’s Grave,” is the first outing with new drummer Eric Matthews and new singer Mike Martini.
The change is clear in the band’s style on the new track. Where Crowe Valley Blues cuts like “Cosmonaut” showed off post-Down Southern metal dude-isms, Meador‘s vocals out front in aggro style, “Sailor’s Grave” is a little less tough-sounding. Tonally, guitarists Joe Fortunato and Tomasz Scull are more rock than metal, and bassist Erin Corcoran is prevalent in the mix, so that the overall effect is still plenty heavy, just not as angry about it. Likewise, although Meador was essentially a melodic singer, Martini‘s vocals take a more soulful approach, sounding early on in “Sailor’s Grave” not unlike Gozu‘s Marc Gaffney in his delivery and yes, winding up throatier as the song hits its apex, but even so not losing sight of where they’ve come from. In short, he’s a different kind of singer.
“Sailor’s Grave” is the first of a couple singles Venomin James have planned for the rest of this year — the next will reportedly be called “33rd Degree” — as they move closer to a full-length with their new lineup. In the meantime, the third LP from the prior incarnation of the band, with Koston and Meador, is due for release by the end of the summer and will be called Unholy Mountain. An instrumental version, which the band says is to honor Koston‘s drumming, will come out concurrent to the album itself. The transition, it seems, isn’t done yet.
Fair enough. There’s plenty that bodes well for the future of Venomin James in “Sailor’s Grove,” and as such, I’m glad to have it included as part of the playlist for The Obelisk Radio. You can check it out there and grab a pay-what-you-want download from the Venomin James Bandcamp. In addition to that, they’ve got a video for the track, which you can dig into below: