Pray Satan (or Taste the blood of VON)

I’ve been wanting to write about VON for a long time.  Spawned from San Francisco’s dark underbelly in 1989, VON recorded two demos (Satanic Blood and Blood Angel) and played a handful of live shows before disappearing back into the unholy abyss from whence they came.

In spite of a total recorded output of about 20 songs, VON has been highly influential within the black metal underground, and with good reason.  Armed with piss-poor production values and a deliberately rudimentary approach to songstructure, the trio is responsible for some of the filthiest, most hypnotic extreme metal ever put to tape. Indeed, VON’s reliance on repetition, coupled with their ability to make the atmosphere provided by lo-fi production work to their advantage, has lead to 20 years of hopeless mimicry from all corners of the blackened globe.

VON’s demos have been compiled (along w/ some live recordings) as Satanic Blood Angel, and have been released on several occasions by the mighty Nuclear War Now! Productions (aka the label that snubs my e-mails because I’m not kvlt enough), and have also been bootlegged for a split with Dark Funeral called Devil Pigs.  While some will undoubtedly dismiss songs like “Watain”, “Satanic Blood” and “Blood Angel” as monotonous noise, they are missing the point entirely.  VON’s music is simplicity itself, pure evil distilled into two minute and thirty second bouts of demonic delerium.  Taken as a whole, these tracks have an uncannily ritualistic vibe, capable of inducing the grim, quasi-psychedelic trance-state so much black metal tries (and more often than not fails) to attain.

Personally, I find a lot of power in VON’s minimalism.  From song composition and instrumentation to production to imagery/artwork, everything about the band is crude, direct and to-the-point.  This stark, stripped down approach makes their music that much more sinister and mysterious, and whether or not the trio’s odes to the dark lord were legitimate, I can’t imagine a more genuinely eerie and esoteric batch of sounds than those found on Satanic Blood Angel ever being put to tape.  

It is the simplistic approach that lends the air of legitimacy to their sound.  While the concept of a bunch of devil worshippers whipping up slick-sounding metal in a multi-million dollar Pro-Tools equipped studio seems beyond ludicrous, the thought of three disciples of the left-hand path gathering in a dank, dark basement and capturing their unholy sonic ritual sacrifices on a decrepit 4-track machine sounds like the stuff of true nightmares.

So many so-called extreme bands get wrapped up in all the extra bells and whistles of the recording studio and over-the-top imagery that whatever they were originally attempting to get across becomes hopelessly diluted.  VON did not fall into this trap for even a second and this is why their music remains timeless in its black purity.

VON’s music IS the ritual.  Pentagrams smeared on the floor and walls with blood and vomit.  Acts of unspeakable human depravity invoking the unnameable.  Candlelit blood sacrifices.  Demonic possession.   Blood VON.

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