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Ten years ago, Houston’s Venomous Maximus would have been a very hot ticket. At that time retro-doom with a fantasy flair was flirting with wider exposure—The Sword and High on Fire were both getting wide attention. On their 2012 debut, Beg Upon the Light, the group split the difference between both acts, balancing plodding riffs with nasal and melodramatic vocals. The mixture worked well enough to keep me on the lookout for their upcoming sophomore LP, Firewalker.

The quartet’s second stab at greatness improves on its predecessor in almost every regard. Where the group’s first compositions sometimes lagged in the middle, Firewalker sports more focused songwriting. Occasional keyboards take a pronounced stance on these tracks as well, doing their best to evoke classic horror film soundtracks—there’s even a song named after Angel Heart, which ought to go right to the top of your to-watch list if you’ve never seen it. It’s hardly the most original idea, but Venomous Maximus strikes the John Carpenter creepy-cool balance better than most. Vocalist/guitarist Gregg Higgins has polished his pipes as well as his guitar tone, which adds a Defenders of the Faith-era Judas Priest feeling to many of his new songs, such as lead single “Through the Black,” which we have streaming for you here.

—Joseph Schafer

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Firewalker is out May 19th on Shadow Kingdom. Follow Venomous Maxmius on Facebook.

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