Nowadays rightly regarded as one of the most influential bands in the history of Extreme Metal, at the time, Newcastle Neanderthals, Venom, were dismissed as hideous noise polluters by many of their numerous critics. Happily, Venom never gave one single, solitary fuck, and from 1981 to 1985 went on to consolidate themselves as one of the UK scene’s major players. From essential albums like Welcome to Hell, and Black Metal (Neat Records) to their parent-scaring live performance on Channel 4’s tea-time Metal show ECT (Extra Celestial Transmission), where many people got to witness stage diving for the first time, it was clear that Venom were a force to be reckoned with.
A horrifying roller coaster of Motörhead-fueled, punk-injected provincial Satanic Metal, they eventually came off the tracks due to a succession of line-up changes (including the departure of volatile bassist/vocalist, Conrad “Cronos” Lant), splits, and below par releases. In just a few short years, Venom went from being a sloppy, but surprisingly solid, three man metal machine to lurching from line-up to line-up like massively intoxicated patrons of a Geordie nightclub at four o’clock in the morning.
Not even a fully-fledged reunion during the mid-Nineties could stem the decline, and before long, both drummer, Anthony “Abaddon” Bray, and guitarist, Jeffrey “Mantas” Dunn, left the band, leaving Cronos to continue under the Venom name. Having already forged a post-Venom solo career for himself back in 1988, Mantas followed this up by assembling M:Pire of Evil in 2010, eventually reuniting with Cronos’ original replacement, Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan, and recording two full length albums together. Teaming up once again with Abaddon in 2015, Dolan and Mantas formed Venom Inc. Essentially a Venom tribute act, the band soon set about writing new music, and debut album, Avé (Nuclear Blast), is the result.
Things kick off in worryingly predictable fashion as for a minute and a half we are subjected to the lilting strains of Franz Schubert‘s ‘Avé Maria’ and a low, throaty satanic voice saying low, throaty satanic things. However, this becomes a distant memory in the blink of a yellow, reptilian eye as you are violently and suddenly grasped around the throat by a riff made from clawed fingers and evil in its blackened soul, plus a chorus guaranteed to be roared back to the band across festival fields and inside sweaty, darkened venues for years to come.
With barely time to recover, the reworked ‘Welcome To Hell’ riff of ‘Forged In Hell’ rips into your ears and it’s like the last thirty years (give or take) of mediocrity and disappointment never happened. ‘Metal We Bleed’ and ‘Time To Die’ are faster and thrashier than most bands influenced by Venom are currently achieving, ‘Dein Fleisch’ sees the band channeling their inner Rammstein, ‘The Evil Dead’, and ‘War’ sound like they’ve been around for years, and the self-referencing, Motörhead and heavy-metal-and-rock-music-in-general worship of ‘Black N Roll’ is a truly glorious thing to behold.
Not so sure about the Jimmy Saville impression at the end though…