Everyone knows the legacy of Venom. In some ways, the band is responsible for black metal (although not in the manner it’s played today), and their albums in the early ’80s, especially Black Metal, are hailed as landmark, seminal recordings.
Venom Inc. are sort of Venom, but the “incorporation” of the name sets this band apart from the original. In fact, some might say including Inc. in the name is a blatant display of capitalism. I’m not so sure of that, but the fact remains that Venom Inc. are both similar and different to Venom, and Avé is considered the band’s debut.
To start with, this is essentially Venom’s lineup responsible for their albums from 1989-1992, none of which are standouts in the band’s discography. We’ve got founding members Tony “Abaddon” Bray on drums, Jeff “Mantas” Dunn on guitar, and they are joined by Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan on bass/vocals. So don’t confuse this band with the still-active Venom, led by bassist/vocalist Conrad “Cronos” Lant.
Venom Inc. aim for a more pure heavy metal sound here on Avé. The sound still has an unmistakable evil to it, but modernized and more produced than the original band’s music. Opening track “Avé Satanas” is a heavy, plodding, sinister, epic number, clocking in at over eight minutes. It’s an accurate representation of the band’s sound. The musicians have improved over time, with Mantas’ drumming varied and precise (there could be some Pro Tools editing in there) and Abaddon’s riffs and solos showing depth and talent.
Many other songs follow the same blueprint of heavy riffs, thudding drums, and distorted bass, accompanied by Demolition Man’s snarls. He sounds like a cross between Lemmy, Chuck Billy and yes, Cronos. He spews forth lyrics with genuine menace, making songs that in past years with Cronos at the helm might have come across as goofy and demented seem genuinely disturbing now. “Dein Fleisch” is a great example, with the chorus of “deep inside dein fleisch, your flesh” giving us shivers.
There are a few songs where the band harkens back to its roots. We fondly recall ’80s Venom for the band’s almost amateur performances, messy to an extreme degree as if they could just barely get by on their instruments. “Metal We Bleed,” “Time to Die” and album closer “Black N Roll” are all speed metal chaos, although these days the vocals are multitracked so as to keep pace with the music, taking the edge off slightly.
Overall the songs on Avé are well written, played, and produced, but they do drag on. Eleven songs clocking in at 62 minutes is a bit much, and most of the time I was waiting for them to end in the three or four minute range, not five or six. Sharper editing would have done wonders here: a few of these songs could have been saved for a second album, and others pared down to a reasonable length.
As it stands, though, Venom Inc. do no harm to the original band’s legacy on Avé, and have given us a competent start to what could be their own. It’s an enjoyable release with a number of good, if overly long, songs. It’s no Black Metal, or even At War with Satan, but then again it wasn’t intended to be.
(released August 11, 2017 on Nuclear Blast Records)