Venom are, after Black Sabbath and Motorhead, the third most influential band in the history of heavy metal. Thrash metal, speed metal ,death metal, black metal… all owe a huge debt to Venom. The first four Venom albums, especially the first two – ‘Welcome To Hell’ and ‘Black Metal’ – are stone cold classics. This is the sound of the fabric of metal being warped and twisted for ever more. Here Motorhead meets the Sex Pistols meets Judas Priest in a flat out fight to the finish and nothing was ever the same again.
But following those four albums, the line-up of Cronos (bass, vocals), Mantas (guitar), and Abaddon (drums) began to fracture.
This is a shame because had they being a little luckier, Venom could have been as big as Metallica (one of their former support bands, not that Metallica have ever acknowledged that and the huge musical debt they owe Venom). Venom were on Neat Records (as opposed to Electra), and even though Neat has a fabulous back catalogue, this is more through accident than design. Venom didn’t have the management with clout like Iron Maiden (see also Diamond Head), and this makes a difference. And finally, at time when Slayer were producing albums like ‘Reign in Blood’ and Metallica were releasing the likes of ‘Ride The Lightning’ and ‘Master of Puppets’ the bar was high; sadly, at that time Venom were most interested in propping up the bar! (Venom had a great sense of humour, something the black metal bands they influenced never took on board. Venom boasted, ‘home taping is killing music… so are Venom!’ Ah, for the days when metal was such fun!)
Following Venom’s fourth album ‘Possessed’, Mantas departed Venom. Cronos quipped at the time that it was ‘musical differences: He was musical, we were different!’. Cronos and Abaddon recruited two guitarists to replace him for the underrated ‘Calm Before The Storm’ album. Then, Venom split into two camps.
Cronos took the two guitarists with him to record under the original monicker of Cronos, while Mantas and Abaddon made friends again and recruited a certain Tony Dolan of Atomkraft to replace Cronos. Dolan is a most interesting fellow, has had a great acting career, and was and is a more than capable replacement for Cronos. (His ‘Demolition Man’ nickname is very cool too.) This line up released a very good album called ‘Prime Evil’, on Music For Nations (recently reactivated, so we may see a decent re-release). Some other decent releases followed, but musical tastes had changed, and the original line-up got back together to record the decent ‘Cast In Stone’.
But again, those legendary musical differences returned. This time Abaddon was first to leave, with Mantas and Cronos recruiting Cronos’ brother Anton to play the drums for the poor ‘Resurrection’ album (probably not the most apt title). Then Mantas left andVenom has been Cronos and sidekicks from thereon in. The albums they have recorded have been competent but lack that classic spirit that makes Venom special.
A couple of years back, Mantas, Abaddon and the Demolition Man found themselves sharing a stage again to play some Venom classics. This was supposed to have been a one-off but the demand for the trio was such that they toured extensively, now as Venom Inc. Venom Inc then went on to sign to one of Nuclear Blast and have now released an album entitled ‘Ave’.
Featuring excellent cover artwork, a production that’s just right (raw but with warmth and clarity), and songs that are equal to any of their classic albums, Avé really takes off where ‘Prime Evil’ left things. Performances are strong. The Demolition man really nails it, Mantas is one of great metal riff-makers and guitar heroes, and Abaddon’s drums have a swing that is rare in metal.
Easily in my top ten of the year. Make sure it’s in yours too!