Venom Inc. + Goatwhore @ The Mod Club, Toronto, 5 September 2017

Venom are among the most influential heavy metal artists even to this day, responsible for imbuing metal with Satanic theatrics. Venom Inc. is a reunion of three members from the English band’s 1989 ‘Prime Evil‘ album, namely Demolition Man, Mantas and Abaddon. Fans spout the praises of the original group’s mainman Cronos but credit should be given where credit is due, which marks Venom Inc. apart from other metal and hard rock bands with two variants of themselves on the touring circuit, usually bolstered with members disassociated with the bands’ glory days.

Following a well-appreciated show at The Garrison only in May, Louisiana’s Goatwhore return to Toronto for the third time this year. Since then, this amalgamation of Satanic extreme metal has unleashed their seventh album of anti-Christian paeans, ‘Vengeful Ascension‘. Opening with ‘Under the Flesh, Into the Soul’ from this shot whips up admiration from the busy Mod Club. Goatwhore are a band that strives to provide a tireless and energetic performance, their infectiously rhythmic music demonstrably composed with the live environment in mind. However, the venue is suffocatingly heated and watching them becomes an ambient struggle.

Vengeful Ascension‘ is a serviceable release but within the Americans’ own canon, it strikes less formidably and leaves a fainter impact than previous studio expulsions. Tonight ‘Forsaken’, ‘Chaos Arcane’ and the title track don’t go for the jugular in the same way that older assaults ‘Baring Teeth for Revolt’ and ‘Apocalyptic Havoc’ do. But it’s near impossible not to applaud the emphatic show the quartet puts on. Vocalist Ben Falgoust never ceases his engaging stage presence and the audience responds in kind with moshers, headbangers and even crowd surfers enduring the solar temperatures. Closer ‘FBS’ is of course one of the highlights of the set, forging black trash in an unholy matrimony that finishes the set on a high.

England’s Venom Inc. were last seen in Toronto last year but, this time, they return with an album composed of their original material, ‘Avé‘, rather than solely Venom renditions. The three-piece open their show with ‘Avé Sathanas’, a contemporary headbanger with blood drawn from heavy and thrash metal. It sounds a trek away from the Venom material, asserting relevance in 2017 beyond past glories. But they don’t shun their prior band’s associations as ‘Welcome to Hell’ illustrates, evoking a rapturous crowd response. They could distance themselves entirely from the Venom material as some bands may be tempted to do to prove something but fairly Venom Inc. draw the lion’s share of their songs from Venom-era material tonight.

It’s tricky trying not to headbang to the unbridled ‘Die Hard’, the Black Sabbath-esque ‘Blackened Are the Priests’ and the rollicking ‘Leave Me in Hell’. These Venom songs naturally solicit superior responses from the fans in the boiling venue. Demolition Man provides a solid vocal appropriation of Cronos for the classic era songs; Mantas dives between ’80s and modern metal guitar work effortlessly while Abaddon mercilessly destroys his drum kit. The metal is brash, engorged with attitude and unabashedly muscular – the best attributes of the original band. It’s predictable that ‘Black Metal’ ekes out the punters’ energy towards the end of the show, followed by what is contentiously Venom’s best song ‘Countess Bathory’, the perfect way to round off the set’s core. After this, these heavy metal legends leave the stage but return with a two-hit encore of ‘Sons of Satan’ and ‘Witching Hour’. These do not elicit as eager a response as the prior two tracks but go down a treat anyway. They’re Venom songs – one of the most entertaining metal bands ever – so what more could a metalhead want?