There’s a school of thought that a certain section of the metal community subscribe to that says “No Cronos, no Venom”.  You will no doubt have experienced this way of thinking in the sentiments of the “No Dave, no Van Halen” squad and the mewling quims in the “No Ozzy / Bill, no Sabbath” gang. Those that utter such sentiments are of course “bell-ends”.

I’ve seen it recently on social media, a good mate posted a link to the video for the opening track on this album, “Ave Satanas” and the outpouring of fuckery was quite breath taking. Honestly, the venom spewed from one, now blocked, individual was so bile ridden that you’d have thought he’d caught you fingering his mum!

Still, you can’t please everyone can you? And nor should you try. The last time the “original” trio of Cronos, Mantas and Abaddon put out an original album was 1997 with “Cast In Stone” and while Cronos seems to have won the “who can use the name Venom” game and has produced some fun but pretty uninspriring albums, they’ve always in my view lacked a bit of meat to them.

Now, my favourite Venom album of all time is “Prime Evil”. Yeah yeah yeah whatever, I know the first three albums are considered classics and they are, but let’s face it…..there’s some shit on them. “Prime Evil” is a true heavy metal album with some awesome songs and I always thought Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan was a great frontman with a cracking voice so when I heard that the line-up responsible for “Prime Evil” had reformed as Venom Inc. (minus Al Barnes)  I came over all “funny”. Those feelings were deepened when the band released the video for album opener “Ave Satanas” so when this album came up for review I tore the editor’s arm off.

So, what we have here is eleven tracks of rock solid, dark heavy metal played by seasoned veterans. Mantas is churning out chunky, memorable riffs and squealing leads all over the place. Abaddon’s drumming is like a precision bombing raid and Tony’s bass will rattle your fillings out. Oh and Tony’s snarling vocals are miles more intimidating than Cronos ever was. In fact the former Atomkraft (yeah……I am that old) front man is, in my view, criminally underrated as a singer.

Kicking things off in style is the aforementioned “Ave Satanas”. A dark, heavy, mid paced fist pumping call to arms with a quite unexpected hypnotic quality to it. That’s followed by the addictive trad metal stylings (think Saxon on steroids) of “Forged In Hell” and the speed metal face ripper that is “Metal We Bleed”. I love hearing tracks like this. The band’s passion and commitment to METAL really shine through on these songs and Abaddon’s drumming on the latter song in particular is fantastic. “Dein Fleisch” has a certain Rammstein-nasty feel to it and I really liked the chuggy “Preacher Man” which showcases just how expressive and flexible Tony can be as a singer.

There’s no filler on this record and although I’d normally have a whinge about the song length with most of the tracks lasting north of five minutes, I can’t here as the songs are all belters. For example, “I Kneel To No God” has such a bluesy swagger to it while still sounding super-aggressive that you forget it’s been on more than six minutes. You’ve got the shorter tracks that shred too like the total early Venom cheese-fest of “The Evil Dead”, the thrashy “Time To Die” and the Motorhead-banger of album closer and appropriately titled “Black and Roll”.

To compare Venom Inc. to Venom is a waste of time so I won’t.

What I will say is this, “Ave” is a better record than “Prime Evil”. And that, as I mentioned before, WAS my favourite Venom album.

(9/10 Mark Eve)