VENOM INC. are keen to be recognised as their own individual entity, but when you’re using the name and logo of another band, that’s only ever going to lead to comparisons. This offshoot of the iconic extreme metal forefathers came to be in 2015, essentially featuring two thirds of VENOM’s classic 80s line-up minus mouthpiece Cronos while Cronos continues the core VENOM with two members who joined in the late 2000s. Mathematically, this actually means that VENOM INC. holds more of the classic VENOM components than VENOM do these days, and it’s also easy to forget that this lineup released three albums as VENOM after Cronos briefly jumped ship in the late 80s/early 90s, but maths of course isn’t everything.
VENOM INC.’s debut album Avé is here nonetheless, and it brings with it all of the essential tropes and primal evil you’d expect from anything associated from the band that gave us Bloodlust and Countess Bathory, and yet many of the same pitfalls too. The album kicking off with an angelic rendition of Ave Maria being interrupted by the (almost) title track Ave Satanas is the kind of on-the-nose, daft blasphemy that VENOM have always specialised in, which really is what you want from this. As an opening track it does a fine job of letting the listener know exactly what they’re in for over the following hour, driven by a thick and legitimately hefty riff that compels heads to bang in the most instinctive sense and topped off by an undeniable chanted chorus. It’s tremendously basic as a whole, but also likely to get lodged in your head for hours afterwards. It’s also indicative of Avé’s most glaring flaw: a lack of ability to edit and streamline. Its simplicity is the key to its power to begin with, but Ave Satanas dragging on for over eight minutes saps it of its charm fairly quickly, simply not holding the ideas needed to justify a track that long.
It’s far from the only occurrence on the album. The initially meaty groove of Dein Fleisch for some reason breaches seven minutes, and if I Kneel to No God and especially Preacher Man which both reach over six minutes were cut from the track list altogether it’s hard to imagine anyone complaining. It’s a cumulative drawback; VENOM’s classics Welcome to Hell and Black Metal proved 40 minutes are all you need, and running at over an hour with half the intensity and wicked charm, Avé drags. It’s the sound of a band who don’t seem to realise their limitations and thus have no intention of working around them.
That major gripe aside though, Avé is actually quite enjoyable. Coming hot on the heels of the opener, Forged In Hell is the kind of NWOBHM tune that would’ve felt right at home on one of VENOM’s earliest recordings, and it’s on these faster songs where they pick up the pace that VENOM INC. are at their best. Metal We Bleed, War, and the double-whammy of Time to Die and The Evil Dead all benefit from the injection of adrenaline. It’s nice to know that Mantas in particular still has something in him after all these years, dishing out some of the strongest riffs any version of VENOM have had in years.
It’s hard to measure an ageing band against what they once were at the best of times, but VENOM is a particularly difficult case. They were a band who changed the face of metal forever, but their legacy is so tied to a specific moment in time, those classic records bubbling with a youthful vigour and energy even to this day. Thirty-five years later, neither VENOM nor VENOM INC. have the vitality or danger to recapture that, nor could they really be expected to. Both VENOMs though are a damn sight better than they have been in the past, as it’s easy to forget that towards the late 80s and through practically all of the 90s and 00s VENOM were overwhelmingly mediocre. Were it not for VENOM’s surprisingly satisfying 2015 release From the Very Depths, Avé would be the best VENOM album of any kind since 1984, and it’s certainly the best from this line-up. That though is more to do with the poor competition than this being some triumphant slam dunk. As it stands, Avé is decent enough and good fun for a solid chunk of its runtime, but far from essential.
Avé is set for release on August 11th via Nuclear Blast Records.
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