Released: 2017, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Venom. Truly one of the old guard of heavy metal music, Venom have been around and releasing albums for nearly 40 years now, save for the odd blip here and there. Satan, that sounds like a long time when you put it like that.
Of course, this isn't Venom, technically speaking. This is Venom Inc. This incarnation of the band is missing iconic vocalist/bassist Cronos, and instead features founders Mantas and Abaddon, plus Tony "Demolition Man" Dolan, who took over from Cronos from 89 to 92. Venom join others like Queensryche, Kyuss/Kyuss Lives! and Gorgoroth/God Seed in having different incarnations of a classic band.
The question is, how does this version of the band hold up? As far as mainstream Venom go, it's been a bit of a mixed bag. I have a soft spot for their classic works, especially At War With Satan, I thoroughly enjoyed Fallen Angels, but felt From the Very Depths was much weaker and ultimately forgettable. As for Venom Inc's Avé...it's fucking glorious. This is exactly the kind of Venom I know and love.
This is the band absolutely firing on all cylinders, with every song kicking ass and taking names. Stylistically it's a bit more metal-leaning and less punk than some of the other works under the Venom name, but personally I welcome this. When Venom go punk they also tend to get sloppy, this was one of the major problems I had with Very Depths. On here it's solid metallic riffing, that's the big driving force behind the music, along with appropriately venomous lyrics and an atmosphere that's just tongue-in-cheek enough in its darkness.
Right from the start, "Ave Satanas" sucks you in with a perfectly wicked stomp, a style played to equal effect on "Dein Fleisch". Unholy fuck, those beats are simple but so very effective, especially with Demolition Man's throaty roars atop them. Here's a vocalist perfectly suited to this style, just as likely to roar out his cheeky blasphemies as to whisper them into your ear, cackling maniacally all the way.
Other songs, like "Time to Die" and "The Evil Dead" take a more straight-up thrash route. "Forged in Hell" opens with a riff that sounds like it came right out of the band's classic albums, and only continues on in that fashion. "Metal We Bleed" is pure headbanger's delight, and is packed with lyrics to make you proud to welcome these veterans back to the fore. The whole album really feels like it's channelling a strong Motörhead vibe, albeit sounding like Motörhead's nastier brother. It's got that wonderful rock and roll attitude, just with a sharp metal coating, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the stonker of a track, "Black N Roll". Listening to this is like hearing "Black Metal" again for the first time.
When all's said and done, this is just a fun, kickass album. It's not quite as raw and punky as some might be used to from the band (though there is some of that), but it's well-produced, catchy and has so much swagger oozing from every pore. It feels remarkably energetic for musicians with so many years behind them. This is all we could ever want from a modern Venom album, and it's brilliant.
Every aspect works well: the vocals, rhythms, riffs, production. It's a band giving it their A-game. Granted, it doesn't reinvent the wheel, it isn't a progressive masterpiece, and the lyrics aren't epic poetry. But it's Venom, it's exactly what I want and perhaps even more than I expect. It's a romping, stomping, crashing good time. Avé is an album packed with thrashers, rockets, slow stompers, the full spectrum of their blend of black 'n' roll, and all done well. This is just what Venom are and should be, delivering all you'd expect and more. To any fan of the band, in any incarnation or line-up, I'd heartily recommend giving this one a go.