By Dr. Abner Mality

The civil war in the ranks of Venom has finally resulted in two separate bands carrying the name forward.  After a brief run as Mpire of Evil, Venom Inc. stakes their claim to black metal royalty. To refresh your memories if you’ve been living under a rock, Venom Inc. features original members Mantas and Abaddon as well as former Cronos replacement “The Demolition Man” Tony Dolan. Their claim to the legacy is solid, but it’s the music that does the talking. And it speaks in tongues of fire here…

“Ave” is not an exact knock-off of any past Venom album, but rather features inspiration from all of Venom’s diabolical history. Does it stack up with the current Cronos-led version? Actually, it does, and in some ways, it surpasses it. First, the production of “Ave” is thick and down-tuned and very heavy. Is it raw in the “Black Metal” or “Welcome to Hell” sense? No, it’s not as feral…this is a 21st century production. Mantas has always had an unmistakeable guitar sound and when you hear the axe tone on tracks like “Forged In Hell”, “The Evil Dead” and “War”, your face is going to sport a devilish grin…this is Mantas, all right! There’s also a super fat bass sound for Dolan and Abaddon’s drumming is more than reasonably clear, even though he’s not one bit more technically proficient than he’s ever been.

As for vocals, I love “Demolition Man” but in my mind, the voice of Venom will always and forever be Cronos. That’s just not gonna change. But Tony puts every bit of fire and brimstone into his work here and much like he did on “Prime Evil” all those years ago, he makes for a reasonable replacement for Cronos.

The album is quite varied and has a few surprises. Opener “Ave Satanas” is quite epic, with a long, almost “At War With Satan” style build, and a powerful mid-paced march. “Blood Stained” and “I Kneel To No God” are similar tracks with a kind of crude majesty to them. Then there are fast and rabid rippers like “Forged IN Hell” and “The Evil Dead”. The former song has a touch of “Welcome To Hell” about it while the latter is maybe the most obviously old school track on show. The slow and doomy “Dein Fleisch” is rather atypical for the band and doesn’t really fit the rest of the album while “Preacher Man” is more bluesy and groovy. The best is saved till last with the excellent “Black and Roll”…this fucker has riffs so mean they could slap your mother and there’s something about the song that just screams “VENOM”.

“Ave” is a very fine release in the illustrious history of Venom. It equals anything that Cronos’ “official” Venom has done. But is it the total blowaway record that some were expecting? I wouldn’t quite go that far. But a definite pick up for true Venom fans!