It’s probably fair to say that when Venom Inc. released full-length “debut”, Avé in 2017, expectations weren’t too high. Formed by guitarist Mantas (aka Jeff Dunn) and frontman Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan in the wake of the duo’s former band M:Pire of Evil, Venom Inc. appeared to some as a simple rebranding. A change of name with little hope of successfully rekindling past glories. They were wrong.
Taking many completely by surprise, Avé came as close to the glory days of Venom as anything released by the band since the mid-late eighties. Something viewed largely as a tribute act suddenly grew legs. And more legs have been added since then with Ex Deo/Inhuman Condition drummer Jeramie Kling (aka War Machine) joining in 2018. Now, five years on, the big question is whether follow-up There’s Only Black (Nuclear Blast) can continue the good work of its predecessor.
A slightly curious opener, ‘How Many Can Die’ combines blasts of metallized punk with NWOBHM licks and a touch of Slayer as the song’s stop/start approach builds momentum with old school riffing towards the end. ‘Infinitum’ and the excellent ‘Come To Me’ bristle with more Slayer energy and guitar melodies in the vein of Exodus while the title track adds some Motörhead to the mix.
The brooding ‘Tyrant’ drips with malicious intent as does the venomous sprint of ‘Don’t Feed Me Your Lies’ and the classic thrash of ‘Man As God’. The first half of ‘Burn Liar Burn’ is the closest you’ll get to a ballad before its middle section attempts to break the sound barrier. ‘Nine’ invokes the ghost of Slayer once more while the particularly pugnacious (and appropriately titled) ‘Rampant’ really does sound like Venom of old. ‘The Dance Macabre’ switches between quiet intent and furious expulsions of rage before the insistent groove of closer ‘Inferno’ saves arguably the best cut until last.
Although There’s Only Black is enjoyable, brash and pleasingly uncouth, some of the songs have a tendency to run a little long for what they are and the guitar tone occasionally seems a little blunted by the production. However, Dolan’s voice is nothing short of savage, Mantas’s solos and melodies are superb, and the drums sound great.
A solid and subtlety-free slab of aggressive UK metal for sure, even if it does lack a little colour.
7 / 10