VENOM INC. – In The Flesh
August 25, 2017, a month ago
Venom Inc. frontman Tony "Demolition Man" Dolan will tell you that the band was never meant to be. As a member of Venom from 1989 - 1992, having replaced original throat Cronos, he forged a relationship with founding guitarist Jeff "Mantas" Dunn that kept them working together years later, the duo eventually forming M:pire Of Evil in 2010. The only difference between M:pire Of Evil and the Prime Evil-era Venom was the absence of drummer Anthony "Abaddon" Bray, who had a falling out with Dunn years earlier, but a strange turn of events saw the trio reform under a slightly new moniker that was directly responsible for giving their music career(s) a new lease on life.
Venom Inc. was born on April 24th, 2015 at the annual Keep It True festival in Lauda-Königshofen, Germany following a crushing set by M:pire Of Evil. Dolan explains:
"The organizer for the Keep It True festival saw me do an Atomkraft show in Newcastle and I got Jeff up to play a song. He contacted me some time later, introduced himself and asked if I knew that Abaddon had been in the audience that night. I did know, but because him and Jeff weren't getting on at the time I said no. I was asked what the chances were, if M:pire Of Evil was booked for Keep It True and Abaddon just happened to be there, that we could get him up on stage and do a couple Venom songs? I said 'zero' because Jeff and Abaddon weren't getting on; Abaddon would probably be interested in doing it but Jeff wouldn't. To be honest I didn't want to get involved but he kept insisting so I agreed to try and make it happen. I called Abaddon about it and he said 'yes,' I asked Jeff and he said 'fuck off' (laughs)."
"The one thing Jeff said against it was that Abaddon's style isn't M:pire Of Evil's style, so how could it possibly work?" Dolan continues. "I pointed out that if we played the old Venom songs we'd be playing to Abaddon's style anyway, as they were meant to be played noisy and loud and dirty. The Keep It True show was something that was meant to be done in fun, and eventually Jeff agreed to it. We played our M:pire set, closed with (Venom classic) 'Countess Bathory', and everyone went nuts. We went off, came back on with Abaddon as Venom Inc. and played four or five Venom songs, and the place went crazy."
Venom Inc. should have been a flash in the pan - gone yet not forgotten - but some Venom fans had other ideas, particularly those that had lost faith in the current Cronos-led incarnation of Venom, who are still alive and kicking.
"After the show I spoke to some of the people in the business, and they all told me it had been fucking brilliant and that it was a really shrewd move," says Dolan. "I had no idea what they meant. It turned out they thought it was smart the way we supposedly changed the name of the band that way, and I told them that it was just done in fun. They told me that was a shame because now the band was marketable. People felt that what we did on stage and calling the 'band' Venom Inc. for the occasion was brilliant. Musically we were marketable as M:pire Of Evil, but because of the band name we lost out."
"And sure enough, the morning after Keep It True, I swear it was crazy. I was getting messages from promoters asking to book us for shows; agents from Asia, Europe and South America saw the footage on YouTube wanted to book us. I tried to tell everybody we only did it for fun but I didn't have a chance (laughs). I spoke to the guys the next day over coffee and told them people wanted us to do more. Okay, we didn't have any new material, but I figured we could go out with the old Venom songs, play for the fans and see if Venom Inc. had legs. So we said 'Fuck it, let's go...', just to see what would happen, and here we are years later."
When it was clear that Venom Inc. did in fact work, the band set their sights on making new music in the interest of not becoming regarded as a desperate old school nostalgia band. They enlisted the help of metal industry royalty Jon Zazula (Megaforce Records founder) to nail down a record deal, running the demos for what would become their debut album, Avé, by him for approval with varying results.
"We contacted Jon to help us find a record deal, but when we sent him the first two demos he wasn't all that impressed," Dolan admits. "He thought the songs were pretty standard, typical metal. Our question was 'What do you expect?' Jon asked if we had anything different, and I had 'Dein Fleisch' which Jeff and I had written for the next M:pire album. It was definitely different and Jon really liked it; he said that was the way to go. We used that song as our basis for everything else to come. In a way, Avé is more towards what we were doing with M:pire. So I guess the music for the one band did blend into the other."
As to whether there was any looking back at the classic Venom album catalogue as the songs took shape, Dolan reveals it was the live show that became a major influence on the songwriting.
"When we talked about doing an album, what I realized was the amount of shows that we'd done and the number of people we'd played to, they were responding to our live performance. That became the key. We decided that whatever we did on an album, it had to have the intensity, the honesty and the aggression that was happening in a live situation. We needed to translate what we do on stage onto a record. That was the only target. We didn't think 'Oh, we have to write another 'Black Metal' or another 'Schizo'."
Venom Inc. has been a reality since 2014, their existence made official with the release of Avé. Even as they move forward for what promises to be a monstrous touring cycle in support of the album, there's a certain amount of confusion in hearing that M:pire Of Evil is just on hold rather than having been put on ice permanently given Venom Inc.'s rise to power.
"At the point where we started playing shows with Abaddon, we had almost the whole M:pire Of Evil album (Unleashed) recorded except for vocals," says Dolan. "So, it's all still sitting there. The intention was to complete Unleashed as soon as we had a gap in our schedule, but we never had the chance to stop playing shows (laughs), and then we had the pressure to do the Venom Inc. album when all that stuff came together. So, me and Jeff plan to complete the album and then do some shows as M:pire, but it'll be a while yet."
Something of a head-scratcher to be sure but time will tell which bodies will be resurrected when the time comes. For the time being Venom Inc.is the focus, the trio bent on being bigger and meaner than the other incarnation of Venom running around in the shadows while paying respect to the original band's timeless legacy.
"The whole reason we call it Venom Inc. is so that people realize we aren't just Venom II or anything like that," Dolan says. "We're incorporating everything we do including our Venom history, and that's the idea behind the band. It feels like we've come a long, long way and that the work me and Jeff have done over the past 10 years has really been worth it."