VENOM INC. In Philly - Old Dogs, New Tricks!

January 11, 2016, 2 years ago

Mark Gromen

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BLAST from the past! What a start to 2016, reacquainting oneself with two-thirds of the vintage '80s Venom line-up, albeit without frontman/bassist Cronos, who still owns the proper moniker, hence THIS trio employing the Inc. postscript. Third date of a four week North American tour, Abaddon, Mantas (both sporting glasses) and Demolition Man stopped by Underground Arts on Jan 7th. While we witnessing the "other band" (twice) aboard 70,000 Tons, "Metal" Tim had a spirited chat with these guys, last summer at Heavy Montreal, thus I decided to check them out, when the tour got close. A little pre-gaming at the Trestle Inn, "whiskey & go-go," where a single pour is $7, or a double for $9. Not a hard liquor drinker, but seems like a no brainer! Stuck with Yuengling at $4, although for two extra bucks, could have had a shot of Old Crow bourbon too. Happy hour is till 7pm, a bit early for most shows at UA, but save $2 on craft beer drafts.

Afforded a mere sliver of the last summer's stage, the trio commanded the area. Tattoos peering from a sleeveless flack jacket, Tony "Demolition Man" Dolan proved a better (more animated, facially expressive, lunatic) frontman than his better known bass wielding counterpart. His heavy Newcastle accent, even to my ears, accustomed to "foreign speakers," took some time to decipher. Not sure how many in attendance ever saw the original line-up, but the response tonight was quite rabid, fans packed against the stage (no photo pit/barrier), fists pumping the air and singing along to a setlist that was almost entirely comprised of songs from the classic 80s duo of releases: Welcome to Hell and Black Metal, as well as five (!) early singles.No need to flog any new CD, it was just the hits, all night long. Surprisingly, only the first song of the evening (albeit the title cut) came from Prime Evil, the 1989 introduction of the one-time Atomkraft bassist/singer into the ranks of Venom.

Fog enveloping the stage,'Die Hard', with it's exaggerated pause brought forth a chorus of audience voices. For a sizzling 'Don't Burn The Witch', Mantas hoisted his guitar vertically, his face a study in intensity. 'Live Like An Angel (Die Like A Devil)' was re-recorded during Dolan's first go-round with Venom. All these years later, the blazing delivery is no less vicious. Abaddon looked fit, having lost considerable weight since his days as Skyclad manager (when we had dinner in NYC), which seemed to help his speed behind the kit. Not so sure about the gulps of whiskey though. The slower, atmospheric 'Buried Alive' was the set's first respite. 'Raise The Dead' brought back the speed. A spirited intro speech, citing the Forbidden City and how we're all (ultimately) fucked, greeted '1000 Days In Sodom'. Between songs the drummer urged the chants of "Venom!" to continue, louder and longer.

The sporadic, kick drum begun 'Warhead' saw the band toy with the crowd, lengthening the gap before shouting the titular phrase. The faithful were right on cue, regardless. Appropriately, a foggy 'Schtizo' saw a batch of thrashing about, an impromptu mosh pit erupted. While calls for obscurities, like 'Acid Queen' were not forthcoming, Venom did pull out a couple of B-sides next: '7 Gates Of Hell' and 'In Nomine Satanas'. Would have thought there was no way to hear these songs,outside the confines of the "original" Venom! Fog creeps into 'Bloodlust', followed by a green lit 'Sons Of Satan', to end the proper set. Honestly, would have been content with those alone, but a few well known numbers (Hell, for this predominately older crowd, everything aired was "well known") were left for a quick encore, most notably, the title tracks from the aforementioned pair of seminal discs, along with 'Countess Bathory'.

Great night of old school classics. Definitely check them out, regardless if you've ever seen Venom (Inc.) before. Highly entertaining!


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