When it comes to influential extreme metal bands, Venom have to be near the top of the list. These days there are a couple of different incarnations of the group. Cronos still fronts his version of Venom, while the other two members of their classic lineup (Jeff “Mantas” Dunn and Tony “Abaddon” Bray) have teamed up with Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan, who was Venom's vocalist from 1989-1992, to form Venom Inc. Their debut album is Avé.

As to how the reunion happened, Dolan and Mantas were in the band M-pire of Evil together, and asked Abaddon to join them on stage at the 2015 Keep It True Festival in Germany to play some Venom songs. Mantas, who hadn't spoken with Abaddon in nearly two decades, was hesitant, but eventually agreed. Dolan says, “We played our set, finished off with 'Countess Bathory', and everyone went nuts. We went off stage, came back on with Abaddon and played four or five Venom songs under the Venom Inc. name and the place went crazy."

A one-off at a festival is one thing, but a full-fledged reunion with new material is another. With Avé, Venom Inc. had to deal with the imposing legacy of their past material while forging ahead with a new era of the band, and for the most part, they succeed.

Early Venom was extremely raw and unpolished, and nearly three decades later Mantas and Abaddon have become much more skilled on their instruments. The production, of course, is also much better. Opener “Ave Satanas” is ominous and dark, and also the album's longest track at more than eight minutes. It's controlled and measured with excellent riffs and solos from Abaddon.

Things get edgier and more chaotic on tracks like “Metal We Bleed” and the blazing “Time To Die,” which channels Motorhead more than Venom. Those are balanced by groovier and more melodic songs such as “Dein Fleisch” and “Preacher Man.” They do drag things out a bit, with 62 minutes being a song or two longer than needed.

This lineup originally played on the full-length Venom studio albums Prime Evil (1989), Temples of Ice (1991) and The Waste Lands (1992). While not groundbreaking like their first couple of albums, they were very solid.

A quarter century after those albums, Avé finds Venom Inc. paying homage to their early days, but also moving forward with their own identity. Balancing classic sounds with forays in different directions makes for an album that's both both fresh and familiar.

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