Venom Inc.

support Vader + Divine Chaos
author AP date 05/10/15 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

Mondays at Loppen tend to spell an early start, and for this reason, against all other logic, the prospect of a weekday show on this cold and windy evening seems like a perfectly managable prospect. To be fair, part of the reason also stems from the fact that I'm about to witness 2/3 of the original line-up of Venom performing their most classic material; a necessary lesson in metal history lest some of us younger aficionados of the genre forget from whence it came. I am thus in high spirits as I venture into the already bustling venue, ready to take in the first of two support acts selected for the distinct honour of warming up Venom Inc.'s audience.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Divine Chaos

What an introduction. Those are the words silently muttered by yours truly as the evening's proceedings are opened in some style by Divine Chaos - a British death/thrash entity whose existence had, until tonight, completely escaped me. With traces of Hatesphere, The Haunted, Slayer and even Meshuggah readily audible, the quintet immediately speaks to my penchant for the primal. Cascades of down tuned chug from a seven-string guitar mingle with shifting time signatures and eerie Slayer-school riffs in a display that, for some, is surely coming across as a little derived and even boring. But there is an intimidating look about these fellows that suites the aggression quotient of the music well and gives it legitimacy in my book; they're not proposing to reinvent the wheel or even the genre - they're interested in writing intensely severe, chastening metal to awaken the brute within us all, and to perform that metal in a harsh and unapologetic manner. As a result, Divine Chaos look absolutely menacing on stage - not because of excessive discharges of energy, but rather because they appear to take this so seriously it's bordering on self-irony. And in metal, that's a very good thing.

I confess: everything about the first four songs appeals to me, especially when Chris O'Toole (or is it the other guitarist, Gilmour?) busts out an impeccable 'shuggah groove in "Death Toll Rising" and the preceding song, the title of which escapes me. And judging by the profuse amount of headbanging taking place all around me, and the awkward sensation of somebody's locks whipping at my back, I am not alone in finding merit in this stuff. Sadly, the more traditional thrash banger "No Man's Land" lets some of the air out of an otherwise stormy performance that, at just five songs, ends far too soon for a truly objective analysis of Divine Chaos' qualities. With just one full-length album in the bag (last year's "A New Dawn in the Age of War") however, the potential is there to be exploited. With an ear for an engaging riff and a mind for coming across as somewhat threatening, Divine Chaos have sufficient performance tools for enamouring an audience - provided it is not ridden with fanatically trve metalheads.

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Vader

Despite never producing the most original or ground breaking death metal, Vader have always found strength in staying true to themselves. For their convictions the quartet is regarded as a cult legend by some, and certainly in Denmark their brand of uncompromising high speed punishment has always enjoyed a sound following. This fact is witnessed by the thick mass of people now crammed into Loppen's smallish confines to witness a setlist tending toward the old and the really old, including a number of original demo versions of eventual album tracks entitled and growled in the band's native Polish. For devout fans of Vader the evening must therefore be something akin to a bountiful treasure chest, with "Trupi Jad" (which later became "Reign-Carrion" of course), "Tyrani Piekiel" ("Tyrants of Hell") and "Gin Psie" sure to send shivers down such persons' spines.

And let's be honest, in spite of the relative homogeny of Vader's repertoire and the clarity with which that fact manifests itself throughout their 45-minute concert, few bands floor the pedal and emit an air of authority quite as well as Vader. The supreme confidence of vocalist/guitarist Piotr Wiwczarek, guitarist Marek Pajak, bassist Tomasz Halicki and drummer James Stewart in their own material is astounding to behold, while an excellent sound mix ensures the band's high octane death metal grooves are offered with all the generosity of a cataclysmic meteor strike. "Breath of Centuries", "The Final Massacre" and "Decapitated Saints" in the middle of the set in particular form a fearsome trifecta and receive an appropriately violent moshpit in response, all the while Wiwczarek and Halicki look as if under some evil, unearthly trance. There is madness in their eyes that feels so becoming to Vader's style, and indeed, it is not the performance or delivery that drags my impression down somewhat. Rather, is is the fact that while Vader's songs are consistently solid and designed to elicit a strong headbanging reaction, they are often difficult to tell apart (unless one happens to be a diehard fan), and as such, at some point during the set one's attention begins to droop until another standout track like the already mentioned "Tyrani Piekiel" restores it.

7

Venom Inc.

In many ways the truer of the two contemporary incarnations of legendary NWOBHM troop Venom, it seems an injustice that original members Abaddon (drums) and Mantas (guitar) were forced (or chose, in order to avoid unecessary strife?) to append inc. to the moniker and so come across as merely a tribute act, whereas Cronos and his duo of hired guns stole away as the 'genuine' bunch. But ask any long standing fan of Venom, and they'll tell you the truth of the matter is that only the first three albums - 1981's "Welcome to Hell", 1982's "Black Metal" and 1984's "At War with Satan" - really matter when it comes to examining the veterans' huge influence on the metal genre. Hardly surprising then, that such fans have largely opted to shun Venom and rather invest their faith in Venom Inc., whose sole focus (at least for now) seems to be that classic trident, added a number of choice tracks from 1989's "Prime Evil", 1991's "Temples of Ice" and 1992's "The Waste Lands", which of course were the three albums to feature this exact line-up, completed by bassist/vocalist Tony 'Demolition Man' Dolan.

It is only appropriate thus, that the band's march onto the low stage happens to the introductory tune of "Eine kleine Nachtmusik", and that the first in tonight's parade of classics should be the very first song on which the trio performed together: namely "Prime Evil". I will leave it for the individual readers to imagine the crowd's thunderous reaction to this, despite the fact that it represents one of the weaker links in the setlist that Venom Inc. have assembled for this tour. So sweet is this reunion that most people seem oblivious to the lack of volume and punch in the mix during its and the following "Die Hard"'s delivery, content to revel in how back-to-basics the size and setup of this production is, and the enthusiasm beaming from Abaddon, Mantas and Dolan's faces. Indeed, from the sound of the start gun, these gaffers mean business.

Once the sound quality is restored to a level befitting the trio's badassery, just in time for a gut punching rendition of "Live Like an Angel (Die Like a Devil)", there really isn't much to complain about. Mantas and Dolan play and perform with the same youthful recklessness that made Venom such an intriguing and controversial proposition in the first place, sparing no ounce of energy to ensure the audience remains captive in their palms for the duration of the concert. Dolan's psychotic death stare and vigorous handling of the bass guitar are a perfect match for his gruff, baritone roars; while Mantas' semi-tinted red sun glasses, denim vest and belt strung bandana signal zero fucks given, a mantra he carries into his organic and swagger fueled work on the six strings. No way around it: Venom Inc. resemble a certain Motörhead (to whom they are frequently likened) before decades of substance abuse caught up with Lemmy Kilmister.

That even in their 50s, Venom Inc. can muster up more attitude and joy for their tradecraft than most punk bands of our day goes a long way toward explaining how far from finished the trio was in 1992. Now reinvigorated, and in direct competition with the 'actual' Venom, the gents have a point to prove; a point they force through with intense conviction even if songs like "Warhead" and "The Seven Gates of Hell" aren't quite up to par with the general standard upheld tonight. It's hard, it's heavy, it's fast and, most importantly, it's the kind of performance one cannot unfix one's eyes from thanks in equal part to Dolan's maniacal antics and amusing anecdotes in between the songs, Mantas' swagger, and the ice cool percussion of Abaddon.

As expected, the show culminates in a slew of fan favourites comprising "Sons of Satan", "Welcome to Hell", the crucial "Black Metal", and naturally also "Countess Bathory", as the moshpit that has been operating all night descends into further chaos. The sing-songs are as loud as they should be to songs this significant, and I myself am stood slightly back wondering how young heavy metal would-be's can motivate themselves to soldier on in the face of the power and bravado of which a band of Venom Inc.'s collective age is capable. Hats off to the boys for harnessing a more real take on Venom than Venom itself. I have a feeling we'll be seeing them again soon enough...

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Setlist:

  • 01. Prime Evil
  • 02. Die Hard
  • 03. Don't Burn the Witch
  • 04. Live Like an Angel (Die Like a Devil)
  • 05. Buried Alive
  • 06. Raise the Dead
  • 07. One Thousand Days in Sodom
  • 08. Warhead
  • 09. Schizo
  • 10. The Seven Gates of Hell
  • 11. In Nomine Satanas
  • 12. Bloodlust
  • 13. Sons of Satan

--Encore--

  • 14. Welcome to Hell
  • 15. Black Metal
  • 16. Countess Bathory

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