Camp HRH, March 23 2017

So just who are the ‘true’ Venom? The Cronos-led incarnation – in which the frontman is the original member – or Venom Inc. the Prime Evil-era trio which features founders Abaddon and Mantas, plus Tony ‘Demolition Man’ Dolan?

Or does that question really matter, when fans of the band are now able to feast on two versions of the band and get their fix of Bloodlust, Black Metal et al?

Whatever the answer, Venom Inc. – recently signed to Nuclear Blast – are riding high on the momentum they’ve generated since their 2015 reunion.

They’ve reminded us of the legendary act’s visceral, primal energy, ripping up stages across a slew of festivals and laying down a marker on lengthy European and US tours. And here they were again, teaching a holiday camp full of black clad metallers how to lay down their souls to the gods rock and roll, welcoming them to their own, booze-drenched corner of Hades.

For many in the audience, this was the set of the festival, a joyride of blasphemous, primordial heavy metal that stunk of sweat, blood and gasoline. This was no tired nostalgia act going through the motions, but a bunch of gnarly veterans at the top of their live game, bringing decades of experience to Hammerfest and in no mood to let any young whippersnappers upstage them.

Dolan, head shaved, leather clad, snarling mouth pressed up againt his mic, was Venom Inc.’s formidable focal point; a bandana-sporting Mantas to his left, effortlessly peeling off riff after malevolent riff, looked like he could play all night.

Tight, aggressive and reassuringly intimidating, Venom Inc. seemed to have picked up since they left off in 1992, and are clearly enjoying every minute of their resurgence. Live Like An Angel, Die Like A Devil raged with chaotic fury, Angel Dust surged with pure adrenaline, Warhead exploded over North Wales and turned it into radioactive ash… you get the picture.

Throw in Welcome To Hell, Don’t Burn The Witch, Poison and Buried Alive to name but a few, and it may have seemed like a greatest hits set, but this thunderous performance also set the tone for the muscular trio’s ‘debut’ album: we certainly can’t see the forthcoming release being full of gentle, AOR ballads, that’s for sure.

The final verdict? If you’d been looking for the spirit of heavy metal that night, you’d have found it in Hammerfest’s main arena, bursting out of three Geordies who know what they mean to the scene and are determined to live up to their own legacy. Beat that.