Where to start? I’ve been listening to this album for a little while now, alternately immersing myself in it then having it on in the background, doing other things, all the time looking for some sort of weakness in Venom Inc.’s armour, some sort of decisive reason to say ‘Cronos and his version of the band are better! These men are imposters!’. But I haven’t found anything.

Whilst the last Venom album 2015’s From the Very Depths, did the very best it could to uphold the Venom mythos, it failed, basically down to the fact that the songs weren’t much cop. Venom Inc. – who, let’s not forget, contain the man who wrote most if not all of the band’s classic material – guitarist Mantas – encounter no such problems with Avé. It’s maybe twenty minutes too long, but other than that this is one of the strongest metal albums you’re likely to hear all year.

The key to this is the variety the band brings to the table. There are bog standard Venom tracks here – I’ll let you decide for yourselves which ones fall into that category – but there is also an absolute mountain of high quality heavy metal on offer here. Opener Avé Satanas sets the scene in traditional Venomistic style, but next track Forged in Hell is the first out-and-out stormer you’ll encounter, featuring some marvellous guitar work from Mantas. Bassist vocalist Tony ’Demolition Man’ Dolan holds his end of the bargain up too, whilst Abaddon, never the first drummer on anybody’s ‘masterclasses I must attend’ list, puts in an utterly superb performance in every respect. I for one can’t ever remember him ever sounding this good.

The Rammstein stylings of Dein Fleisch seem to have surprised a few diehards but it’s easily the most interesting track on display – though not necessarily the best – whilst the closing triumvirate of War, I Kneel to No God and Black n’Roll are among the best this trio of men has ever put it’s name to.

War is punishing mid-paced thrash of the highest order, whilst the adamantine axe majesty I Kneel to No God rides in on the back of some deliciously Priestesque riffage (think back to the days of Point of Entry for reference). Closer Black n’Roll is one of the most appealing heavy metal list songs you’ll encounter, and if it’s a bit throwaway that’s not to deny the sheer power – or, just as importantly, the commitment – of the performances involved.

Of course it’s silly to get involved in rows over who should and shouldn’t call themselves this, that or whatever, but if this were some sort of Geordie metal death match then I’d have to say this round goes unequivocally to Venom Inc. …

Avé will be released by Nuclear Blast on August 11th.