After a spirited set from long-toothed local heroes Reign of Terror and another superbly dependable outing from Desecrator – is there a better pure bred thrash band anywhere to be found in this great southern land? – we hurriedly gather liquid supplies and seek out vantage points in a pleasantly busy midweek Basement. We’re here for the first ever Australian live assault from Venom Inc.Venom by any other name – welcome to hell!

Actually, they don’t start with that particular black metal classic, preferring to introduce themselves with a superbly reptilian, serpentine version of Ave Satanas from last years superb Avé opus, but we’re off and running and the faithful at the barrier are already betraying early signs of mind loss.

Welcome to Hell follows, still the superbly noisome, clattering beast it always was, though sounding strangely serene as it hammers out of the PA at less-than-timpanic-membrane-rupturing volume.

Metal We Bleed is much more like it, battering away on the edge of chaos, brutal yet melodic as the best Venom has always been.

Mantas cranks out the riffs with a grim faced demeanour that actually belies the joys he gets from his black-clad creations, the Demolition Man gurns maniacally as he spits out his hymns of desolation and filth; the pair make for a fine yin and yang front of stage – or maybe a Gog and Magog? Buttressed at all times by the piston-legged thunderquake that is Abaddon behind the kit. They make for an unholy trinity for sure, not to mention an unholy racket, though at the same time being possessed of what Milton would have called a terrible beauty that is hard – impossible -to look away from.

I’m not going to go through the set list track by track – Venom shows aren’t made for forensic contemplation as much as they are surely the closest thing to contact sport the ‘old guard’ of metal ever came up with, with the possible exception of fellow Geordies Raven – suffice to mention that with each successive blast from the stygian depths the hair of the audience becomes collectively more matted in exact proportion to the rising levels of pleasure and hysteria evident in the room.

Highlights? OK, Countess Bathory was pretty special, but it’s the catharsis you come for, the sense of being consumed by something bigger than ‘just’ music. And Venom Inc. definitely supplied the catharsis that Canberra so clearly needed on this balmy Thursday evening. If you get the chance to see this show when it comes to your town, don’t pass it up.


Venom Inc play The Manning Bar in Sydney tonight (Friday), before hitting Brisbane, Wellington, Auckland, Hobart, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. Get involved!