With Cronos’s Venom still soldiering onwards, original guitarist Jeff ‘Mantas’ Dunn’s incarnation of the band has also returned with their second full-length under the Venom Inc. name. Having re-enlisted Prime Evil-era frontman Tony Dolan ‘Demolition Man’ in 2015 to tour some Venom classics again, the trio attempted to prove they were powered by more than mere nostalgia with 2017’s patchy Avé, a muddled collection of songs ranging from solid to awful. There’s Only Black, by contrast, is much more consistent; its highs may not match the vintage Venom riffery of Avé’s Forged In Hell, for example, but there’s also nothing as toe-curlingly embarrassing as Dein Fleisch here either.
Despite the more subtle, minimalist cover art, the band’s sound is still as brash and bombastic as ever. The groove metal influence that crept into Avé is still here, especially on chuggier cuts such as Rampant and Inferno, but Mantas’s iconic riffing style shines through on sleazier numbers like Nine and the thrashy title track. Tony’s gruff bark is a lot more generic than Cronos’s infamous snarl, but he turns in a dependable performance nonetheless, while gloomier tracks such as Don’t Feed Me Your Lies and Burn Liar Burn give him a chance to show off some more evocative, emotive basslines.
As with every legacy act that ends up splitting in half, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the ideal version of Venom lies somewhere in between the two and we’d all be better off if they’d just sit down and iron out their differences. But while Cronos’s Venom has arguably descended into self-parody in recent years, Venom Inc. feel far more robust and energised. There’s nothing here you haven’t heard before, but fans of that Prime Evil line-up will be pleased to hear this is the most powerful they’ve sounded in years.