Inside the Battle Between Venom and Venom Inc.

Jonas Rogowski, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons Stefan Bollmann, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons
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Unless you are brand new to the heavy metal game, chances are good that you’ve heard of Venom. Spawned in 1979 in the Northern England city of Newcastle upon Tyne, the band’s original members of frontman Conrad “Cronos” Lant , guitarist Jeff “Mantas” Dunn  guitar, and drummer Anthony “Abaddon” left an indelible mark on the world of extreme music.

Having coined the term that birthed the genre, Venom’s 1982 album Black Metal as well as their full-length debut Welcome To Hell introduced a new brand of evil and sonic sleaze to the lexicon. 

Although this classic lineup initially split in 1987, they got back together in 1995 for long enough to record a new EP and full-length. However, internal struggles forced Abaddon to leave the band in 1999; with Mantas following suit in 2002.

While Cronos has continued for all of these years under the original banner, Mantas and Abaddon teamed up with bassist Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan (who had initially taken over Cronos’ role in Venom when he left from 1989 until 1995) under the name Venom Inc.

Rock and metal bands reuniting are all the rage these days, but don’t hold your breath for the original Venom lineup to share the stage anytime soon. Cronos and Mantas have a long-standing feud that was rekindled through a series of interviews in December 2022, and they’re not shy about airing their dirty laundry in public. 

In a 2022 interview with Metal Hammer, Cronos said the chances of the original trio reuniting were “less than zero.” He claims he owes his old bandmates nothing and wants nothing from them. He’s pretty dismissive of their mid-90s reunion, too, and has zero interest in sharing a stage with the “doddery old fuckers” again.

At present, Cronos is backed in Venom by guitarist Stuart “Rage” Dixon and drummer Danny “Dante” Needham, who joined in 2007 and 2009, respectively. However, founding members Mantas and Abaddon, along with Demolition Man, have been repping Venom Inc. since 2015. Abaddon left the lineup in 2018, replaced by Jeramie ‘Warmachine’ Kling.

Venting his frustrations during a discussion on Heavy Culture, Mantas shot back at Cronos’ dismissive quips, saying: “Venom Inc. are the people who have been asked to do the anniversary shows. And we’ve done it. Because you know why? Because this fucking shit show of three originals can’t get their fucking act together to get together on a stage and give the fans that. And [Cronos is] turning around now and saying, ‘Oh, I’m not getting on stage with those doddery old fuckers to give a subpar performance.’ I’ll tell you what: watch the videos of your own band if you wanna see a subpar performance. This pisses me off to the hilt.”

In an interesting twist, Mantas reveals his attempts to organize a live event featuring every past member of Venom, celebrating their respective eras. “Mikey Hickey, Jim Clare, fucking Abaddon, Cronos, Mantas, Tony Dolan, Al Barnes, fucking Dante, Stu — whatever his fucking name is — they should all be on one stage together playing their era of Venom, and at the end of the night, the original lineup plays some of the classic songs just for the fans,” he said.

“I put that out. Who contacted me? Fucking nobody. Because none of them have got the balls to do it. And that’s the fucking truth” 

Mantas also disputes some of Cronos’ claims, such as who booked Venom for the ’96 Dynamo Festival. Cronos claims credit, but Mantas insists it was their manager Eric Cook and Abaddon.

In the end, it seems, fans will have to divide their time between Venom and Venom Inc. to enjoy performances from Cronos and Mantas.

For what it’s worth, chaos has always been the band’s proverbial bread and butter; and it doesn’t get more chaotic than this nonsense.