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Long credited with inventing black metal, veteran Newcastle trio Venom can pretty much do whatever it wants and get away with it, but the group's surprising return to form in 2006 with the comeback album Metal Black proved that they (bassist/singer Cronos is the only remaining original member) still had something evil to say. 2008's Hell (calling a Venom record Hell is like naming your dog "barky") may not be clever, forward thinking, or subtle, but it's certainly reliable. The production is a notch up from Metal Black's deliberately lo-fi celebration of its former glories, and the songs are expertly played, dutifully sparse and legitimately cruel, boasting typical Venom-esque titles like "Stab U in the Back," "Evilution Devilution," and "USA for Satan." At this point in its career, Venom need not fall prey to the dangers of growth, especially when the genre that it helped birth continues to breed both new bands and new fans. Like Motörhead, who also continue to release the same album every couple of years, it's more about staying in the game than changing the rules.

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