By Carl Begai
It’s fair to say that M:Pire Of Evil – featuring former Venom members Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan (vocals/bass) and Jeff “Mantas” Dunn (guitars) with Marc “JXN” Jackson (drums) – gave 2013 a solid ass-kicking. Between a new album, festival dates, one-off club shows and a European tour with Onslaught the trio were busy from March through December, bent on building up momentum for an even busier 2014. There were a few setbacks along the way, of course, the biggest one of the bunch seeing Dunn sidelined for the first week of the Onslaught tour due to a back injury. That didn’t stop the M:Pire from delivering, however, with Dolan and Jackson hitting the stage as a duo supported by temporary Onslaught guitarist Leigh Chambers (ex-Collapse); a mark of real integrity and all out balls if there ever was one.
Chambers, it turns out, was the only guitarist on a four band bill that dared to step into Dunn’s shoes, learning a Venom song a day over a matter of hours to offer M:Pire Of Evil fans more than just a rhythm section bludgeoning. A nerve-wracking experience for the three musicians but their efforts were well appreciated all around.
“I told Leigh not to try and play like Jeff, just to play like himself playing that music,” says Dolan. “When he plays with Onslaught it’s very precise, there are lot of twists and turns and stops and accents. He has to really be on it. He didn’t have time to do that with us, so we kept it as loose as we could so it sounded like Venom. The idea was that if he wandered, he wandered, and if he couldn’t remember a lick or whatever Leigh just did what he felt like. He just had to put his heart into it and that’s what the kid did.”
“The one thing I didn’t want to do, which was difficult, was compromise ourselves,” he adds. “We just said ‘Fuck it!’ and got up there and just did it. Having Leigh on stage with us made things a little less stressful. Mikey from Onslaught asked us if we were going to get rid of Jeff as Leigh learned more of the songs (laughs).” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
The real old-schoolers out there are aware of the impact Venom had on the thrash metal scene when they clawed their way out of the UK muck in 1981 with Welcome To Hell and put out Black Metal a year later. Diehard Venom fans also remember when frontman Cronos left and was replaced by Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan for three albums and an EP from ’89 – ’92, a move that went over surprisingly well at the start. Fast forward through years of attempted reunions and aborted projects to 2010, where Dolan teamed up once again with Venom guitarist Jeff “Mantas” Dunn to form Mpire Of Evil. It’s a venture that could have gone to hell after the release of the Creatures Of The Black EP in 2011 – and not in appreciated Venom fashion – but instead the band buckled down for a full album (Hell To The Holy) and a North American tour with Onslaught to help get the word out. It’s a move that seems to have worked.
This year will see the release of Crucified, an album featuring re-magined versions of Venom songs from the Dolan era. Some folks will dismiss the move as a cash grab, of course, but those that have been paying attention and / or were lucky enough to see Mpire Of Evil live will give the band their due. As one of a handful of people that heard the album well in advance of the release, I can tell you Crucified is a jaw-dropper for anyone that knows the original tracks.
Dolan recently discussed where the idea for Crucified came from and why the Mpire decided to follow through at this early stage of the game.
“When we were on tour going through California, Marc (Jackson / drums) asked if I had any Venom stuff on me. I did in fact have a compilation CD with me, so we pulled that out and he commented that some of the material was great and that we should do something with it. That planted the seed for Crucified in a way. I’d spoken to Jeff about it, and there are certain songs that we quite like, but I thought it would be wrong for us to pick the tracks to be re-recorded. I thought we should ask the fans who like that material to choose the tracks they’d like to hear. The three of us went and made our own lists of the songs we personally would like to re-do, then we got the lists from the fans on Facebook, and made a master list of all the songs chosen. Whenever a song came up more than five or six times, we marked that one down for the album. Basically, we had the tracklist selected for us by the fans.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
It’s fair to say that former Venom bandmates Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan (vocals/bass) and Jeff “Mantas” Dunn (guitars) do their best work as a unit. There are folks that labelled Dolan a pretender to original / current Venom singer Cronos’ pincushion throne when he stomped in for three albums from 1989 – 1992 (Prime Evil, Temples Of Ice, The Waste Lands), but Dolan is still recognized as an integral part of the band’s history. The fans were reminded of this in 2004 when Dolan joined Dunn’s new albeit short-lived project, Mantas. It was a venture that died before its time, largely regarded as a nice try and not much else. When the buzz of another reunion project started up in 2010, however – this time with ex-Venom drummer Antton Lant in the mix – people were all ears, particularly since the trio had chosen to work under the banner Prime Evil as a tip of the hat to their collective past. One name change and Lant’s unfortunate but amicable departure later, Dolan and Dunn are in arguably better form than ever with Mpire Of Evil.
“We had a long discussion before anything got off the ground,” Dolan admits. “Every time we’ve tried to get back together it’s been because we wanted to, and every time we stopped it was because of some other fucker, never because of us. The Mantas thing for example; we did the album (Zero Tolerance), we shot a video, we did the Earthshaker Festival in Germany, but when we got back it became apparent to me rather quickly that the record company (Demolition Records) might not be spending the money promoting the album they way they should have been. I told them that if they didn’t invest in it, thing were going to go the same way they always have. We had a big discussion with management and the record company, and I wouldn’t let it go. I kept bringing it up and they got so pissed off at me in the end, thinking that I’d become a bit of a problem saying they should do this and that. The label eventually told Jeff that he either dropped me or they were going to drop the band.” Continue Reading