Venom – Welcome To Hell

10 Overall Score
Songs: 10/10
Attitude: 10/10
Production: 1/10

Everything.

The production, but that was done purposely and is not really a flaw.

Venom
Welcome To Hell
Neat Records
1981

So I go the record store and purchase a bargain barrel 99 cent cassette of NWOBHM (new wave of British heavy metal) songs by various bands. I left the store, unwrapped the cassette an immediately popped into my car’s tape deck (yeah I’m old) and guess what? It SUCKED! And not like a “so bad it’s good” thing – the songs were all lame and flat and just plain dead. I could never write music like it; music so totally devoid of anything that might attract anybody that I had to wonder who could possibly like it, and who could get excited enough about it to actually play it. The songs were THAT BAD. But – wait a second – the very last song on the lousy tape was still to come. I was not expecting anything different. I was actually glad that it was almost over. As it happens that last song was Venom’s Witching Hour. I immediately sat up and took notice. It was at that moment that my life changed forever. My musical life sure, but it went deeper than that. I was a teenage metalhead before I found that tape, but I had never heard anything like Witching Hour. I played it again and again and then went home and played it again and again some more. I could not stop. It was like discovering the place where I was meant to be.

I know that right about now you are thinking “who is this Venom and how did they change his life?” And guess what – I’m gonna tell you. Venom is a three piece band made up of Cronos (Conrad Lant) on bass and vocals, Mantas (Jeff Dunn) on guitar and Abaddon (Anthony Bray) pounding the drums. Just three guys. They formed in 1978 with, according to Cronos, the goal of being the heaviest band of all time. He said something along the lines of that Black Sabbath are not heavy, using the example of Ozzy crying out “Oh God please help me” on the song Black Sabbath as an example. Because there is no God anywhere near Venom – they played the Satan thing to the hilt, although they do not really worship the devil. I know this because I partied with them in 1985.

 

Venom will never, ever be topped for sheer power. It’s balls out for the whole ride. You see, Venom occupies a little niche that I have never really seen discussed, maybe I made it up myself. The niche is being a band that combined seventies hard rock with its changes, riffs and hooks, and the newly emerging speed metal genre that focused more on repetitiveness and soon to come a “singer” who tries to spit out whatever he thinks Satan should sound like. Of course Venom were not the only ones in that “genre” at the time but they were the best. By far. Their music – they have these great riffs and hooks but the music is still heavier than anyone else’s. No repetetiveness. And no Satan voice – he spits and snarls yes, but he’s not doing “that” voice. You know the voice that was cool the first time you heard it but afterwards became very annoying. No, here you have great riffs and hooks not played on eleven, but on infinity because they cannot be topped. Only three guys making the loudest, heaviest music you have ever heard.

I have been playing this particular album, their first, for over thirty years now and I never tire of it. I’m the 51 year old guy who is blasting out Venom songs in traffic. Yes. I am that guy. I could go over all of the songs but I am not – I think the description alone would make anyone decide if Venom is a band that they might like or not. They are definitely a “love them or hate them” type of band. They are too in your face for any type of middle ground. But I will briefly touch upon some of the songs from Welcome To Hell (incidentally their first album). It starts on infinity with Sons Of Satan and never lets up except for a brief interlude called Mayhem With Mercy. Some of the things you will get – Poison, a song about venereal disease (“the dirty little bitch has got me poisoned”); One Thousand Days In Sodom which has a trully ripping bass solo in the middle followed by lead guitar; In League With Satan, an absolute must if you want to frighten and/or annoy people; Angel Dust, which is so fast and loud that you can hardly discern the chords (but they are there); Witching Hour, the song that corrupted me; and the last song, my favorite, Red Light Fever, an ode to having sex with a prostitute and then not paying her that has the absolute most insane guitar solo/bridge in music history. The solo starts off with Cronos shouting “suck it, baby” and then Mantas abuses the whammy bar to the point of destruction while Cronos shouts things like “What’d you say” Ten inches? You got it” in the background (I should mention that a sense of humor pervades the whole album). The song ends with Cronos shouting “faster, faster” and the band speeds up to the point of no return. Play that song on eleven and I guarantee that you will be sitting there in shock when it is over. To be fully appreciated you should play Venom LOUD. So turn it up.

There is one (large) caveat about Venom though. While they inspired millions of people, their whole legend is based on the first two albums, this one and their second, Black Metal, which is just as good. The third album is pretty good, the fourth less so, and then the personnel changes started, and although Venom has been steadily releasing albums and touring since 1981 it is all about those first two records. I was lucky enough to see the original lineup perform theing songs from the first two albums back in the 1980’s but I am sure that they would still be a kick in the ass to see today. One other thing you should know is that they recorded those albums lo-fi on purpose. The production is crap. It is supposed to be. It would not be the same were they done all neat and clean. By the way, I covered some of their songs just for fun (using only a camera phone so they are rough); look my name up on YouTube and there are a couple there. And remember – Venom are NOT metal. That’s right. They are rock music taken to its absolute extreme. There is nobody else like them.

Welcome to hell.

 

 

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Jeff Strichart
Author: Jeff Strichart View all posts by

Jeff Strichart has been a frustrated musician for almost forty years. He is also a producer and has mixed and/or mastered many local Colorado bands. Aside from his music and production he enjoys his dogs, motorcycles, collecting vintage BMX bicycles, reading and his new found love of sound design using hardware synthesizers and has licensed material to the BBC for use in their television programs.

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