Welcome to the beginning of something big. If you were to trace back the lineage of all heavy metal bands you would eventually find yourself staring at Black Sabbath. But what about all the different branches of the extreme metal tree, where did they originate? Personally, I think thrash, speed, death, black and any other extreme sub-genre you can name all owe a debt to the mighty Venom.
Venom was like a malignant mutant growth on the face of music back in 1981 when “Welcome to Hell” was released. I don’t know what was in the water they were drinking but there just wasn’t anything quite like Venom at the time. The closest I can get to anything this different is Motorhead. I looked up heavy metal from 1981 on Wikipedia to see what else came out that year and here are some of the things I found: “Mob Rules” by Black Sabbath, “Killers” by Iron Maiden, “Point of Entry” by Judas Priest, “Too Fast For Love” by Motley Crue, “Diary of a Madman” by Ozzy, and “Fair Warning” by Van Halen. And then you’ve got Venom with their overt Satanism and Cronos with his nowhere near melodic vocal snarl. WTF?!?!
Whatever made these guys decide that (left hand) path was the one they should follow, I’m glad they did. Their second album, “Black Metal” is credited with both creating and naming the genre. But really these songs don’t sound much like what we consider black metal today (I think more along the lines of Mayhem and Emperor.) The vocals really sound more like they should fall into the death metal category, and the music could really be likened to speed and thrash metal. Bathory came along a few years later to pick up the black metal torch, but it really all began here.
My favorite Venom album is actually “Black Metal” because it contains the title track and the greatest Venom track of all, “Countess Bathory.” But “Welcome to Hell” has some great tracks as well: “Welcome to Hell”, “Witching Hour”, “One Thousand Days in Sodom” and the second greatest Venom song, “In League With Satan.” Complete with backwards messages and a catchy chorus that just gets stuck in your head, “In League With Satan” was probably most evil song of its time. This chorus of this song just runs over and over on repeat in my head after a single listen.
Venom is still putting out albums today, with Cronos being the only original member, but I like to stick with the classic albums mostly. They may not sound as extreme as the metal of today, but you have to give respect to what they created and all the music that has resulted because of them. They suffer from the same problem the Ramones did; they created a genre and get a lot of acknowledgement from fans, but never really found much commercial success. That’s a shame. They’ve got my thanks and gratitude.