NWOBHM WEDNESDAY: VENOM
Very few names in metal stir up the kind of controversy that Venom does. Formed in 1979 the band would unleash "Welcome To Hell " in 1981 during the tale end of NWOBHM. More of a mystery than anything Venom would not hit the road right away in support of the album and it helped to create intrigue about the band. The album itself is poorly produced, sloppy and features such over the top Satanic imagery that it's hard to take it seriously. I had Welcome To Hell on cassette as a teenager and thought it was the most evil album I'd ever heard. It made Highway To Hell sound like a collection of children's classics. Now though I listen to songs like "Live Like An Angel(Die Like A Devil)","One Thousand Days In Sodom" ,"Angel Dust" and of course the classic "Welcome To Hell" and it's just silly. That said though there has always been something about the album that makes it cool. Maybe it's the almost punk feel of it or just that it's played so over the top that does it for me. I'm not sure. This album though and the follow up "Black Metal" are both landmark albums. Venom helped not only pave the way for black metal but also bands like Slayer. By album number four (1985's "Possessed") Venom was just barely hanging on. Line up changes and the band's lack of growth (let's face it the novelty wore off a long time ago for Venom) would lead up to the release of 1987's poor "Calm Before The Storm". First guitarist Mantas left (before "Calm Before The Storm") followed by vocalist/bassist Cronos. Mantas would return and reform Venom without Cronos although what followed were albums that sounded nothing like Venom as well as countless re-recordings. It wouldn't be until 1997 that Cronos and Mantas would put aside their past and release "Cast In Stone" . Another breakup followed (Cronos and Mantas never would learn to play nice together) before the two got together to release "Resurrection" in 2000. Since then if memory serves me Venom has released several more compilations, re-recordings and (without Mantas) two studio albums. I should mention that drummer Abaddon was the only drummer in Venom from the "Welcome To Hell" album until "Cast In Stone". While Venom might seem tame by today's standards with all the black metal and death metal bands out there the fact is that like Witchfynde they set the stage for countless bands. Venom wasn't your typical NWOBHM that's a certain. I read somewhere that the original idea for the band was to create a sound that mixed Black Sabbath with Motorhead. I think they succeeded and even if their work doesn't have the staying power of other NWOBHM bands you can't deny their lasting legacy.
Metal Mark says-
More than any other band from the NWOBHM movement Venom got lucky to an extent. On "Welcome to hell" it's fairly obvious they could barely play their instruments. Yet they were huge influences in the 80's on everyone from Metallica to Celtic Frost. Venom's early material was hugely influential on early thrash and black metal. "Welcome to hell" and "Black Metal" were as much as music, but still they were two of the heavier albums of the early 80's. After that the band kept trying the same formula while the bands they influenced like Slayer, Metallica, Exodus and others passed them by. The satanic imagery was pure gimmick for the trio and they used it like Manowar used the warrior act. Venom's fast, noisy songs caught a lot of people's attention early on, but looking back at their early material I actually think slower songs like"Countess Bathory" and "Manitou" have held up much better almost three decades later. After the stale "Possessed" the band bounced around on labels and changed line-ups and musical styles numerous times. Despite or maybe because of all their cheese these guys were actually my favorite band in the late 80's and early 90's. I played my cassettes of their first three albums over and over back then before finally growing tired of them. I have been listening to them quite a lot lately and nowadays I actually their best material were the first two albums without Cronos those being "Prime Evil" and "Temples of Ice". The cheese factor was still there, but the production was more crisp, the music heavier and it sounded like some time between 1985 and 1989 Mantas took some guitar lessons. Still this band definitely made their mark on the metal world.