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A Very Influential Record - 81%

DawnoftheShred, March 4th, 2009

The New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement yielded a lot of talented bands, many of which were underappreciated. Venom was not one of these. With a sound that was, at the time, the most reckless, menacing force in music, Venom rightly garnered acclaim and infamy. Though their music might appear a bit derivative nowadays, their striking sonic departure was pretty revolutionary at the time: one might call them the first extreme metal band.

Much debate goes on in the black metal community as to exactly how much influence (if any at all) Venom and the other so-called first-wave black metal bands contributed to the development of their beloved second-wave Norwegian stuff. Though I’d say that they were pretty integral, this is of little concern to me: Venom were a much more important influence to thrash metal. Listen to Slayer’s Show No Mercy album to hear the most direct evolution of Venom’s sound, and the entire Teutonic scene, the South American thrash bands, and countless others feature characteristics that can be directly linked back to Venom’s sound.

And what a sound it is. Though they weren’t entirely dissimilar from other NWOBHM bands (some of the up-tempo stuff on here is very Motorhead-ish), Venom’s entire presentation is as terrifyingly unique as Black Sabbath’s debut was a decade before. There are riffs that have a rocking NWOBHM vibe (“Sons of Satan,” “Poison”) and then there are some that are dirty and fearsome (“Witching Hour,” “One Thousand Days in Sodom”). The guitars are enveloped in fuzz and they sound like they’re barely in tune, making leads and melodies sound all the more reckless. There’s an almost intentional sloppiness to the record; the guitars and bass are so raw that you start to question whether some of the things you’re hearing are really even there. The drums are produced pretty poorly too, but they’re so frantic that it’s excusable. Cronos’ nearly atonal vocals are also a plus: his signature growl (drowned in reverb) and occasional shrieks have been echoed by Tom Araya and dozens of other thrash vocalists.

Lyrical content, devoted mostly to shock-value Satanism and blasphemies, was probably the most disturbing to listeners. These guys, with their out-of-the-gutter sound, devilish imagery, and overtly Satanic ambience (the backwards masking at the beginning of “In League with Satan” for instance), was too much for parents and moral watchdog groups. Of course it was all an act, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to this record.

With but one brief departure from the maelstrom (“Mayhem with Mercy,” a Black Sabbath-esque interlude track), it’s an almost completely virile extreme metal record. Diluted in light of the bands that it influenced, those groups would cease to exist if this album hadn’t opened the door. Hopefully the potential buyer will excuse the redundancy that goes with reviewing an album of Welcome to Hell’s notoriety and find a place for it in their collection.