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It All Started Here..! - 85%

DeathGrind75, September 1st, 2007

Whichever way you look at it, 'Welcome To Hell' is a massively important album in the history and development of metal in general, let alone kick-starting the thrash/speed metal sub-genre. It may not be entirely original; right from the opening track, 'Sons Of Satan', there's a distinct Motorhead feel, whilst 'Schizo', 'Poison' and 'Angel Dust' hint at some underlying punk influence; in other places there are tinges of Judas Priest and NWOBHM. These are only elements of the whole, though, and Venom added to the mix plenty of distortion, aggression and an overall sound that was completely their own.

Sabbath had created metal that was doom-laden and oppressive, Motorhead and Priest made it heavier and faster, but up until this point nothing in metal packed quite as much punch for sheer intensity and raw aggression. There's no denying that this release paved the way for US bands that emerged over the next few years: Metallica, Slayer, Exodus. Early black metal bands like Bathory and Norway's Mayhem (who took their name from this album), both acknowledged Venom, and their influence can also be heard on early recordings by Possessed - cited by many as the first true death metal band.

'Welcome To Hell' may not be a masterpiece, but it does contain some real gems: 'Live Like An Angel (Die Like A Devil)' is a deftly-executed thrasher and does actually demonstrate their ability to play (!), while 'Witching Hour' (later covered by Mayhem on their legendary 'Deathcrush' mini-album) is surely the first true thrash metal classic. 'In League With Satan', with it's tribal rhythms and Cronos's evil-sounding, echo-chamber growl, laid the groundwork for black metal (though it bears little relation to today's exponents of the sub-genre such as Emperor and Cradle Of Filth) and the album finishes with the wonderfully chaotic 'Red Light Fever'.

Okay, the production is muddy and grimy, some of the playing is a little sloppy at times and the guitars are out-of-tune, but when I listen to this record I'm hit by the raw intensity of it, and playing it recently I felt the same sense of exhilaration as I did on first hearing it some 20 years ago. For me, the rough edges in the production (or lack of it) adds to the spontaneous feel of the record in the same way as it did with something like The Stooges' red-raw classic 'Funhouse'. If you want polished, note-for-note, perfectly-performed rock, you can always buy the latest Aerosmith or Def Leppard release! Personally, I’m not that fussy, and this record still kicks ass!