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Welcome to Hell Indeed... - 100%

Flavius, April 21st, 2008

When this little monstrosity first hit the music scene way back in 1981 few people knew what to make of it. Released by a small independent U.K. label called Neat Records, the music contained within must have shocked the crap out of anyone brave enough to venture past the pentagram adorned cover and give it a listen. What awaited the unsuspecting listener was music so raw, amateurish sounding and badly produced, yet at the same time aggressive, original and dripping with attitude.

It's never been a great secret that Venom were not the best of musicians. Even the band themselves have admitted as much on numerous occasions. Mantas' guitar work is fairly simplistic, Cronos' base playing was barely adequate and Abaddon's drumming is downright horrible. Yet it all somehow seems to fit together quite nicely. It seems as though the band members were aware of their respective limitations as musicians and did not attempt anything they wouldn’t be able to handle. And the end result is surprisingly good.

What we have here is a collection of N.W.O.B.H.M. proto-thrash classics. Despite often being credited as the godfathers of black metal, death metal and extreme metal in general, those expecting to hear music that actually resembles any of those sub-genres here will be sadly disappointed. The music is fast, furious and aggressive, with obvious nods to Motorhead (sonically) and Black Sabbath (thematically). All the songs are extremely catchy, and you can’t help but feel a sense of fun about the whole album, despite the rather dark and evil subject matter. Standout tracks are “Welcome to Hell”, “Live Like an Angel”, “In League with Satan”, “1,000 Days in Sodom” and the absolute classic (and much covered) “Witching Hour”.

Another thing that must be also mentioned is that the production here is absolutely horrendous. The whole album sounds as if it was actually recorded somewhere in the pits of Hell, and this may put some people off. Guitar sound is very muddy and the drums sound like cardboard boxes. It all sounds very cheap and amateurish, yet somehow it would be hard to imagine it any different. It definitely fits the dark, sinister and filthy atmosphere of the songs.

The one thing about Venom that is unfortunately lost on a lot of people is their great sense of humour. Someone once described them as “the Monty Python of heavy metal” and I couldn’t agree more. Their ultra-evil personas and satanic posturing are so over the top it is downright hilarious. Their lyrics dealing with all sorts of evil, occult and satanic subject matter are very much tongue-in-cheek, as is their whole image. Once could say that in some ways they’re more “Spinal Tap” than Spinal Tap.

Having said that, there’s no denying Venom’s importance in shaping heavy metal into what it is today, and this album stands as a fine document of their contribution to the genre. Every song here is an absolute classic and exudes energy, charm and passion that is often lacking in more technical and musically proficient releases. However, those expecting high-end musicianship and great sonic fidelity may want to stay away. Others who don’t hold such things in high regard and enjoy their music rough, dirty and mean should enjoy and appreciate this historic release.