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Welcome to the Average Listener's Hell - 98%

Superchard, August 30th, 2018

Let's get one thing straight, dear reader. Chances are if you're a Venom fan, you don't like anything past their first few albums all the way up to either At War with Satan or Possessed. In other words, Venom suck, and boy do they suck hard. They suck so hard; in fact, that their suckage finds them going into the negative numbers on the rating %, that they loop all the way around infinity to find themselves sitting in the upper reaches towards a perfect score. It's really nothing more than dumb luck, but that's what an album like Welcome to Hell represents when the production is so completely fucked that you can't quite decipher what anyone is doing clearly throughout the entire album, and I wouldn't have it any other way, seriously don't ask me to tab out the guitar parts for "Sons of Satan", I'm listening to it with headphones on and STILL can't make it out, yet I love it all the same, it has an undeniable infectious rock n' roll feel to it and while the musicians couldn't play their instruments worth a shit, it didn't matter because the spirit was still very much alive.

They were just the right kind of band to come right around in the year of 1981 when this debut album dropped. Just as punk rock as Misfits on their Earth A.D. album, but too distinctively metal to be labeled anything other than speed metal, the rawness of their early records and satanic themes on full display while bedecked in studs and leather made them like an evil version of Motorhead, and would give them the reputation of proto-black metal. That's at least more understandable than all those out there that claim Mercyful Fate to be proto-black metal, you can even kind of hear hints of black metal vocals in Cronos voice if you're really looking for it in very particular parts of songs like "Live Like an Angel (Die Like a Devil)". Still, even adding more street cred to Venom's name, Slayer would cite them as a major influence, and that influence could certainly be heard on Show No Mercy a couple years later.

Welcome to Hell is easily compared to Show No Mercy as it takes a straight and narrow approach to songwriting, but there are times where the band break out of their established boundaries and every time it happens on Welcome to Hell, it's so vastly out of one's expectations that it will take the listener by complete surprise every time it happens. It could be as simple as an acoustic passage with gong clashes and sitar(?) embellishments comprising "Mayhem with Mercy", or it could be the 'what the fuck, where did this random female spoken word section come from on the title track?'. And don't forget the jazz-funk bass interlude that intersects with a ferocious guitar solo drenched in reverb on "One Thousand Days in Sodom". Who let these nuts out of the insane asylum and why have they become so normal over the course of their discography?

Towards the end of the album, there's but one song that stands out as something that could be construed as 'catchy'; "In League with Satan" slows everything down a notch, and it's here that you can more clearly make out everything that's transpiring on Welcome to Hell. It might sound like a buzzkill to some listeners, but I've always liked the song and though it's a bit more repetitive than anything else on the album, it at least breaks up the pace of the album right before the final track, "Red Light Fever" allows the album to finish properly as the guitar dive bombs descend the final traces of the record into total chaos and Abaddon gives us one last pseudo blast beat oriented punk-ish metal-ish track from hell although the production is so indiscernible that it sounds like he's banging on cardboard or some bongos in place of a bass drum.

As unorthodox as they were, that's the name of the game when it comes to creating anything of artistic merit, and I don't mean to get all artsy fartsy on anyone here, it's not like this is an avant-garde album, but this album has more personality than most avant-garde metal albums you'll come across because of the simple fact that it doesn't seem like they were necessarily trying to do this kind for the sake of it, it just kind of happened naturally - which is what many musicians will say is how the best songs are written, they should just come as natural as breathing and you shouldn't necessarily have to go out of your way to create them lest one come off as if they're forcing something and come off as disingenuous.