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New Wave of BLACK Heavy Metal - 79%

TrooperEd, March 6th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2002, CD, Castle Communications (Reissue, Remastered, Slipcase)

Any music critic who dares to take himself seriously must acknowledge the impact, influence and quality of early Venom's music. Without this album, it's follow up Black Metal, and bits and pieces of the two after that, so called "extreme metal" would not exist. End of argument. Period. Finito.

Yet, as important as it is to extreme metal, I always classified Venom under the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement. In terms of songwriting, there really isn't that much of a structural difference between this and say, the Angel Witch debut, the Iron Maiden debut and all the other cornerstones of the movement. There is still very much a rock & roll feel to this album. It just so happens to be stretched to what was perceived to be the absolute limit within those parameters. What was once way out there becomes normal, so you push out further, lather, rinse, repeat.

Nonetheless, Welcome to Hell is simply too historically important to not be considered black metal or even thrash metal. Not quite death metal, we would need the likes of Celtic Frost, the German thrash scene and Slayer before that branch of the tree can hang on its own. Not to mention that it's the lack of technical proficiency that gives this a darker edge over most of the classic heavy metal albums that were emerging from 1979-1981. To Venom's credit, the sloppiness never derails any of the momentum of the tracks with regard to tempo. On the other hand, while I'm by no means a guitar wizard, I can't help but imagine quite a few Dream Theater techies viewing the approach of Mantas (and Cronos) as the equivalent of taking your own feces and blood and smearing it all over themselves and the walls. But hey, fuck em. Breaking the rules used to be a good thing in metal.

Highlights include Witching Hour, a seminal, violent, fast hellspawn cry that no doubt annoyed Lemmy to no end with whisperings of "is Motorhead going to be dethroned as the baddest band in the land?" But don't be thinking that for all of Venom's bluster they were only a one speed band. One Thousand Days of Sodom and In Nomine Satanas (a non-album single that should be on most remastered versions) are midpaced demonic political rallies, with Count Cronos, Vampire Supreme rallying the troops with a plan of attack to be carried out when all hell breaks loose. There are some deviations from the theme, such as odes to prostitution and angel dust, which the likes of Varg and Euronymous probably didn't appreciate in the middle of their seances. But dare I say, that these "other" songs (and yes I include Teacher's Pet here) gave early Venom an edge that allowed the listeners to meditate over earthly pleasures in addition to unearthly ones whilst sitting Indian style in the center of the pentagram.

While perhaps not the most entertaining album of 1981 (the practice of releasing better songs as non-album singles and slight redundancies keep this from getting in the mid 80s), Welcome To Hell was unquestionably the most transformative. These days it will appeal the most to thrashers. If you think you're extreme and you don't own this, you're not.