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Patient Zero for extreme metal - 84%

Warthur, November 14th, 2011

Legend has it that the first Venom album has such a legendary lo-fi production and raw performances because the band thought they'd been booked in to produce a demo for the album, not the album itself. Whether or not this was true, the muddy souns quality on the release transformed Venom's music from a series of fast-paced NWOBHM tracks highly reminiscent of Motorhead to an altogether stranger album, an album which hinted at the sonic possibilities of the harsh soundscapes unlocked by the band.

In particular, the title track from this album is a stunning prototype for thrash metal; what Venom attained with their guitar sound through the muzzy production would be reproduced in crystal clarity by Slayer in their early material. Cronos' basswork is often lost in the mix, though where it does emerge from the fog it's raw and powerful, though not as technically accomplished as Motorhead's Lemmy (whose style is clearly an inspiration here). Abaddon's drums are a howling cacophony at the back of the mix, keeping the band driving away at what was at the time a furious pace. Where the band most resemble the black metal bands that would arise later is in the lyrical content, which embraces openly scatological and blasphemous content to an extent hitherto unseen in a metal act; musically, however, the band more closely resemble the early thrash acts who would apply increasing levels of technical proficiency to the raucous, wild sound the band describe here.

That said, though it's undeniably influential the album isn't perfect. Whilst there are compelling aesthetic reasons why the lo-fi production really does work for this material, some listeners will just find it irritating - personally, I don't, but I can see how some people might have issues with it. Secondly, the songwriting isn't at a consistently high quality. In particular, In League With Satan - whilst it has some hilariously rude lyrics - is a plodding dirge of a song, an attempt to create a simplistic piece that audience members at gigs can clap and sing along to which doesn't quite fit the denser and more interesting material surrounding it.

Still, these are niggles; on the whole, Welcome to Hell is a fascinating debut for a band with a distinctive sound straight out of the gate. I'd particularly recommend it for fans of the material Motorhead were producing around this time who aren't bothered by raw production values.