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Practicing Satanists? No, they're experts! - 85%

Wez, January 1st, 2003

"Welcome To Hell" was definitely a pivotal album for heavy metal. Few bands can claim to have begun a new metal genre, let alone several. The raw extremity of Venom's first effort at the time inspired the whole thrash metal movement that was to thrive throughout the rest of the 80s. Digitally remastered (along with Black Metal and At War With Satan) with extensive liner notes, pictures and an album's worth of bonus tracks (I'm not kidding) this is an essential pick up for both long time Venom fanatics and curious metalheads who want to know how it all started.

Venom waste no time in getting straight into a crushingly heavy riff in opener "Sons Of Satan". Their style is an odd but original mix of the doomy sludge of Black Sabbath, the speed of Motorhead and the raw energy of punk rock. Add to this the snarling vocals of Cronos and the screaming guitar solos and it's hard to believe this was recorded in 1981. From the first minute the album is dominated by catchy but threatening and thrashy riffs, and it doesn't let up until the album's 40 minute duration is over. It's a relentless ride that shocks and awes in equal measure even today (over 20 years after). Perhaps the only break from the intensity is "Mayhem With Mercy", a short and effective acoustic piece. Scattered around in various places are sound effects enhancing an already foreboading and dark work of occultism (check the start of "In League With Satan" for one example). You can defnitely pick out from this album the elements that later thrash and death bands took their influences from.

Looking at it as we have so far, it seems that this is an album that can't go wrong, however, there are some limitations. The musicmanship on display is not very impressive, but it is inventive and sincere. Not entirely incompetent but clumsy and not rehearsed well enough. The production is pretty awful, truth be told, sounding like you're listening to it with your head in a bucket of water. The guitar sound is noisy and not always very clear, and it sounds like Abaddon was drumming on boxes. But this does work in their favour, fitting the primitive, but fulfilling style well.

As a title like "Welcome To Hell" probably indicates, the lyrics on offer are littered with occult and Satanist images. These are done without either being cheesy or laughable, many subjects of which would become clich├ęd later on, proving their influence. The 11 bonus tracks on offer originate from demos, singles and other recording sessions. Most are alternative versions of songs on the album and there are many original tracks, boosting the value for money of this reissue. Venom's influence can be seen everywhere in the extreme metal world, best summed up by Lar$ Ulrich (don't mind the typographical pun) who stated "Welcome To Hell was a classic! Black metal, speed metal, death metal - Venom started it all in 1981 with that one album"