Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Into the Void: Venom

You may wonder where I've been the past month. Well, although I haven't been here, I have been heavily involved in metal music. I'm happy to announce that I've been given a job as one of the writers for Last Rites (formerly, and you will be able to read my reviews of fresh material over there. I've admired those guys (and girls) for years, and so I'm extremely proud to join the team. But let me go ahead and get some of my black metal material up here for those of you who are interested in it. Let's start out at the beginning of black metal (or even before that).

Venom - Welcome To Hell (1981)

The way I see it, Venom is not a black metal band, particularly in 1981. Hailing from Newcastle (which is in England, if you didn't know), I suppose you would call them a NWOBHM band. Because of that, I originally didn't even want to write about them. In fact, I'm still going to skirt that by only writing about their first two albums. The fact is, though, that a discussion of black metal would be incomplete without Venom, if simply because they gave us several important terms, including "black metal," and the band name Mayhem, which is derived from the track "Mayhem with Mercy."

So what's the music actually like? It has a lot more in common with that other famous British heavy metal trio, Motörhead, than it does with Darkthrone or Emperor. The music is rockin' and rollin'. It's great beer-swillin', head-thrashin', hip-gyratin' music. Yes, you can dance to it. You can even understand all the lyrics. But unlike Motörhead, who sing about drinking and gambling and fucking, Venom sing about Satan. Okay, and fucking. Yeah, that's always a good theme. Songs like "Sons of Satan" and "Welcome to Hell" are rife with blasphemies and shocking occult lyrics. This is beyond anything that Black Sabbath or Judas Priest (or Iron Maiden, who, when Welcome to Hell came out in December of '81, were about 4 months away from releasing Number of the Beast) had or would ever touch on. Their lyrics seem practically puritan compared to Venom. So, yes, Satan.

Final Verdict: Because this album is technically not black metal, I'm not going to score it. Just go pound a few Newcastles and listen to it.

Venom - Black Metal (1982)

Holy shit, this album opens up with some disturbing sounds. This sounds more like it, or at least for the first fifteen seconds of utterly destructed noise. Then the Marshalls come blaring in again, and we're back into NWOBHM territory. Believe it or not, Black Metal is still not black metal. On the other hand, it does contain some significant moments. For one thing, Venom declare "black metal" to be "the gods' rock and roll." The lyrical content of songs like "To Hell and Back" would go on to inspire legions of Satanic dick-waggers around the world. And you can't discount that absolutely evil opening sound.

Venom had definitely captured that "style" that makes a truly evil band. One thing I forgot to mention earlier is that the member of Venom decided to adopt the theatrical stage names of Cronos (vocals & bass), Mantas (Guitars), and Abaddon (drums). The stand-out track on this album is, in my mind, "Countess Bathory," an ode about everyone's favourite blood-drenched Hungarian girl. The riffing and drumming in that song offer the strongest hint of the sound that the scene is going to develop. The majority of the rest of the album has more in common with the aformentioned Motörhead and Van Halen (particularly the sexual explicit and totally hilarious "Teacher's Pet") than the band that will be coming up.

Final verdict: Venom isn't "black metal" in the modern definition of the term, and so I won't be reviewing them again in this project. But that said, they are absolutely essential in the development of the sound, and they are just plain old good heavy metal. You don't have to be all-grim, all-KVLT, all the time. Have a good fuckin' time and listen to some Venom.