Venom - Black Metal
Neat Records
Thrash/Speed Metal
11 songs (39:51)
Release year: 1982
Official Venom Website, Neat Records
Reviewed by Goat

What is Satanism? A furious horde of fundamentalist Christians will answer this by telling you about demonic possession and child sacrifice, evil rituals, orgies, and blasphemies that have caused countless suffering in the world. You’d get a very different answer if you asked the members of Venom circa 1982, however, who – if they were being honest – would tell you that it’s about having a good time and pissing Christians right the fuck off. And if you see Satanism in that light, as a gleeful mockery of all that is holy and pure, as a piss-taking reversal of self-important piousness, as a celebration of humanity lived for its own sake rather than the sake of something higher, then Venom are the archetypical Satanic band. Everything about them, from their wonderfully silly image to their wonderfully silly music, has a sense of gleeful mischief to it that is the very image of the sly old serpent – Loki rather than Lucifer, say. You don’t need to listen to backwards messages in Venom albums for evidence of Satanic influences – look at their album art! Look at their promotional pics! Only a very severe sort of moron could look at Venom and see the Christian idea of Satanism represented there – although the members of the band would doubtless claim to indulge in all sorts of rites and rituals, the idea of these three Geordie lads actually sacrificing infants to the goatlord is laughable...

... and yet they are still seen as some as the most evil band that walks the face of the planet, which goes to show how utterly Cronos and co. succeeded in their musical quest. The debut Welcome To Hell was a raw slice of proto-extreme metal like little else, but it’s this, the follow-up, that gets remembered. Black Metal. Not the chilling aural winds from Scandinavia that burnt churches and murdered friends, but the predecessor as performed by Mercyful Fate, Bathory, Hellhammer and so on, the extreme thrash and heavy metal that looked at what was on offer and decided it wanted something more. The first wave, ladies and gentlemen, still the best in some people’s eyes and with good reason. For as much as I enjoy black metal’s later years, and as long as it has taken me to see why I should spend any time at all listening to Venom, it cannot be denied that Black Metal has a certain something that makes it oddly timeless, massively influential, and still a rip-roaring ride of fun nearly thirty years later.

There’s no denying that Venom in 1982 could barely play their instruments. The drumming makes Lars look like Neil Peart, for one. Yet there’s also no denying that despite that, they made some damn good songs, with spirit and vim that few modern pretenders can manage – the eerie intro to the opening title track bursts in like a dirge, Cronos’ grunty voice spitting out lyrics beneath a speed metal until that infamous chorus – lay down your soul to the gods rock and roll! Fast, distorted guitars and unclear vocals, pre-Slayer melodies and thrash riffs, repetitive drum beats... you can hear the ingredients for what would eventually become more extreme strands of metal forming. The album just gets better and better from then on, the infectious riff that opens To Hell And Back sticking in your head almost as much as that simple yet catchy chorus, and the ensuing oddly eastern-seeming soloing helps to set the dark atmosphere truly alight.

Yes, there is atmosphere, and very well done too – Buried Alive is nothing less than creepy, from eerie opening to the melancholic solos, and Raise The Dead rolls along aside it perfectly, a kind of shuffling catchiness fitting in very well with its subject matter. Of course, this surprisingly skilful edifice is all torn down when we get to Teacher’s Pet, a hilarious foray into schoolboy fantasy complete with Geordie-accented interlude chants of ‘get yer tits out!’ in the middle of the album. Yet before you know it, however, we’re back in ‘serious’ Satanic land with the NWOBHM-esque Leave Me In Hell, slower and darker, and with more effort put into the songwriting to these ears. Sacrifice (oh so nice!) and Heaven’s On Fire are further hits, and the much-covered Countess Bathory is even better, with one of those simple yet perfect choruses that Venom do so well. Don’t Burn The Witch sizzles with pre-Slayer riffs, and as for the snippet of the forthcoming At War With Satan, Venom’s answer to Rush’s 2112, it forms a fitting outro if nothing else, assuming you’re not listening to a version of the album with umpteen bonus tracks (mine seems to have another nine!).

Whoever you are, I know that you already have an opinion on Venom. Sloppy? Silly? Yes, and yes. But by god, is Black Metal a fun album to listen to, and the sheer level of influence gives it a greater weight than nearly any other album out there. Other bands play better, write better, sound better, even are better at creating atmosphere, but Venom aren’t competing in the same sport. Venom are the metal equivalent of watching a zombie movie with friends, of getting spooked for fun. The best metal bands leave you feeling better for having listened to them, whether it’s because of the cathartic emotional release, the uplifting melodies or simply the physical headbanging exercise. And somehow, although Venom tick only one of these boxes, Black Metal works so damn well as a classic album that it would be folly to deny it. However crap later Venom got, however much better Bathory is, there’s no denying that this album is a vital, vital stepping stone on the formation of the metal we know and love today. I could almost call this the most important review I’ll ever write... few classics come close.

Killing Songs :
All, esp - Black Metal, To Hell And Back, Buried Alive, Raise The Dead, Leave Me In Hell, Countess Bathory
Goat quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Venom that we have reviewed:
Venom - From the Very Depths reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Venom - Metal City (DVD) reviewed by Jeff and quoted no quote
Venom - Hell reviewed by Jeff and quoted 66 / 100
Venom - Metal Black reviewed by Jeff and quoted 84 / 100
Venom - MMV reviewed by Jeff and quoted no quote
To see all 9 reviews click here
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