Venom

Formed in 1979 in the U.K. (Newcastle, England), Venom were one of the more influential bands to come out of the NWOBHM scene. The band were originally formed as a 5-piece called Guillotine with Clive Archer on vocals, Alan Winston on bass and Cronos on rhythm guitar. Archer and Mantas met at a Judas Priest concert in 1979 which led to Archer and Abaddon joining Guillotine. Cronos switched to bass when Alan Winston left the band a week before a gig. Like Lemmy from Motorhead, Cronos plugged his bass guitar into a guitar amp creating his that "bulldozer bass" sound which is largely responsible for Venom’s sound.

Welcome to Hell Venom - Welcome to Hell (Neat/Castle) 1981

1.    Sons of Satan (3:38)
2.    Welcome to Hell (3:15)
3.    Schizo (3:34)
4.    Mayhem With Mercy (:58)
5.    Poison (4:33)
6.    Live Like an Angel (Die Like a Devil) (3:59)
7.    Witching Hour (3:40)
8.    One Thousand Days of Sodom (4:36)
9.    Angel Dust (2:43)
10.  In League With Satan (3:35)
11.  Red Light Fever (5:14)
BONUS TRACKS
12.  Angel Dust [Lead Weight version] (3:03)
13.  In League With Satan [7" Version] (3:31)
14.  Live Like An Angel [7" Version] (3:54)
15.  Bloodlust [7" version] (2:59)
16.  In Nomine Satanas [7" version] (3:29)
17.  Angel Dust [demo] (3:10)
18.  Raise The Dead [demo] (3:29)
19.  Red Light Fever [demo] (4:51)
20.  Welcome To Hell [demo] (4:57)
21.  Bitch Witch [outtake] (3:08)
22.  Snots Shit [outtake] (2:06)

Venom are considered one of the more influential bands to come out of the NWOBHM scene. While Def Leppard became huge pop stars and Iron Maiden became the crusaders of classic heavy metal, it is Venom who are credited with being the originators of black metal, and to a lesser degree thrash metal. For my money, Raven, Exciter, Anvil and even Accept all had just as much influence on the beginnings of thrash metal. Venom fits neatly into thrash metal’s history as well. However, the style now known as black metal certainly sees it’s origins in Venom. Their dark lyrics, image, and stage names still seem to be the norm for "black metal" decades later. Of course, unlike many modern black metal bands, Venom never really took themselves seriously; tongue placed firmly in their cheek. It was b-grade horror and Satanism for sale and people bought it up. Oddly enough, Venom weren’t the only one coming from this scene with this imagery. Forgotten bands like Cloven Hoof and Grim Reaper, also hailing from England’s New Wave Of British Heavy Metal scene had similar lyrical directions. However, Venom seemed to take it to the extreme. They were offensive and vile simply because they could be.

Aside from the image and imagery, Venom were about as raw and primal as heavy metal could get. Horribly recorded. "Welcome to Hell" sounds like it may have been recorded live in the studio, much like label mates Raven's debut. However, also like Raven, the course production works in the band's favor, giving them a raw, gutteral, course, bombastic heavy metal sound. Cronos' insane bass sound drives each and every song. Gruff vocals. Mantas' crushing riffs. It's all here, delivered with a punk like fury, as if just out of the garage. "Poison", "Angel Dust" and of course the crushing title track are all standout cuts. Even though the lyrics are ridiculous and infernal, there in no denying that Venom are an important part in the history of heavy metal.

2002 Castle re-issue is remastered, contains a slew of bonus tracks as well as a 12-page booklet packed full of photos and liner notes. (Thanks Vexer6)

Black Metal Venom – Black Metal (Neat/Castle) 1982

1.    Black Metal (3:45)
2.    To Hell And Back (3:04)
3.    Buried Alive (4:19)
4.    Raise The Dead (2:48)
5.    Teacher's Pet (4:46)
6.    Leave Me In Hell (3:37)
7.    Sacrifice (4:31)
8.    Heaven's On Fire (3:43)
9.    Countess Bathory (3:44)
10.  Don't Burn The Witch (3:20)
11.  At War With Satan (Preview) (2:14)
BONUS TRACKS
12.  Bursting Out [60min+ version] (2:58)
13.  Black Metal [Radio One Session] (3:08)
14.  Nightmare [Radio One Session] (3:27)
15.  Too Loud For The Crowd [Radio One Session] (2:09)
16.  Bloodlust [Radio One Session] (2:44)
17.  Die Hard [12" Version] (3:06)
18.  Acid Queen [12" Version] (2:31)
19.  Bursting Out [12" Version] (2:59)
20.  Hounds Of Hell [Outtake] (3:20)

"Black Metal" offers more of the same dark heavy metal as "Welcome to Hell", though the production is slightly impoved. However, even with better production, this is still very raw, course, and bombastic. Cronos' bulldoze bass sound once again drives each and every song. The opening track, "Black Metal", is one of the fastest songs Venom had recorded up until this point and is one of the band's best and most memorable songs. Of course the title of the song and album alone became a description of an entire genre that still copies Venom's imagery, lyrics and even their band names. The lyrics are just as blasphemous as the "Welcome to Hell" as well.

2002 Castle re-issue is remastered, contains a slew of bonus tracks as well as a 12-page booklet packed full of photos and liner notes.The Radio One live recordings are actually as good as, if not better than the orignal recordings. "Die Hard" was always one of my favorite Venom songs, so it's nice to have it included

At War with Satan Venom - At War with Satan (Combat) 1983

1. "At War with Satan" (20:01)
2. "Manitou" (3:02)
3. "Rip Ride" (3:08)
4. "Genocide" (3:58)
5. "Cry Wolf" (4:18)
6. "Stand Up (and be Counted)" (3:28)
7. "Women, Leather and Hell" (3:19)
8. "Woman" (2:54)
9. "Aaaaargghh" (2:21)

I remember when this came out. I was still in high school and we were all fans of whatever was coming out of the NWOBHM scene. The first two Venom albums were raw, brutal and unlike most anything else that was coming from that scene. The band were over the top in everything they did from the sound to their image, but how were Venom to top "Black Metal" and "Welcome to Hell"? Well, the answer was to add a bit of progressive songwriting into the mix and pump out an epic-length 20-minute track. The title track took up the entirety of side one of the vinyl. This was Venom taking desperate measures to try and validate with critics and fans alike their their technical ability as musicians and their songwriting capabilities. Despite this fact, the song isn't exactly some progressive masterpiece. Indeed, no one is going to mistake this for Yes or Rush, though Rush's "2112" was probably the main inspiration for the song. Regardless, it's still Venom! The song is just a long, raw, bloody mess that tells a twisted tale of a war between demons and angels. In Venom's lyrics, Satan and his army of demons are the victors. Even as a young, teenage metal fan the 'joke' was beginning to wear thin. While the music and production had progressed slightly, the lyrics had not and Venom's Satanic posturing had become cartoonish in nature, which I suppose was the point. Venom never were to be taken seriously.

Side two of the record is actually the side that saw the most spin time from me as a young metal fan. "Rip Ride" and "Cry Wolf" are classic tracks. "Genocide" is a vicious metal assault. Frankly, some of the songs released as b-sides and singles were better than anything on side two of the record. The American Combat Records CD pressing includes one of my favorite Venom songs; "Manitou". The song is pure, raw metal with Cronos bellowing out the chorus over top of a bulldozer bass, double bass and raw guitar riffs. Another song I recall enjoying that is not included on this CD is "Warhead". Frankly, these short, raw, punk infused metal songs are what Venom do best. "Woman is another added bonus track. "Aaarrrggghh" closes out the album. It is a short, odd, humorous filler track. It sounds to me like some alcohol induced frenzy in the studio that was captured on tape. I suppose it's title basically sums up Venom.

The 2002 Castle reissue include eight bonus tracks including the aforementioned tracks "Warhead", "Woman" and "Manitou".

Possessed Venom - Possessed (Neat/Castle) 1985

1. Power Drive (3:16)
2. Flytrap (3:49)
3. Satanachist (2:43)
4. Burn this Place (to the Ground) (2:42)
5. Harmony Dies (2:42)
6. Possessed (4:51)
7. Hellchild (2:40)
8. Moonshine (3:19)
9. Wing and a Prayer (2:47)
10. Suffer Not the Children (3:07)
11. Voyeur (3:01)
12. Mystique (4:58)
13. Too Loud (for the Crowd) (3:02)
BONUS TRACKS
14. Nightmare [12" mix] (3:54)
15. F.O.A.D. [12" B-side] (3:05)
16. Warhead [12" B-side] (3:41)
17. Possessed [Remix] (5:14)
18. Witching Hour [live] (4:16)
19. Teachers Pet/Poison/Teachers Pet [live] (7:59)

Venom circa 1985 hasn't changed all that much from Venom circa 1981. Same Cronos. Same Mantas. Same Abaddon. The band provides more of the same growling, noisy, bulldozer heavy metal that it did on "Welcome to Hell" and "Black Metal". There are no epic length progressive songs like on "At War With Satan". Basically, it's the same thrash swill that Venom have always provided. Not even the recording has changed all that much. The riffs are still gnarly and indiscernible, the bass still sounds like a bulldozer crashing through your living room, the drums still sound like those giant gallon oil drums being smashed with blunt instruments. Same punk attitude. Hey man, it's Vemon! Would any Venom fan want pristine production? It's all about the attitude and that raw sound. Occasionally the band slows it down in search of a groove and find themselves with something quite memorable such as "Harmonies Dies", "Suffer Not the Children" and bonus track "Warhead". Two tracks from this album are indeed some of the bands finest, "Flytrap" and "Hellchild". Both will strip the paint off your wall, turn your milk sour and cause you instantaneous cracks to appear in the foundation of your home.

Of course the lyrical direction of Venom hasn't changed much over the years either. Same b-grade occult lyrics, same disdain for the church, same sense of offense to anything holy. Of course not every song was of the "hail Satan" variety. "Power Drive" seems to be a song of a biographical nature and "Flytrap" is about the mythological Roman goddess Venus. For the most part, however, there are songs like "Satanachrist", "Possessed" and "Hellchild" which are exactly the type of thing Venom are known for.

At the time this album was released, I was still a teenager and though I owned the band's first three albums on vinyl, I didn't really care that much for "Possessed". It wasn't that Venom had recorded a bad album per say, but at the time bands like Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth, Overkill and even S.O.D. were all releasing excellent albums that were capturing my attention. By that time metal had exploded and there were so many great bands to choose from that Venom sort of fell by the wayside. Frankly, even as a teenager I had grown tired of the blasphemous lyrics and was in search for something less ridiculous. Bands like those previously mentioned were tackling subjects which I found far more interesting. As well their music took the speed and rawness of Venom to a whole new level, whereas Venom themselves had back-peddled a bit, moving away from the improved production and slightly more progressive songwriting of "At War With Satan". Bands directly inspired by Venom such as Destruction and Possessed had taken what Venom had done to a whole new level as well. Unfortunately this seemed to be the general consensus of many metal fans as "Possessed" was generally ignored. In retrospect, though I still don't care for the lyrical themes, the raw music is actually quite good and still stands in stark contrast to much of what was being released at the time.

The 2002 Castle reissue comes with six bonus tracks. During the time from "At War with Satan" up through "Possessed" the band release a ton of singles and EPs. Included here are several b-side tracks. My favorite of these is "Warhead", a song that I actually remember hearing as a young metal fan in the 80's. The six page foldout insert includes a poster of the band, biography by Dave King of Metal Hammer Magazine and nearly unreadable lyrics.

Calm Before the Storm Venom - Calm Before the Storm (Filmtrax) 1987

1.   Black Xmas (2:56)
2.   The Chanting of the Priests (4:24)
3.   Metal Punk (3:23)
4.   Under a Spell (4:08)
5.   Calm Before the Storm (4:13)
6.   Fire (2:42)
7.   Krackin' Up (2:14)
8.   Beauty and the Beast (3:49)
9.   Deadline (3:16)
10. Gypsy (2:25)
11. Muscle (2:41)

When Motorhead released their first new album with a new line-up titled "Another Perfect Day" it showcased a new side of the band while still retaining the core Motorhead sound. Fans seemed to universally hate it. I, on the other hand, loved it. It retained the rawness of Motorhead but added a new element of Thin Lizzy in the guitar work. Venom's "Calm Before the Storm" is much like that release in that it featured a new line-up and showcased a slightly different sound for the band. The biggest change is in the fact that Venom now sported a guitar tandem of Mike Hickery and Jim Clare, replacing guitarist Jeffrey "Mantas" Dunn. Up until this record Venom had built a reputation on having a sloppy, over-the-top, almost absurdly raw sound. With "Calm Before the Storm" the overall sound is less manic and raw but gains more melody and better musicianship. The twin guitar sound gives the band a fuller sound, though isn't any heavier than their early records. There is also a ton of fiery axe work peppered all over this album. That's not to say that the band completely lost their identity. Songs like "Black Xmas", "Metal Punk" "Krackin' Up" and "Fire" are all driving heavy metal songs even if they do feature more guitar solos and a tighter sound. 

Lyrically the band really haven't moved forward all that much and songs like "Black Xmas" and "Metal Punk" sound like they was intentionally trying to be a self-parody of themselves. "Metal punk watch his eyes, metal make a punk of me, for satanic majesty, savage mind, damage child, metal punk boiling high..." I'm just not sure how anyone could take lyrics like these seriously. Venom obviously relishing in both controversy but self-parody as well. 

The band was also working with producer Nick Tauber who is known for his work with bands like UFO and Thin Lizzy. What he and Venom deliver is something that is quite enjoyable even if die-hards will complain that it's so different than their first three (or arguably four) classic records. Much like "Another Perfect Day", "Calm Before the Storm" seemed to be nearly universally hated by fans, especially when it first came out. Over time more people seem to be accepting it as an acceptable, if not excellent release from Cronos & Co. I personally find it to be an enjoyable release, at least from a musical standpoint.

Both guitarists, Jimi Clare and Mike Hickey, followed Conrad "Cronos" Lant into his solo career and latter would also return for the 2006 release "Metal Black".

Prime Evil Venom - Prime Evil (Kraze) 1989

1. Prime Evil (4:38)
2. Parasite (3:08)
3. Blackened Are the Priests (4:19)
4. Carnivorous (2:11)
5. Skeletal Dance (3:07)
6. Megalomania (5:25)
7. Insane (2:54)
8. Harder Than Ever (3:09)
9. Into the Fire (3:22)
10. School Daze (4:20)
11. Live Like an Angel, Die Like a Devil (3:05)

Prime Evil is the sixth studio album by NWOBHM pioneers Venom. It was also the first in a trilogy of Venom albums that featured bassist and vocalist Tony "Demolition" Dolan, who replaced founding member Cronos. As such, many fans immediately dismiss this album before even giving it a chance. However, I find "Prime Evil" to be one of the band's best albums. No, it doesn't have that same raw, noisy, chaotic sound as "Black Metal" or "Welcome to Hell". The recording quality has improved and the musicianship is far more polished. "Mantas" proves he is a far better guitarist than anyone would ever give him credit for in the past. His lead work is outstanding, as is the tight riffs. New vocalist Tony Dolan rips and tears his vocals chords as he grunts out the vocals to each and every song. Actually, there are times when Tony sounds a lot like Cronos on "Prime Evil". The band also added second guitarist Al Barnes, who is credited with rhythm guitar. How much involvement he had with the recording is unknown. Barnes left the band shortly after the album was released.

The first two tracks here just completely kick butt! "Prime Evil" and "Parasite" are just pure, raw, heavy metal. ("Parasite" is not a cover of the Kiss class, though that would have been cool to hear.) I would imagine had either of these songs been recorded on those first two albums, fans would herald them as classics. "Harder than Ever" is a heavy, catchy song that almost has an anthemic quality to it. "Carnivorous" is a straight forward thrash metal song. Has this song been recorded by Kreator or Destruction, metal fans would have been singing it's praises, but because it's on a vastly ignored Venom album, it is all but forgotten. "School Daze" is a sleazy song that is most likely the follow-up to "Teacher's Pet". "Megalomania" is a Black Sabbath cover, but for some strange reason the band only plays the second half of the song. It actually doesn't sound all that bad, and nearly sounds like a Venom original, but Sabbath fanatics like myself will just be annoyed that the band left off the first half of the song. The album ends with a new version of "Live Like an Angel, Die Like a Devil". The new version isn't bad at all, but doesn't really add anything to the original, other than better production. Lyrically, it seems like the band has toned down the b-grade Satanism and occult lyrics that they had become known for. I must admit, however, that I didn't spend any time reading over the lyrics to "Prime Evil". Venom are not a band whose lyrics have ever been of interest to me.

It's a shame that fans dismiss this album as "not really Venom". As already stated, I find "Prime Evil" to be one of Venom's best. The musicianship is better, the production is better and the songs are excellent. This might not be "Black Metal Part 2" , but it's still a fine heavy metal album. Perhaps the album should have been named "Prime Metal".

Wastlands Venom - The Waste Lands (Under One Flag) 1992

1. Cursed (7:38)
2. I'm Paralysed (2:32)
3. Black Legions (3:44)
4. Riddle of Steel (2:48)
5. Need to Kill (5:12)
6. Kissing the Beast (3:23)
7. Crucified (3:32)
8. Shadow King (3:52)
9. Wolverine (4:09)
10. Clarisse (4:49)

The Waste Lands is the final album by the Tony Dolan-fronted incarnation of Venom, and as with the rest of the Dolan material vastly underrated and nearly forgotten by fans. The album is a bit more experimental than much of what Venom had done up to this point. The raw, primal sound that defines Venom is still in place, but they add in kebyoards, some samples and even some industrial influences. 

"Cursed" opens things up with a somewhat long intro reminiscent of Stryper's "Abyss" that opens their "To Hell With the Devil" album. Once the song kicks in, it's easy to hear that this isn't the same Venom as on "Black Metal" and "Welcome to Hell". This is a band experimenting with their own sound. The song is heavy and features some ominous, eerie keyboards. It seems that many fans think it is total blasphemy for Venom to use keyboards or do anything outside of those first three records, but those fans are missing out. "Black Legions" is a dark song with a bridge section that has sound the sounds of people screaming as if they are being tortured in hell. That's not to say every track is experimental. Songs like "Wolverine" and "Kissing the Beast" are good, old-school thrash-y heavy metal. Also, Dolan gave a fantastic, raw and gritty vocal performance. The guitar work is probably better than anything Venom had recorded to this point. Mantas  and second guitarist Steve White pull out some memorable riffs and solos. Really, what's not to like about this album? It's raw, it's heavy, it's primal, it's heavy metal, it's Venom. (Thanks Vexer6)

Temples of Ice Venom - Temples of Ice (Under One Flag/Music for Nations) 1991

1. Tribes (3:45)
2. Even in Heaven (3:57)
3. Trinity MCMXLV (3:33)
4. In Memory Of (Paul Miller 1964-1990) (4:17)
5. Faerie Tale (4:21)
6. Playtime (3:18)
7. Acid (4:13)
8. Arachnid (2:42)
9. Speed King (3:33)
10. Temples of Ice (6:43)

The second album by the Tony "Demolition Man" Dolan-fronted incarnation of Venom. "Temples of Ice" seems to be universally shunned by Venom fans due to the member changes and the cleaner production and more varied lyrical themes. One review I read called it "lightweight hard rock". That description couldn't be further from the truth. "Temples of Ice" is heavy, almost thrash metal approach and sound. The album is chock full of razor-shard riffing and some very tight lead work. Much like on "Prime Evil", Mantas proves he is a far better guitarist than anyone would have ever give him credit for. Vocalist Tony Dolan gargles razor blades as he rips and shreds his vocal cords with each note he grunts out. One thing that Venom has always excelled at it memorable songwriting. Even through the most chaotic and noisy production and engineering, the songs would stick to your brain like glue. That really hasn't changed here either.

"Tribes" opens things up with an excellent shout-along chorus and is followed by a haunting acoustic guitar intro that leads way into the speed metal of "Even in Heaven". The bass guitar opening of "In Memory Of..." makes it obvious that Cronos isn't on board. Though Tony is a fine bass players, Cronos had a sound that was uniquely his, which is obviously absent here. The song, on the other hand, is pure NWOBHM; chugging riff, hooky chorus, pounding drums, etc. Easily one of the more immediately like-able songs on the album. "Acid" sounds like Venom of old; raw, noisy, chaotic and heavy as a steam engine moving down the tracks at full speed. A speed metal cover of Deep Purple's "Speed King" is a nice inclusion. The album ends with the nearly seven minute long title track; a song that builds from a mellow intro to a punishingly heavy thrash metal attack. 

No, this is not "Black Metal" or "Welcome to Hell" part two. However, much like "Prime Evil" I find much to like about "Temples of Ice". (Thanks Vexer6).

Skeletons in the Closet Venom - Skeletons in the Closet (Castle) 1993

1. Tour Intro Tape '83-'84/Welcome To Hell (4:55)
2. Dead on Arrival (3:06)
3. Snots Shit (2:06)
4. Black Metal [remix] (3:58)
5. Hounds Of Hell (3:21)
6. At War With Satan [TV adverts] (1:04)
7. At War With Satan [Full Re-Edited Version] (21:32)
8. Bitch Witch (3:06)
9. Intro Tapes [Tours '85-'86] (1:07)
10. Possessed [remix] (5:10)
11. Sadist (Mistress Of The Whip) (2:39)
12. Manitou [Abbey Road Uncut Mix] (4:51)
13. Angel Dust [demo] (3:10)
14. Raise The Dead [demo] (3:29)
15. Red Light Fever [demo] (4:46)
16. Venom Station ID'S For America And Spain (4:34)

"Skeleton's in the Closet" is a compilation compiled by Venom drummer Tony "Abaddon" Bray of rare demos, remixes, and unrleased songs from early in the bands career. Venom have more rarities compilations than any band I know of, save for perhaps Motorhead. This one, however, offers an interesting listen for hardcore fans of Venom and the NWOBHM movement. It also offers a bit of insight into the bizarre sense of humor of this band.

The CD starts aptly with a concert intro tape from ‘83/’84, right about the time "At War With Satan" would have been released. Thunder crashes and tortured souls howl as a demented voice cries "Ladies & gentlemen, from the very depths of hell…Venom!" The track then immediately goes into a cleaner version of the band's signature track "Welcome to Hell". Quite the introduction! The remixed version of "Black Metal" doesn't sound all that different from the original version; perhaps a bit cleaner. There are several previously unreleased tracks including "Dead on Arrival" a fairly standard Venom track with a catchy guitar riff and a screamin' solo), "Snot's Shit" (a pure joke track, sort of sloppy garage punk), "Hounds of Hell" (another typically heavy Venom number), "Bitch Witch" (a mid-paced number) and a short metal romp called "Sadist (Mistress of the Whip)".What was unique to this CD compilation at the time of it's release was the 1980 demo tracks featuring Clive "Jesus Christ" Archer on vocals. The demos are very crudely recorded, even more so than the albums themselves. Archer doesn't really sound all that different than Cronos.
This version of "Angel Dust" is quite good, despite the raw production.

"Skeletons in the Closet" also features and indepth booklet with plenty of reading material and vintage photos.

Cast in Stone Venom - Cast in Stone (Dead Line) 1997

DISC ONE
1. The Evil One (3:20)
2. Raised in Hell (2:51)
3. All Devils Eve (2:57)
4. Bleeding (2:47)
5. Destroyed & Damned (6:49)
6. Domus Mundi (3:55)
7. Flight of the Hydra (3:25)
8. God's Forsaken (4:28)
9. Mortals (3:19)
10. Infectious (3:39)
11. Kings of Evil (4:19)
12. You're All Gonna Die (3:04)
13. Judgement Day (4:36)
14. Swarm (5:07)

DISC TWO (Re-recordings)
1. Intro (1:59)
2. Bloodlust (2:59)
3. Die Hard (3:06)
4. Acid Queen (2:50)
5. Bursting Out (2:50)
6. Warhead (4:14)
7. Lady Lust (2:52)
8. Manitou (3:45)
9. Rip Ride (3:07)
10. Venom (4:13)

After releasing several albums with a rotating line-up, as well as a ton of compilation albums, "Cast in Stone" marked the return of the original line up of Cronos, Mantas and Abaddon. This '97 version of Venom had many similarities to early Venom, but there are many differences as well. The songs for the most part are more mid-tempo, but still encompassed a big, powerful, metal sound. In those early daysVenom were sonically more raw early thrash metal and though some may consider it blasphemy, they had a lot of punk in their sound as well. On "Cast In Stone" songs like the plodding "The Evil One" sounds like something Celtic Frost might have written. Similarly, "Bleeding" is a slow but punishingly heavy song. Other tracks like Raised In Hell" and "All Devil's Eve" are more fast paced, but still don't exactly sound like Venom 1981. Of course, who would expect them to? It's been over fifteen years since those anthemic NWOBHM albums were released. "Destroyed And Damned" plods along like something Metallica might have recorded for their black album. The song starts off with a nearly two minute long instrumental before breaking into it's first heavy riff.

With track six things get a little strange. "Domus Mundi" is a quazi-industrial track that is totally unfitting of Venom. "Flight of the Hydra" sounds like a modern black metal mess. Fast and messy, this song sounds odd tacked onto the end of "Domus Mundi". "King's Of Evil" is yet another mid-paced metal number that plods along, but seems a bit less inspired than some of the others. As the song title might suggest, Venom try to prove to the world that they are evil incarnate. Throughout the CD, the lyrics are meant to offend; purposely blasphemous and anti-Christian.

I've read that the some of this disc was actually written by Abaddon for a different project, which may explain the odd stylistic jumps. I suppose it could be viewed as an album that showcases a lot of talent and ability to play many styles of metal, but overall, Cast in Stone wouldn't rank high on the list of the best Venom albums, even if songs like "The Evil One" could easily be considered among the band's best songs.

The second disc consists of early material that was re-recorded. They generally remained faithful to the original songs, but of course the production values are better. I'm not really sure that's a good thing in the case of Venom. The raw recording and nasty production was part of the charm of those early recordings.

New Lve & Rare Venom - New Live & Rare (Dead Line) 1998

DISC ONE
1. Harder Than Ever [live] (2:47)
2. Skeletal Dance (3:08)
3. Speed King [live] (3:31)
4. Welcome To Hell [live] (2:44)
5. Blackend Are The Priests [live] (3:33)
6. Playtime (3:20)
7. Carnivorous [live] (02:03)
8. Die Hard (2:53)
9. Hell Bent For Leather (2:21)
10.Burstin' Out [live] (2:48)

DISC TWO
1. Prime Evil0 (4:41)
2. Black Metal [live] (:50)
3. Megalomania (5:26)
4. Faerie Tale (4:25)
5. Civilized [live] (2:32)
6. Clarrise (4:49)
7. Temples Of Ice (6:37)
8. Angel Dust (2:36)
9. Teacher's Pet [live] (2:36)
10. Witching Hour [live] (3:14)

"New Live & Rare" is a perplexing release. I could find very little information about it on-line and there is little in the way of liner notes in the CD itself. From what I can tell, "New Live & Rare" is a compilation of live material, rare studio tracks and new studio recordings of old Venom classics. I think the re-recorded tracks feature vocalist Tony Dolan. The CD features several cover songs, including Judas Priest's "Hell Bent for Leather", Black Sabbath's "Megalomania" and Deep Purple's "Speed King". The live version of "Black Metal" is annoying as it only includes less than a minute of the song. This 2-CD set is for mostly for diehards and collectors.

Resurrection Venom - Resurrection (Steamhammer) 2000

1. Resurrection (3:03)
2. Vengeance (3:51)
3. War Against Christ (4:24)
4. All There is Fear (4:43)
5. Pain (4:02)
6. Pandemonium (4:31)
7. Loaded (2:44)
8. Firelight (4:55)
9. Black Flame (Of Satan) (4:33)
10. Control Freak (3:03)
11. Disbeliever (3:40)
12. Man, Myth & Magic (3:49)
13. Thirteen (3:38)
14. Leviathan (4:30)

On my first listen to "Resurrection" the only word I could think to describe the album was "bombastic". This is one bombastic metal album! Venom has always been overblown, pompous and pious heavy metal. The lyrics are intentionally offensive, as is the music. It's attitude and raw energy over substance, and that is exactly what Venom deliver here. The first two songs on this album along with the groove laden "Pandemonium" are 100% Venom. Had these songs been included on "Welcome to Hell" or "Black Metal" they would have been hailed as classics. "Firelight " is reminiscent of "Seven Gates of Hell" with an odd, melodic middle-Eastern vibe running mid-way through the song. "Pain" brings about a thrash metal influence. Of course Venom were one of the inspirations for the genre back in the early 80's, so it's no surprise that the thrash ethic is still present in their sound. Likewise "Black Flame (of Satan)" is straight forward, pummeling thrash metal. Of course what really makes Venom is that dirty, bulldozer bass sound, the nasty vocals and the wall of noise production. All of that is present here. While "Resurrection" certainly isn't the slop that "Black Metal" and "At War with Satan" were, it still offers that down and dirty production value that embodies Venom.

As would be expected from Venom, the lyrics are intentionally "black". Shock is the key word here. Venom have always been the king of shock with their anti-Christian, anti-religious, anti-establishment, and occult lyrics. I'd be offended if it wasn't so ridiculously over the top. A song titled "War Against Christ" is pretty typical fodder for this band, though a war against the Creator of the universe is pretty futile and laughable. Basically, this is Venom. Any band with a history as long as Venom's is bound to cover some ground over again. "Resurrection" might be a bit formulaic and it might not be chock full of new ideas, but it still packed full of energy and attitude.

Metal Black Venom - Metal Black (Sanctuary Records) 2006

1.      Antechrist (3:28)
2.      Burn in Hell (2:58)
3.      House of Pain (5:05)
4.      Death & Dying (03:53)
5.      Rege Satanas (3:46)
6.      Darkest Realm (3:13)
7.      A Good Day to Die (3:42)
8.      Assassin (4:45)
9.      Lucifer Rising (4:23)
10.     Blessed Dead (4:43)
11.     Hours of Darkness (4:15)
12.     Sleep When I'm Dead (3:53)
13.     Maleficarvm (6:05)
14.     Metal Black (3:11)

Venom's "Metal Black" is obviously a nod to the old school. The opening couple of tracks definitely sound like regurgitated Venom from the "Black Metal" era. Yes, they were obviously trying to regain that classic "Black Metal" sound. How well they accomplished this is a matter of opinion. For me, this album didn't quite click as immediately as some others. One of it's biggest detractors is the length of the album. With fourteen tracks clocking in at close to an hour I think the album would have flowed better had they chosen the best ten tracks and left it at that. Having said that, "Resurrection" is nearly as long with thirteen songs, but it didn't drag nearly as much as "Metal Black" did on the first couple listens.

Musically the album can basically be divided between the slow crunchy numbers and the faster thrash songs. Being a huge thrash metal fan, I suppose I would like the thrashier songs better, but that is not the case. I actually found crushing songs like "House of Pain" and "Darkest Realm" to be far more enjoyable than the faster numbers. "Assassin" is one of the more memorable songs on the album. The chorus is just the song title repeated over and over again. For some reason I found the song to be one of the more immediately enjoyable on the album. I wonder if this song had been recorded during the band's classic years if it wouldn't have been a fan favorite.

The production is pretty typical of Venom, raw and heavy, but certainly no where near as muddy and messy as their early classic albums. As usual their sound is mainly comprised of that nasty bulldozer bass sound together with a raw guitar sound and Cronos' gruff, attitude-injest shout. Oddly enough, the song "Assassin" seems to stand out from the pack and has a completely different production quality that the rest of the album. Why that is I am not sure. The song sports one of the messiest, noisiest guitar solos ever. However, no one really expects Yngwie Malmsteen style leads in Venom music. It's all about attitude, harsh cacophonous sounds and noise, noise, noise. That's exactly what the band delivers. Other tracks, however, such as the follow-up track "Lucifer Rising" sports a more melodic, less chaotic guitar solo.

Venom have always been a band that explored cultic and demonic themes, though they have also explored other themes. On their first two classic albums, those dark themes were the main focus. On "Metal Black" they've attempted to rediscover their dark roots. Song titles like "Rege Satanas", "Lucifer Rising", "Burn In Hell" really don't leave any room for other interpretation. The lyrics are all about Satan, hell, evil and death. Yes, it's back to the "look how evil we are" image in an attempt to shock. Sadly, so much in heavy metal (and entertainment in general) has moved so far beyond this type of b-grade, cult-horror piffle, that Venom sound tame in comparison and it's really not all that shocking anymore.

Hell! Venom - Hell! (Sanctuary / Noise) 2008

1.      Straight To Hell (4:26)
2.      The Power And The Glory (5:10)
3.      Hand Of God      (4:33)
4.      Fall From Grace (3:27)
5.      Hell (5:06)
6.      Evil Perfection (3:34)
7.      Stab U In The Back (4:31)
8.      Armageddon (3:26)
9.      Kill The Music (3:13)
10.     Evilution Devilution (4:27)
11.     Blood Sky (5:11)
12.     USA For Satan (4:49)
13.     Dirge/The Awakening (3:32)
Venom

As I cracked the celophane of this CD and popped it into the player, I flipped through the pages of the booklet waiting for the music to begin and noticed a change in the line-up. However, from the opening notes, there is no doubt who this band is despite the fact that Conrad "Cronos" Lant (vocals/bass) is the sole original member. Venom is Venom! They are often copied, but never equaled. Much like Motorhead or AC/DC, they rarely deviate from what they do best. In Venom's case it's raw, gutteral, sloppy 'ol heavy metal! While Vemon are often credited with inspiring thrash metal and black metal, they have never been one to write songs that are speed for speed sake. Rather, it's about being heavier than thou. Attitude over substance for sure. However, that's what makes Venom sound like Venom and not the hordes of other NWOBHM bands that came out around the same time in the early 80's. "Hell" is for the most part mid-paced, straight-forward heavy metal. This longtime metal fan still hears a bit of the NWOBHM vibe and even thrash metal leanings, but rarely do I hear anything that parallels what is now labeled black metal. "Kill the Music" even invokes Motörhead both musically and lyrically. The production is much cleaner than those early, sloppy NWOBHM classics. Whether that is a good thing or not is a matter of taste. Frankly, I think this one sounds fantastic, from Cronos' bulldozer bass and razorblade vocals to the buzzsaw guitars of La Rage. This is what Venom is suppose to sound like. As might also be expected, the lyrics are over-the-top occult. "Redemption denied – Yeah! You're going straight to hell!"  This is the stuff that b-grade horror movies are made of.  All of the songs are straight-forward, purposely offensive and often quite sarcastic  (see "USA For Satan"). Venom is not for the faint of heart or easily offended, that's a fact.

Venom - Fallen Angels (Spinefarm) 2011

1.   Hammerhead (5:00)
2.   Nemesis (3:08)
3.   Pedal To The Metal (3:43)
4.   Lap Of The Gods (5:09)
5.   Damnation Of Souls (4:30)
6.   Beggerman (4:29)
7.   Hail Satanas (4:35)
8.   Sin (5:33)
9.   Punk's Not Dead (4:10)
10. Death Be Thy Name (3:10)
11. Lest We Forget (2:15)
12. Valley Of The Kings (4:52)
13. Fallen Angels (7:06)
BONUS TRACKS
14. Annunaki Legacy (4:25)
15. Blackened Blues (4:52)

Of their 2008 release "Hell", I said, "Venom is Venom! Much like Motorhead or AC/DC, they rarely deviate from what they do best. In Venom's case it's raw, guttural, sloppy 'ol heavy metal!" With the band's 2011 release, that statement still holds true. Where "Fallen Angels" seems to differ from past albums is that the recording quality is taken up another level. The band simply says true to its roots with a raw, heavy sound but somehow manage to have that raw sound be more precise and less muddy. The other thing that I noticed on the very first listen to "Fallen Angels" was that many of the songs are immediately catchy in their heavy simplicity. This can be at least partially attributed to some solid riffs. Of course no one ever expects brilliant musicianship and technical songwriting from Venom. It's never been about that. It's about that raw, energetic, distinctive, bulldozer driving through your living-room sound and that's what the band delivers.

As usual, the lyrical direction on some songs are as dark as dark can be. In fact, "Hail Satanas" takes the band to its black metal roots and is pure and intentional Satan worship. Of course everyone knows the band has their tongues planted firmly in their cheek and are laughing all the way to the bank, but for me, a song like this is unnecessary and a bit too over-the-top. Similarly, "Damnation of Souls" spews verbal venom at "that God above". Frankly, I much prefer songs like "Hammerhead" and "Pedal to the Metal", both lyrically and musically. "Hammerhead" is very simple and tribal in its approach. The album opener demonstrates the band's ability to fuel a song with a simple, pummeling guitar riff, punishing bass while adding in a nice harmony section and a raunchy guitar solo to finish things off. "Pedal To The Metal" is one of my favorite tracks off "Fallen Angels". This up-tempo thrasher reminds me slightly of the band's signature track "Welcome to Hell" and is packed full of pure, raw energy. "Punk's Not Dead" is an upbeat, Motorhead-ish, thrash metal anthem to punk. These tracks are perfect examples of what I like about about Venom's sound without the "hail Satan" gimmick.

"Fallen Angels" is a raw, driving, heavy metal album with Cronos barking out the lyrics much like he has for three decades. Those into classic Venom will find much to like about "Fallen Angels". Those offended by the band's dark image and "hell-fuckin-yeah" lyrical approach still will be unimpressed. In a sentence, this is Venom!

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