DB HOF NO. 70
The making of Venom’s “Welcome to Hell”
The decision to induct Venom’s debut, Welcome to Hell, rather than the band’s second album, Black Metal, came down to one simple fact: there would be no Black Metal—the album or the genre—were it not for Welcome to Hell. It may seem something of an obvious statement to make, but the success and the metal paradigm-changing impact of the debut really set the stage for a second album that, while excellent in its own right, gave little more than its name to a genre. Certainly, nothing musically on Black Metal is any more influential or, for that matter, particularly different than Welcome to Hell. What cannot be overlooked is the incendiary effect that this blasphemous debut had on an already white-hot metal scene. While other New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands were generally pursuing a more traditional path, content to draw influences from Sabbath, Purple, UFO, Priest and other ’70s heavies, Venom wanted to make the “devil’s music” truly evil.
In 2010, seeing a goat’s head in a pentagram on the front cover of an album wouldn’t cause most metalheads to take a second look. Satanic/occult imagery has become an integral part of metal, particularly among certain subgenres. Such was not the case in late 1981 when Welcome to Hell was released. Sure, it sported the exact same front cover image as the band’s debut single, “In League With Satan,” but the full extent of the wickedness in store was to be found on the back, where the band—Cronos, “Bulldozer Bass and Vocals”; Mantas, “Chainsaw Guitar Dives”; and Abaddon, “Drums and Nuclear Warheads”—included this quote: “We are possessed by all that is evil / The death of your God we demand / We spit at the virgin you worship / And sit at lord Satan’s left hand.” The evil vibe was furthered by song titles like the title track, “Sons of Satan,” “In League With Satan,” “Witching Hour,” “One Thousand Days in Sodom,” etc. It was, without question, the most blatantly wicked, quasi-Satanic metal album ever released up to that point. While others—Black Sabbath, Pentagram and KISS among others—flirted with these images and topics, Venom shoved them in our faces.
And the Newcastle-based trio accompanied this imagery with an equally menacing racket that, while not exactly precise or tight, was well-suited to the overall vibe. This was an album recorded and mixed in three days, and it showed. But if we’re to consider some of the bands that drew inspiration from this unholy first effort—Slayer, Hellhammer, Mayhem and countless others—it’s not hard to see how dramatically this album, no matter how sloppily it was played, impacted the entire history of metal that followed.
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