Let’s be honest, Black Metal would have been born as a movement or an extreme branch of Rock’n Roll even if Venom would have never appeared in our universe. Probably with satanic, evil and dark vizard (count in the ridiculous nicknames, the chains and leather dress code or the false ones and the posers too) but I doubt that it would have a better name for it or better godfathers than Venom.
In their sophomore studio full length the Newcastle upon Tyne established legion from Hell tried to take a small step forward from their debut. Welcome to Hell for this is what we are talking about was the excellent example of raw power and primitive British Heavy Metal standing in one foot on Motörhead street rock ‘n roll and on the other one on punk aggression. Of course as its predecessor we are dealing with a result recorded from three not so talented (technical speaking) musicians and probably drunken while they were rehearsing it on a cave or a basement studio. This is what makes even more fascinating though the evil trio gave a big if not huge kick in the ass of rock star system that were in a rotten degradation of creating harmless music. “Black Metal” yet had more focused guitars with a straightforward riffing motif (but weak soloing), better production (not something extra ordinary but you clearly see the evolution as vocalist and bassist Conrad «Cronos» Lant having gained more experience in the studio as an engineer, as well as the band developing a better understanding of their identity that allowed Venom to better sense of what they were looking to accomplish in the studio with the help of producer Keith Nichol) and same thirst for blood and success from Abaddon, Mantas and Cronos. The band had traveled a lot to promote their debut and created a strong fanbase of loyal that gave extra confidence to the young lads from Northern England.
Lyrically the band continues to explore Satanic themes («To Hell and Back», «Leave Me in Hell», «Sacrifice», «Heaven’s on Fire») and witchcraft («Don’t Burn the Witch»). Other themes include nightmare scenarios («Buried Alive», «Raise the Dead»), horror mythology («Countess Bathory») and adolescent sexual fantasies («Teacher’s Pet»). Of course their Satanism is «just a gimmick» as they have said in many interviews later but at the time it was out it was something rather scaring especially for the parents of the teenagers that bought the album, which made them look bad ass in their schools or universities.
Musically the 10+1 songs have a simple structure but damn they are catchy and uplifting, not to mention considered to be classics all of them! The sounds of a chainsaw cutting a door make a great opening for the album. It shows the appetite for destruction of the band from the very first moment. As with most of Venom’s early material, much of the writing was left to Lant and Dunn. Two of the songs on the album, «Buried Alive» and Raise the Dead», were written in the late 1970s and were originally intended to be on the band’s debut album, however the band felt that they were unable to do the songs justice at the time of those demo recordings. Early versions of these songs can be heard on the band’s 1979 Church Hall rehearsals recording, with original vocalist Clive Archer. «Buried Alive» was originally less than a minute long, and the remainder of what would be the rest of the song was used as the first half of «Raise the Dead» but with different lyrics. The band decided to rework these two songs with the final recording having «Buried Alive» extended and the ending transitioning into «Raise the Dead». With Lant’s experience in the studio he took very hands on approach with recording «Buried Alive». For the intro of song, the band was looking to mimic the sound of earth being shoveled onto a coffin during a burial service while a priest delivers a prayer, but they failed to capture the sound they were looking for by cutting cabbages. So they decided to bring in a cardboard box and mud, then put microphones in the box and used spades to shovel the mud into the box onto the microphones.
The title track, an ode to the extreme metal genre, opens with the sounds of a chainsaw which the band created by clamping down some large steel plates and then brought in a real chainsaw into the studio which they used on the steel plates to create the sawing sound effect. In the process, Lant stated that all of the saw’s teeth broke in trying to achieve this effect. Another song on the album, «Countess Bathory», was written when «Abaddon» was late for a session, so Dunn began jamming some new riffs while Lant would work the lyrics out. The band’s roadie came in the room and began drumming for them, and soon after «Abaddon» would come in and tried to make up a new drum pattern, but Lant and Dunn felt the roadie’s drum pattern worked best. Lant also explained the origin of the song’s opening riff, saying that it was inspired by the opening theme song of the children’s show The Magic Roundabout.
The final track on the album is a preview of the title track for what was to be the band’s third album, At War with Satan. A concept album that Lant started working on originally when he was still in school that tells the story of the battle between Heaven and Hell and with the latter coming out on top. Lant thought it would be interesting to put a teaser at the end of the record as a warning to fans of what was to come. The album was recorded in just 7 days, with Lant working long hours recording alongside the studio engineer and then mixing the tracks on his own.
The Lemmy worshipping raspy vocals, the groovy drumming, the passion, the fast barrage of riffing and the dynamic performance that overshadowed the lack of technical skills created a loud, fast paced, hard and heavy album ahead of its time that gained enough attention for Venom and placed them among legends despite the lot of controversies because of their image or the naive lyrics. But that doesn’t make it less important or less influential. Venom were the first metal band made of bad musicians that wrote good songs, that gave hope to many young guys out there to start their own band…They built a roadway with their proto-Thrash straight-ahead attack despite the lack of traditional song structure for all rebellious 80’s youth’s accumulated aggression and hate to be expressed.
The album was released in Great Britain on 1 November 1982 on NEAT Records.
Side A (“Black”)
- “Black Metal” 00:00
- “To Hell and Back” 03:45
- “Buried Alive” 06:46
- “Raise the Dead” 11:04
- “Teachers’ Pet” 13:45
Side B (“Metal”)
- “Leave Me in Hell” 18:31
- “Sacrifice” 22:07
- “Heaven’s on Fire” 26:38
- “Countess Bathory” 30:21
- “Don’t Burn the Witch” 34:09
- “At War with Satan (preview)” 37:18