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3.91 | 41 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 1981

Filed under Speed Metal


1. Sons of Satan (3:37)
2. Welcome to Hell (3:13)
3. Schizo (3:30)
4. Mayhem With Mercy (0:59)
5. Poison (4:30)
6. Live Like an Angel (Die Like a Devil) (3:58)
7. Witching Hour (3:40)
8. One Thousand Days in Sodom (4:35)
9. Angel Dust (2:39)
10. In League With Satan (3:31)
11. Red Light Fever (5:14)

Total Time: 39:26

Bonus Tracks on later remastered versions:

12. Angel Dust (Lead Weight version) (3:02)
13. In League With Satan (7" version) (3:31)
14. Live Like an Angel (Die Like a Devil) (7" version) (3:53)
15. Bloodlust (7" single) (2:59)
16. In Nomine Satanas (7" single) (3:28)
17. Angel Dust (demo) (3:10)
18. Raise the Dead (demo) (3:29)
19. Red Light Fever (demo) (4:50)
20. Welcome to Hell (demo) (4:57)
21. Bitch Witch (outtake) (3:08)
22. Snots Shit (outtake) (2:06)

Total Time: 78:06


- Anthony Bray / drums
- Conrad Lant / bass, vocals
- Jeffrey Dunn / guitars

About this release

Released by Neat Records, December 1981.

Thanks to [email protected], windhawk, 666sharon666, Unitron, siLLy puPPy for the updates


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siLLy puPPy
Whether it’s true or not, i have always seen the satire movie Spinal Tap as a parody of the early years of VENOM. Just one look at a photo of VENOM circa 1981 with the release of their debut album WELCOME TO HELL and i can’t help but think of Spinal Tap since at this early stage was down to three members after Clive Archer aka Jesus Christ left the band and Cronos took over that role. The trio looked very much like David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel and Derek Smalls but the fictional band was tamed down to a mere rock band status for mass consumption. The reason i have always made this comparison is because when it came to VENOM’s landmark and revolutionary debut album WELCOME TO HELL, the band made one of the most laughable music industry bungles in all of metal history. The band thought they were recording a demo when in fact they were recording an entire album. Every time i think of this tale, for some reason i flash back to that scene in “This Is Spinal Tap” where a miniature version of Stonehenge ends up on stage after the measurements were bungled!

Well, sometimes the biggest bungles lead to unforeseen notoriety and in the case of VENOM it couldn’t have been more of enigmatic coincidence as WELCOME TO HELL not only exposed the world to a new grittier style of heavy metal that would become known as speed metal but also proved to be the nascent birth pangs of all the extreme forms of metal such as thrash, death and black metal sub-genres that would emerge several years down the road. Not bad for one of metal’s biggest Homer Simpson award moments! While the early classic lineup consisted of Cronos (Conrad Lant) on vocals and bass, Mantas (Jeff Dunn) on guitars and Abaddon (Tony Bray) on drums, the three track cassette-only demo is the only VENOM release to feature Clive Archer aka Jesus Christ on vocals. By the time VENOM got around to this full-length album they were a mere trio of Cronos (vocals, bass), Mantas (guitars) and Abaddon (drums.)

VENOM were a rowdy bunch and took as much inspiration from punk inspired bands like Motorhead as they did from the NWOBHM that was finding traction with bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. This mixing it up of styles and a desire to take things to ever more extreme arenas earned WELCOME TO HELL the honor as ground zero for the extreme metal universe to follow and add to that the unforeseen lo-fi production that truly gives this album the ultimate underground DIY aesthetics only proved to be a plus. While the musical style is more rooted in the NWOBHM that was popular at the time, VENOM took headbangers into the world of the dark side of the occult and while the black metal world that followed would take on a completely musical approach, this release provided enough lyrical and darkened imagery to inspire for generations to come. With an opening track titled “Sons of Satan” and the closer “In League With Satan,” VENOM created one of the most vile sounding recordings of the era.

WELCOME TO HELL was aptly named as it sounds exactly like an 11 track romp through the underworld with Luciferian sermons mixed with buzzsaw fueled musical ceremonies. The metal world was just getting used to the sounds of the NWOBM and then this blasphemous noise emerged from nowhere. The censors were not pleased but VENOM let the genie out of the bottle and the snowball effect with bands getting more extreme and in every direction. Soon speed metal would evolve into the early thrash metal of Slayer and Metallica while Hellhammer and Bathory would emulate the evil aspects of WELCOME TO HELL and create more sinister refined musical terror to accompany its hitherto unthinkable content. This album was a noisy cacophonous mess to the ears of most (and still is) but underneath its lo-fi orotundity lurked a menacing parade of subject matter that could wake Aleister Crowley from the dead.

VENOM’s approach here is fairly primitive compared to the crazy complex black metal that would evolve but yet for all it’s school boy garage band simplicity, it struck pay dirt with its gleeful celebratory stance of unbridled Satanism and no fucks given, an approach not experienced in heavier music since Black Widow’s famous 1970 album “Sacrifice.” Personally it took me a while for this one to grow on me. VENOM has never been synonymous with sophistication. This band was all about blood, guts and glory and of course praising the most taboo subjects that offended the religious prudish values that had a stranglehold on both sides of the Atlantic. While not quite black metal and not quite thrash, WELCOME TO HELL nevertheless contains the seeds of both and the blueprints laid out here were quickly put to good use. Even Motley Crue took it to heart and created one of the first mainstream albums to implement the sacrilegious subject matter on their album “Shout At The Devil” just a couple years later.

While not the most consistent ride as some tracks tend to rely too much on the NWOBHM template, WELCOME TO HELL nonetheless remains an intriguing listen not only as a historical artifact but as an early proto-extremity of the a much heavier metal paradigm that would emerge. Tracks like “Red Light Fever” are primed and ready to destroy eardrums all across the globe with buzzsaw guitar distortion and tribally inspired drums running on fully fueled high octane. Even Cronos’ vocal style signifies a depraved and deranged nature that would become the staple of psychotic growly vocal styles to come. While VENOM couldn’t stay relevant for much longer after they dropped this extreme metal bomb upon an unsuspecting world as an army of new talent would quickly eclipse their efforts, VENOM nevertheless delivered two stellar albums that redefined the possibilities of just how extreme music can get and for that i’m eternally grateful!
Legend has it that the first Venom album has such a legendary lo-fi production and raw performances because the band thought they'd been booked in to produce a demo for the album, not the album itself. Whether or not this was true, the muddy souns quality on the release transformed Venom's music from a series of fast-paced NWOBHM tracks highly reminiscent of Motorhead to an altogether stranger album, an album which hinted at the sonic possibilities of the harsh soundscapes unlocked by the band.

In particular, the title track from this album is a stunning prototype for thrash metal; what Venom attained with their guitar sound through the muzzy production would be reproduced in crystal clarity by Slayer in their early material. Cronos' basswork is often lost in the mix, though where it does emerge from the fog it's raw and powerful, though not as technically accomplished as Motorhead's Lemmy (whose style is clearly an inspiration here). Abaddon's drums are a howling cacophony at the back of the mix, keeping the band driving away at what was at the time a furious pace. Where the band most resemble the black metal bands that would arise later is in the lyrical content, which embraces openly scatological and blasphemous content to an extent hitherto unseen in a metal act; musically, however, the band more closely resemble the early thrash acts who would apply increasing levels of technical proficiency to the raucous, wild sound the band describe here.

That said, though it's undeniably influential the album isn't perfect. Whilst there are compelling aesthetic reasons why the lo-fi production really does work for this material, some listeners will just find it irritating - personally, I don't, but I can see how some people might have issues with it. Secondly, the songwriting isn't at a consistently high quality. In particular, In League With Satan - whilst it has some hilariously rude lyrics - is a plodding dirge of a song, an attempt to create a simplistic piece that audience members at gigs can clap and sing along to which doesn't quite fit the denser and more interesting material surrounding it.

Still, these are niggles; on the whole, Welcome to Hell is a fascinating debut for a band with a distinctive sound straight out of the gate. I'd particularly recommend it for fans of the material Motorhead were producing around this time who aren't bothered by raw production values.

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