Venom is a British heavy metal band from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. Formed in 1979, Venom is considered the precursor of the so-called “extreme” heavy metal, and as such is considered the most important of the initiating bands of black metal, with its album of the same name.
However, metal music historians tend to place him in the NWOBHM movement (a movement that includes bands such as Iron Maiden, Saxon, Def Leppard, and Diamond Head), a movement that Venom also claims to belong to. Venom is also considered, along with Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Motörhead and Iron Maiden, to have been one of the most influential bands in the evolution and history of heavy metal.
Venom’s discography is one of the most confusing in the history of heavy metal, if not in the history of rock in general. The band has often turned a blind eye to piracy and unauthorized compilations in order to maintain its image as a popular band. The studio albums are very clearly identified within this discography, but even the latter (especially the most famous ones such as Welcome to Hell or Black Metal) exist in numerous pirated versions due to the numerous labels having acquired their reproduction and distribution rights. Some are more sought after than others by collectors. Let’s add to that many singles, live albums more or less official, various compilations, bootlegs sometimes more famous than some official records, etc
In the late 1970s, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) was born in Great Britain with bands like Iron Maiden, Saxon and Motörhead3. This revival of British hard rock became popular throughout the country and many bands were formed. Originally from Newcastle, the members of what would become the band Venom in a few years all played in various heavy metal bands in the city between 1976 and 1979. Conrad Lant played guitar in a band called Album Gracia, which was formed in 19764. Album Gracia changed its name to Dwarfstar in 1978. Jeffrey Dunn formed the group Guillotine4 in 1979. Anthony Bray, for his part, evolves within the group Oberon, in the company of a young vocalist named Clive Archer4.
In 1979, Jeffrey Dunn is not satisfied with his singer, a certain Dave Blackman, nor with his drummer, a certain Chris MacPeters. Meeting by chance Bray and Archer at a Judas Priest concert, he suggested that they give Guillotine a try. In August 1979, Bray and Archer joined the band. Dave Rutherford, the second guitarist of Guillotine, does not appreciate the arrival of the two newcomers within the group. He then leaves the group and Dunn starts looking for a new guitarist. Through mutual friends, he met Conrad Lant, who at the time was working as a sound engineer at Impulse Studio.
Conrad Lant became Guillotine’s new guitarist, but soon the band’s bassist, Alan Winston, left the band just before a concert. Conrad Lant took his place at the last minute, and the band became a quartet. At the beginning of 1980, Guillotine changed its name to Venom in 1979, after Jeffrey Dunn’s biker nickname. The members of the group also took advantage of this time to use pseudonyms, which was still very rare at that time in the hard rock world. These pseudonyms were intended to reinforce the satanic image of the band: Conrad Lant became Conrad Cronos, Jeffrey Dunn became Jeff Mantas, and Anthony Bray became Tony Abaddon. These three pseudonyms will be very quickly simplified into Cronos, Mantas and Abaddon. Clive Archer, for his part, chose the pseudonym – strange for a satanic group – of Jesus Christ. This first version of Venom recorded three songs, Raise The Dead, Angel Dust and Red Light Fever, with Clive Archer on vocals. A fourth demo, Live Like an Angel, Die Like a Devil, was recorded soon after, but with Cronos on vocals4.
The demos recorded with Clive Archer have since been remastered and can be heard as bonus tracks on the 2002 reissue of Welcome to Hell and on the first disc of the MMV anthology, released in 2005.
In 1981, the band recorded the single, In League with Satan / Live Like an Angel, at Impulse Studios in Wallsend5. The same year, the independent label Neat Records, historically known for having produced many bands of the NWOBHM movement, gave Venom a chance and agreed to finance their first single on which these two titles appear. The cover of this first single, designed by Cronos, is now as famous as the band, featuring a huge pentacle with the equally famous intertwined logo. The band’s dirty sound was in stark contrast to all the productions of the time, and the band’s concerts, Dantesque and full of rage, attracted a large audience, curious to see these new phenomena.
The band’s first album, Welcome to Hell, was released in 1981 and was also recorded at Impulse Studios and produced by Keith Nichol4. It was followed by Black Metal in 1982, also recorded at Impulse Studios and produced by Keith Nichol5, which made the band really popular. Black Metal was released by Neat Records in the UK, and by Roadrunner Records in Europe4. Also in 1982, the band recorded its first Friday Rock Show on Radio One, performing Black Metal, Nightmare and Bloodlust4. In 1983, Venom’s third album At War with Satan was released. The first European date of the band is in Belgium5. On June 1, 1984, to promote At War with Satan, the band played at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, and accidentally set fire to the ceiling; the band was banned for a year6,2. The following year, the band released Possessed in 1985, this time on Combat Records5. Prior to the Possessed recordings, Cronos produced Tysondog’s first Neat Records album, Beware of the Dog, which he later described as “shit” or “crap. ” The band returned to Europe on September 14, 1985, participating in the Metal Hammer Fest in Loreley, Germany, and playing with various bands such as Savage Grace, Tyran’ Pace, Metallica, Nazareth and Pretty Maids5.
Their first four albums are cult albums and the foundation of their musical style. Mantas left the band in 1986 after the American tour with Hirax, and Cronos and Abaddon decided to recruit two new guitarists, Jim Clare and Mike Hickey5,4. Rather than adopting pseudonyms like the two historical members of the band, the two guitarists simply abbreviated their names to Jimi C. and Mike H. They accompanied the band to Brazil with Exciter, then to Japan4. The musical direction chosen by the group for their new album will also be new and will surprise many fans. The more worked sound of the new guitarists pushes the group to abandon its image of an unhealthy and violent group in favour of that of a more classic heavy metal group. Thus, the album Calm Before The Storm was released in 1987. This album, welcomed by the specialized press in a mitigated way4, contains re-recordings of a part of the titles worked with Mantas for the aborted album Deadline, plus new compositions. The worked solos of the two new guitarists contrast strongly with the dirty and dark sounds of the Mantas era. The lyrics, tinged with heroic fantasy and deliberately non-satanic themes, show Venom trying their hand at epic metal. The promotional tour of the group is a failure and Cronos, vexed by this disavowal, leaves the group. Jim Clare and Mike Hickey follow him and together they found the band Cronos7. Abaddon is now alone at the helm of Venom.