All of the Big 4 of thrash metal i.e. Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax have acknowledged Venom as a key influence with the former two serving as support bands in the infancy of their careers. The early Black Metal bands such as Hellhammer/ Celtic Frost and Bathory were also massively influenced, which in turn led to the birth of the international Death and Black Metal scenes.
The bands also had a crossover appeal with the punk scene. Being influenced by the first wave of bands such as The Sex Pistols they had much musically in common with the second wave bands such as Discharge.
# 10 – Clarisse
The Waste Lands is the bands eight album and the last with singer Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan who replaced original vocalist Cronos in 1988. It’s fair to say it wasn’t the best era, but it wasn’t completely terrible. It’s an era that often gets seen as the point where the band were churning out material that was largely forgettable. It’s definitely true that they were not producing anything ground-breaking at this point. With that said, The Waste Lands is a fairly solid album with some creative ideas. “Clarisse” is a particular highlight. Based off a certain film that was out at the time called The Silence of the Lambs, it deals with the antagonist Hannibal Lector’s perspective of the protagonist Clarisse.
It is a slow and atmospheric number where Dolan sings in an almost crooning style throughout before lashing out angrily at the very end. It actually does a very good job of understanding the character of Hannibal, taking a very psychological approach into his mind and how he is viewed by the world. A little cheesy perhaps, but interesting nevertheless. In a genre where there’s often a lot over the top lyrics, it’s quite refreshing to hear.
# 9 – The Evil One
The opening of track of the reunion album of the classic line-up of Cronos, Mantas and Abaddon, 1997’s Cast in Stone, this track had the duty of introducing what relevance Venom had in the mid 90’s with the genre they helped to create being very much an underground thing at that point. As it turned out, it was a solid effort, with the trio quite clearly having their chemistry back. They had gone back to their early style of thrashing speed metal with Satanic lyrics. Recorded at Lartington Hall Studio’s near Barnard Castle in Durham, the band were on their hometown soil and clearly in their element again. You can definitely hear that, which is helped by the fact that they had improved as musicians by this point, with their lack of technical ability being a drawback for them in their early days. With that said, it still has a raw sound which is needed for Venom.
“The Evil One” is basically a classic Venom banger. The title pretty much speaks for itself, being about their favourite subject: Satan! To some, it might have seemed silly and outdated to be singing about such a subject matter in 1997, but if you’re a Venom fan, you probably don’t really care. As the Dolan era was very much the wilderness years for the band, many fans were pleased to see them revitalised doing something exciting again. However, the glorious reunion was not to last, as the line-up quickly fell apart again. By the time of the next album, 2000’s Resurrection , Abaddon was again gone. It’s a long story. Moving on…
# 8 – Metal Punk
Venom from day one were influenced by punk, particularly by its attitude and the fact that, like Venom, most bands in the genre often were not great at playing their instruments. So when they arrived it was no surprise that a lot of the punks liked them, which is not something many metal bands could say at the time. Unlike most other heavy metal bands, Venom did look down on the punk bands due to their lack of technicality, probably because they didn’t have much to look down on! Like their hero’s Motorhead, they embraced much of its rawness, as it helped them create their extreme sound. “Metal Punk” is simply a tribute to their spiky haired comrades.
Off 1987’s Calm Before The Storm album, it’s not one of their most celebrated tracks, this being at the point where the flame was starting to fade out. However, this track stands out as the albums highlight, very much taking inspiration from the music that it is paying tribute to. Somewhat resembling bands such as The Exploited, it is a classic piece of what is now seen as “crossover thrash” when bands were using elements of both styles to create a whole new one. It uses the distorted style of guitar playing as well as the blasting drums to live up to its title.
A notable thing about this album is that it marked the band’s first line-up change since their early days, as Mantas left and was replaced by two guitarists in the form of Jim Claire and Mike Hickey. This marked it as the first album to not be recorded by the original trio. Interestingly, Hickey would join the band again nearly twenty years later, ironically replacing Mantas again. It was also the last album of Cronos’s original run, with the two guitarists also leaving to join him in his solo career. That’s when Dolan came in and the two guitarists were replaced by a familiar figure in the form of Mantas as well as another guitarist called Al Barnes.
# 7 – Prime Evil
Another Dolan track, this time the title track from his debut Prime Evil. Dolan had big boots to fill after Cronos left and to be fair, he didn’t do a terrible job, as this rather rocking track proves. The song is a little in the more mainstream area of hard rock rather than the extreme style that the band were generally known for. Dolan has a similar sounding voice to Cronos but it has a bit more of a swagger about it than Cronos’s raspy shout. Overall, an underrated song from an underrated album. Dolan went on to perform with Mantas and Abaddon years later as Venom Inc.
# 6 – Temples of Ice
The title and closing track off Dolan’s second effort with the band, 1991’s Temples of Ice, it shows a more experimental side to Venom. A long number at over 6 minutes, it varies between slow, mid paced and fast parts and gives the band a chance to show what they can do as musicians. Mantas and Barnes do a pretty good job as a dual guitar unit, with the song containing some impressive sounding solos. Then something completely unexpected happens: the thrashing stops at the end and a melodic trippy section ensues, which is nice little way to end the song.
# 5 – Welcome To Hell
The title track off Venom’s first album, the title is pretty self-explanatory as an introduction to the world of Venom. There was truly nothing like it at time, even though the production is bad, that is essentially what gives its sound.
The criticism’s are easy to make, particularly the rather puerile and dated sounding Satanic lyrics. Also the bands amateurish musicianship at this time, not helped by the unpolished production, makes it sound incredibly noisy. However, it is all these negative aspects that ultimately end up creating something incredibly unique. It should be noted that Venom were generally despised by both critics and other bands at the time. However, history has proven those critics very wrong indeed.
# 4 – At War with Satan
Now was the time to progress. After pioneering extreme metal with Black Metal Venom decided that for the third album, 1984’s At War with Satan that they were going to explore some grander concepts. Particularly inspired by Rush’s 2112 album, At War is a concept album dealing with a war between heaven and hell. It was ideally going to be Venom’s attempt to go more mainstream, which didn’t end up happening.
This was not helped by the fact that the album was pulled from stores due to its anti-Christian content. It showed maturity in the band’s song writing and musical capabilities and was much more well received by critics than the previous two albums. This title track in particular shows them slow down from the thrash to create a track that is much more progressive sounding. At nearly twenty minutes long (not something Venom have ever done before or since) it takes up the entire first side of the album. To some it may sound bloated and a little too adventurous but is nonetheless a notable entry in Venom’s discography.
# 3 – Metal Black
A stupid title maybe, but one that signify the full circle that Venom had come too in the 21st century. Featuring the line-up of Cronos being joined by new members Mykvs and Antton , this title track off the 2006 album is a classic modern day Venom number that manages to inject new life into the old style. Once again using the lyrical content of Venom being dark lords, it pulls no punches and is a very heavy track helped by a modern production. It never slows down and the energy is definitely there.
# 2 – Punks Not Dead
Another tribute to the punks, this time off 2011’s Fallen Angels. Lyrically it deals with the idea that you should never let age get you down. And with that concept, the band live up to it with the music which is a rocking number that lets you know that Venom are still here and will be for the foreseeable future.
Featuring yet another different line-up, this time Cronos being joined by guitarist Rage and drummer Dante, Venom are easily now better musicians than they have ever been before and this track proves it. Although they no longer have that super-raw edge what made their initial sound, it does not matter as these days they can simply make sold metal albums which still sound fresh and exciting.
# 1 – Black Metal
The title track off the band’s most legendary album, this one track essentially encompasses the birth of a new kind of metal that continues to evolve and exist to this day. Raw sounding, bleak and with lyrics dealing with Venom as the dark gods of rock n roll, what you have here is a genuine musical millstone which is what guarantees its place at number 1 on this list.
Even given aside its importance as a historical document, it is genuinely great speed metal number and one of the greatest metal songs of all time in general.
Top 10 Venom Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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