Retrospective: 30 Years Of Venom’s ‘Black Metal’

By Andrew Bansal

Exactly 30 years ago, on November 1st 1982, British heavy metal legends Venom released their massively influential second studio album “Black Metal”. They inspired the first generation of thrash metal, black metal and various other forms of extreme metal to such an extent that the Venom touch can be felt in the music of countless number of bands today. The title song of this album itself, for example, has been one of the most popular choices for a metal cover tune over these past 30 years. I don’t think I’ve come across any other song being covered by nearly as many different bands. Having said that, the Venom sound of 1982 was something extremely raw, various aspects of it were completely original, and it was entirely different from what the Venom-inspired bands have morphed it into, from those days leading up to the present day. So, at least once in a while, it feels good to reminisce the early Venom albums like Black Metal and see where it all came from. Today is the perfect day to do just that.

Because of the various cover versions, the title track is the most commonly known song off this album, but there’s a lot more to it than that. In fact, when you listen to the entire album, it really showcases how different it is to the extreme metal genres it inspired. With the exception of two relentless speed metal tunes ‘Black Metal’ and ‘Heaven’s On Fire’, the rest of the album is basically rock ‘n roll. So it’s fair to say that on this album, Venom built on the foundation laid down by their own debut effort ‘Welcome To Hell’, and carried forward the musical style of bands such as Motorhead, and by those who formed the early years of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. There is no greater proof of this than the best known lyric from the title track:

“Lay down your souls to the gods rock ‘n’ roll”

Venom very much stood by this motto with the music they wrote for this album. But what made them different and unique was the lyrical theme, the album art, the low-fi production, Conrad ‘Cronos’ Lant’s vocal style, the use of pseudonyms, and the album’s title itself. They took rock ‘n roll and gave it a new image, and that gave instant excitement to the next generation of musicians. Thus came the first wave of black metal, then the Norwegian black metal scene, and so on. Quite a few of these black metal bands have taken things far too seriously and focused too much on everything other than the music itself in my opinion, with the burning of churches, murders and what not. Venom, on the contrary, did it right. At heart, they played rock ‘n roll. Their imagery is merely for entertainment purposes, and clearly has a tongue-in-cheek nature to it all.

On the flip side, a lot of people criticize them, specially on this album, for their lack of ‘technical ability’, goofiness and bad production, but when it comes to pure enjoyment for a fan of heavy music, Venom’s ‘Black Metal’ is one of the first albums that come to my mind. I’ve embedded the full album below, so on this glorious day, drink a few cold ones and bang your heads to the mighty Venom \m/