Venom Overview

Venom are an English heavy metal heavy metal music band, formed in 1979 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

Considered a seminal influence for thrash thrash metal and coming to prominence towards the end of the 'New Wave of British Heavy Metal', Venom have found little mainstream success or critical acclaim , but are widely regarded as highly influential, particularly for their first two albums, Welcome to Hell (1981) and Black Metal Black Metal (album) (1982).

The title of Venom's second album would become influential and definitive enough to describe an entire subgenre called black metal. The nature of Venom's high-pitch guitars, harsh vocals, use of pseudonyms, and unrelenting emphasis on Satanic lyrics and imagery is considered the template for the subgenre's later successes, and arguably for the broader extreme metal movement in general.


 
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Early years (1978–1981)

Venom's original personnel came from three different bands: Guillotine, Oberon and DwarfStar. The original Guillotine featured Jeffrey Dunn Jeff "Mantas" Dunn and Dave Rutherford on guitars, Dean Hewitt on bass guitar, Dave Blackman on vocals and Chris Mercaters on drums. Blackman and Mercater were replaced by drummer Anthony Bray (b. 17 September 1960 in Newcastle) and vocalist Clive Archer of Oberon and soon after, Dean Hewitt was replaced by Alan Winston on bass. Around the summer of 1979, Conrad Lant from the bands DwarfStar and Album Graecum replaced Rutherford. Around this time, the band adopted the Venom moniker.

Prime influences of the formative band were Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Motörhead and Kiss Kiss (band) . Other bands cited by Venom as an inspiration are Queen Queen (band) , The Who, Deep Purple, *** Pistols, Van Halen, The Tubes and Rolling Stones.

Their second album, 1982's Black Metal Black Metal (album) is cited as perhaps the most important influence in the development of black metal, thrash metal, death metal, and other related styles that are often grouped under the extreme metal umbrella. Many defining elements of these genres are first found in the lyrics and song titles created by Lant and his unique singing style as well as the guitar work and solos performed by Dunn. Though they would later be cited as important, neither of Venom’s first two albums sold well upon their original release. And while many of their British metal peers had found measures of po***r success or critical acclaim (or, like Def Leppard, were moving away from metal towards hard rock), Venom were still regarded by critics as “a trio of buffoons”.

In an attempt to prove their status as serious musicians, Venom recorded At War with Satan in 1983. The epic 20-minute title track, with substantial progressive rock influences, took up the first side of the LP. The B-side was focused on the rapid-fire, three-minute “scorchers” Venom were known for. In 1985, Venom released their fourth album, Possessed Possessed (album) , which was not as successful as previous albums. Dunn then left the band to pursue a solo career.


Lineup changes and departure of Lant (1987–1996)

Two guitarists, Mike Hickey and Jim Clare, were hired to replace Dunn. Their fifth album, 1987's Calm Before the Storm Calm Before the Storm (Venom album) , moved away from Satanic themes in favor of Tolkien-esque “Sword and Sorcery” material. This was even less successful than Possessed, and Lant, Clare and Hickey all left Venom after subsequent touring to form Lant's eponymous solo band Cronos Cronos (band) .

Bray was left as the only group member, but he was able to convince Music for Nations for a deal to release a new Venom album on the Under One Flag label, using Deadline demo tracks which were recorded with previous line-ups but never released. In 1988, Bray offered a vocals/bass role to Tony Dolan from Atomkraft. Bray and Dolan wrote new material prior to Dunn's rejoining the band along with rhythm guitarist Al Barnes. Together they recorded Prime Evil Prime Evil (Venom album) (1989), Tear Your Soul Apart (1990) and Temples of Ice (1991). Barnes then left the band, and Steve White from Atomkraft was hired as replacement. They released The Waste Lands The Waste Lands (album) in 1992, also without success. Music for Nations refused to release any more Venom albums, so Dolan and Dunn quit, effectively disbanding Venom. Bray continued to release compilation and live albums up to 1996.


Reunion of classic lineup (1995–1999)

In 1995, Lant, Dunn and Bray reunited the "classic" line-up, beginning by headlining the Waldrock Festival. They recorded and self-released Venom '96 EP with 4 re-recorded and one new song to get a deal with SPV. An album, Cast in Stone, was released in 1997, split between new material and re-recordings of po***r early-'80s songs.


Recent work (1999–present)

Bray left Venom in 1999 and was replaced by Lant's brother Anthony "Antton" Lant Anthony Lant . This lineup released Resurrection Resurrection (Venom album) in 2000 on the SPV SPV GmbH label. However, in 2002 Dunn again left the group and was replaced by a returning Hickey. In late 2005, Venom released a career-spanning 4-disc box set MMV, which includes an exclusive mini-poster of the band's seven-date tour of Europe with Metallica and a 60 page picture book, with interviews and pictures. The set includes all their best-known songs, along with rarities like live tracks, demos and outtakes. This lineup of the band released the Metal Black album.

Hickey left the group 2007, with a guitarist calling himself Rage serving as his replacement. This lineup released the record Hell Hell (Venom album) in 2008. Anthony Lant has since left the group and has been replaced by drummer Danny "Dante" Needham.As Venom were one of the first incarnations of extreme metal, influencing many thrash metal, black metal, death metal and other extreme metal bands, their exact genre has been a topic of debate. Venom has been labeled various genres by members of the press. Most prominent genres are black metal, thrash metal, and speed metal.Welcome To Hell influenced "literally thousands" of bands. Venom's music helped shape the development of many thrash metal bands, specifically the 'Big Four of Thrash' (who in turn were highly influential): Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax Anthrax (band) and Megadeth (Metallica opened for Venom on an early 1980s tour

When asked about the criminal actions or violent behaviour of some later black metal bands (notably, there were a string of arsons and a few murders in the Norwegian black metal community in the 1990s), Venom's members reportedly expressed disapproval, stating the point of Venom is to make controversial music, and "How can you make albums and tour if you are in jail?".While many fans and musicians see Venom as an important band, their music has nonetheless been the subject of debate and criticism. Critic Eduardo Rivadavia writes that though Welcome to Hell influenced "literally thousands" of bands, Venom was "critically reviled" and composed of "incompetent musicians." Ethnographer Ethnography Keith Kahn-Harris argues that Venom's limited technical skills, particularly early in their career, were a profound, though inadvertent factor in Venom's influence: being unable to mimic more technically proficient metal of their predecessors or peers, Venom instead opted to focus on sheer speed, creating music that was inspired by earlier metal, yet simultaneously blazed new trails.

"At War with Satan" was ranked 43rd on Guitar World's list of the "100 Worst Guitar Solos".
Venom's members were apparently well aware that their musical skills were questioned, especially by other bands. During a concert at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1984, guitarist Mantas was doing a between-song rant when he remarked rather loudly: "A lot of bands are out there tonight, waiting for Venom to make a mistake. Well, we are the *** mistake!"

In his Black Flag Black Flag (band) tour diary, singer Henry Rollins wrote about a 1986 performance when Black Flag opened for Venom. He opines that Venom was hilarious, with mediocre playing and a stage performance focused on appearances rather than music; Rollins asserted that the musicians used portable fans to keep their hair flowing while on stage. Rollins wrote, "It was like seeing Spinal Tap Spinal Tap (band) ... I expected them to go into '*** Farm' at any second." Rollins writes that he and some tourmates drew magic marker pentagrams on their hands to flash at Venom and offer “Hail Satan” salutes. For their final number, Venom asked the audience to chant what Rollins thought was “Black Funky Metal”, which briefly made Rollins suspect that he had overlooked Venom's sense of humor, until he realized Venom was actually saying “Black *** Metal.” Venom reportedly laughed off Rollins’ comments saying "Henry didn't have the balls to speak to us back then, he hid backstage, but now he mouths off behind our backs. His band were useless and that's why he writes books now. He even got the date of the show wrong. Go write some more books and we'll keep making music."

On the DVD extra material of the documentary Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, bassist/singer Lemmy of Motörhead jokingly opines that Venom "fake it" on their instruments, implying that they are not skilled musicians, though later amending the statement somewhat by stating that Venom was "all right". When interviewer Sam Dunn tells Lemmy that he himself was "blown away" by Venom back when he was twelve, Lemmy responds, "Anything will blow you away when you're twelve. A day at the beach will blow you away when you are twelve."

The band was named an honorable mention on MTV's list "The Greatest Metal Bands of All Time" where they were referred to as having, "the speed (but not skill) of Motörhead, the sinister quality of Sabbath and the showmanship of Kiss — on a low budget." and that, "The quality of their songs is debatable".
Current members

* Conrad "Cronos" Lant Conrad Lant – bass guitar, vocals (1979–1987, 1995–present)
* La Rage – guitar (2007–present)
* Danny "Dante" Needham – drums (2009–present)


Former members

* Jeffrey "Mantas" Dunn Jeff "Mantas" Dunn – guitar (1979–1986, 1989–2002)
* Anthony "Abaddon" Bray – drums (1979–1999)
* Clive "Jesus Christ" Archer – vocals (1979–1980)
* Mike "Mykvs" Hickey – guitar (1986–1987, 2005–2007)
* Jim Clare – guitar (1986–1987)
* Tony "Demolition Man" Dolan Tony Dolan – vocals, bass guitar (1989–1992)
* Alastair "Big Al" Barnes – guitar (1989–1991)
* Steve "War Maniac" White – guitar (1992)
* Antony "Antton" Lant Antony Lant – drums (2000–2009)
Studio albums and EPs

* Welcome to Hell (1981)
* Black Metal Black Metal (album) (1982)
* At War with Satan (1983) (Chart Position #64 UK),(#48 SE)
* Possessed Possessed (album) (1985) (Chart Position #99 UK)
* Calm Before the Storm Calm Before the Storm (Venom album) (1987)
* Prime Evil Prime Evil (Venom album) (1989)
* Tear Your Soul Apart (EP) (1990)
* Temples of Ice (1991)
* The Waste Lands The Waste Lands (album) (1992)
* Venom '96 (EP) (1996)
* Cast in Stone (1997)
* Resurrection Resurrection (Venom album) (2000)
* Metal Black (2006)
* Hell Hell (Venom album) (2008)
* TBA (2010)


Live albums

* Eine Kleine Nachtmusik Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (album) (1986)


Compilation albums

* The Singles 1980-1986 (1986)
* The Book of Armageddon (Best of) (1992)
* Skeletons In The Closet (1993)
* Kissing the Beast (1993)
* New, Live and Rare (1998)
* Old New Borrowed & Blue (1999)
* In League with Satan (2002)
* MMV (Box set) (2005)
 

 

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