Venom was formed in 1979 when drummer Abbadon and guitarist Mantas met at a Judas Priest concert (Hell ya!!!). Eventually, their initial singer and bassist left the band and Cronos joined. This album, Black Metal, was the album that initiated the black metal movement. From my understanding, black metal is simply heavy metal but with a slightly darker sound and with lyrics that pertain to evil and Satanism (someone correct me if there is more to it than that). This sub genre is still relatively popular today and this album is still talked about. Why would such an album still be remembered after 20+ years" Well, I don’t listen to black metal but I’m assuming that this is like THE definitive album of the genre. After all, the genre was named after this album. Putting the whole influence of the album aside, I must add that Black Metal, the album, is way ahead of its time. Although released in 1982, before any thrash band had released an LP, many songs on the album are extremely fast paced. In addition, the general sound is very raw and slightly reminiscent of early punk. I would describe it as evil sounding Motorhead. The songs are relatively short (most under 4 minutes) and there is little variety in the song writing. Yet, the raw aggression, the satanic and evil lyrics and pretty poor production seem to charm the listener and make him or her say, “Hey, this is catchy”.
Cronos: Vocals, bass
Despite the mysterious appeal that this album possesses, I have to make some quick negative points. First of all, the production is poor. As the tracks play, you can almost hear someone screaming over the unclean sound, “This was recorded on a low budget”. To make matters worse, the instruments are out of tune on some tracks. The cheap sound, plus the sound of dissonant chords being blasted is a dirty mixture. Also, Cronos can’t sing at all. I’m not saying that his growling half singing half talking sounds bad, (It fits the music perfectly) but it might turn down some listeners. In addition, fans of technical music will probably dislike this because no band member displays particularly good musicianship at any moment. They simply do exactly what they are meant to, which is to rock out and make us headbang. Yet, the songs themselves are mostly quite excellent. They are simple, heavy, fast, and lyrically provocative. As I mentioned, not technically brilliant, but excellent in their own ways. For example, To Hell and Back consists mainly of one riff and a few fills. But, the song is awesome!!! The simple heavy triplets, along with Cronos’ raspy growls make an excellent combination. Also, the chorus to Sacrifice is brilliant with Cronos repeating “SACRIFICE”. In addition, Cronos’ lyrics are quite entertaining and well thought of and are not just “ Satan rules hell, die by his hand and drink the virgins blood”, or any stereotypical Satan loving metal band. They are just evil enough to make you think that it’s cool but not extreme enough to make you laugh and say it’s cheesy. I would go far enough to say that some of his lines are quite anthem like and memorable such as, “Lay down your soul to the gods rock N roll” or “We… Will… Raise the Dead”. The guitar riffs are all pretty basic but are heavy enough to make you bang your head and play air guitar. The drumming, although not astounding, does its job well. Abbadon delivers some quite fast double pedal beats. All in all, my description of this album’s sound would be a mixture of NWOBHM with a foreshadowing of thrash, a small hint of punk, and an almost indescribable darkness that probably echoes through every black metal album that follows this one.
In conclusion, this album entertains me. I like every song, and don’t find that there are any boring moments. The songs are short and do not drag on too long. Moreover, despite the similarity in song structure, no two songs really sound alike. It’s a rockin’ good time through and through. For the influential side, I am sort of blocked because I am not an avid listener of black metal. I can only judge its importance by what I’ve heard people say and what I’ve read. Even though I can clearly see that it is ahead of it’s time, it is hard for me to speak of its true importance to black metal music (besides the fact that they named the sub genre after this album).
Recommended tracks: Black Metal, To Hell and Back, Buried Alive, Sacrifice, Blood Lust.
Final rating: 3.5/5. I’m sure black metal listeners would give it more though.