Welcome to Hell

Welcome to Hell is the debut studio album by English extreme metal band Venom. It was released in December 1981, through Neat Records, at the culmination of the new wave of British heavy metal movement. It is widely regarded as the first album in the black metal genre.

Welcome to Hell
Welcome to Hell.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedDecember 1981
RecordedAugust 1981
StudioImpulse Studios in Newcastle, England
Genre
Length39:26
LabelNeat (UK)
Combat(US)
ProducerKeith Nichol and Venom
Venom chronology
Welcome to Hell
(1981)
Black Metal
(1982)

The album was re-released by Sanctuary Records in 2002.[1]

BackgroundEdit

Venom's original personnel came from three different bands: Guillotine, Oberon and Dwarfstar. After numerous lineup and name changes the band, now a five-piece consisting of Clive Archer, Alan Winston, Conrad Lant, Jeffrey Dunn, and Tony Bray settled on the name Venom, after a suggestion by the band's roadie.[2]

Writing and recordingEdit

Many of the earliest recordings of songs from the album were written by guitarist Jeffrey "Mantas" Dunn before eventual vocalist and bassist Conrad "Cronos" Lant even joined the band in November 1979. Lant introduced them to his original song ideas as he did not want to keep playing the same cover songs, and with Dunn he began writing new songs for the band. Lant had composed songs like "Sons of Satan", "Bloodlust" and "Welcome to Hell", while Dunn had composed songs like "Angel Dust", "Red Light Fever", "Buried Alive", "Raise the Dead" and "Live Like an Angel (Die Like a Devil)". Dunn and Lant redefined together these songs with a mutual collaboration and then, after unsuccessfully trying to convince the managing director at Impulse Studios where Lant was working at the time as a tape operator to allow Venom studio time to record, Lant decided to record one of the bands church hall rehearsals on a basic cassette recorder in late 1979 with original vocalist Clive Archer on vocals, Alan Winston on bass, Lant and Dunn on guitar, and Bray on drums. They performed the tracks: "Angel Dust", "Red Light Fever", "Buried Alive", "Raise The Dead" and the band song "Venom". Unfortunately, as the band rehearsed in an old church hall the sound was not very good.[2]

"So one day at our Church Hall rehearsals I set up an old crappy cassette player and recorded our rehearsal, it was terrible, the hall was way to big, and so the recordings sounded really distant and booming, a right racket, but anyway I played it to everyone at the studio and they hated it, and not surprising as the big church hall reverb didn’t do justice to our sound, and we sounded terrible." — Lant[2]

In February of 1980 Winston left the band less than a week before they were to play their first show at the Meth in Wallsend on February 15, 1980. Lant then took over bass guitar duties and soon after the band also decided on using stage names since they felt singing songs about Satanism and the occult with ordinary names didn't feel right. The band settled on more formidable and demonic names to better fit their images and their stage personalities. Archer becoming "Jesus Christ", Lant "Cronos", Bray "Abbadon", and Dunn "Mantas". After failing to win over the studio with their church hall rehearsals, Lant was able to convince studio engineer Mickey Sweeney to work a short recording session with the band (for free under the condition that Lant stay back every night in the studio and help him with other sessions) and even managed to persuade record company boss David Wood to get half a day in the studio for free. The recording session took place on April 19, 1980 and the band recorded three tracks: "Angel Dust", "Raise The Dead" and "Red Light Fever". Lant then made cassette copies of the 3 songs and sent them to various record companies, radio stations, music magazines and rock clubs.[2] This demo tape is entitled Demon.

"Soon after I came up with the idea of trying to convince the engineer (Mickey Sweeney) to work a short session for free if I'd stay back every night in the studio and help him with other sessions, he agreed, so I now just had to try to persuade the studio boss (Dave Wood) to give me a few hours for free also, again agreeing to do all sorts of extra [unpaid] work around the studio. Eventually, he agreed and this was when I finally got 4 hours session time so we could record the 3 track demo, at last we had a good-ish quality recording our ourselves to play to the world, and I made as many copies as I could to mail out to all sorts of labels and magazines, and one mag in particular was 'Sounds Magazine', which one of the editors; Geoff Barton decided to put all 3 tracks in his weekly play list, and for a few weeks running, he claimed he loved them so much he didn't want 3 different artists like the other journalists put in their play lists, he put all 3 of our songs from the demo tape." — Lant[2]

After some minor attention from local magazines in the summer of 1980 the band returned to the studio after some talks with their label; Neat Records, and it was decided that due to the high amount of volume of bands looking to record at the time the label would put an affordable deal together called the "£50 Demos" allowing each band 4 hours in the studio to record as many live songs as possible straight to 2 track master for £50's. However, Lant was unable to get the money so he again agreed to work long hours in the studio to pay for the session. Once given the go ahead Lant brought the band in on October 10th, 1980 and began recording. From out of the 4 hour session the band recorded 6 tracks: "Sons Of Satan", "In League With Satan", "Angel Dust", "Live Like an Angel", "Schizo" (later retitled "Schizoid") and the band song "Venom". It was during this recording session that Lant was asked to sing lead vocals on "Live Like An Angel", and his bandmates, so impressed by his performance, decided to make Lant their new lead vocalist and Clive Archer was soon let go.[2]

"When it was time to record Live Like An Angel Jeff asked me if I'd have a go singing it, I said "Hell Yeah", although at the end of the session we had a band meeting and the guitarist and drummer said that they preferred my vocal style to Clive’s. I must say he was very big about the whole situation even though he had in reality just been sacked, he said we could keep his PA for me to sing through, and his parting words were something like; ‘I fucking love this band, I really hope you guys make it."— Lant[2]

Venom thus became a trio, with "Cronos" on vocals and bass, "Mantas" on guitar and "Abaddon" on drums. After convincing Neat Records to take a chance and let Venom record a single, the band headed back to the studio in January 1981 and released their first professional recording material, a vinyl, 7" single titled In League with Satan / Live Like an Angel on April 19, 1981, one year to the day that the band recored their first demo, Demon. Neat Records, impressed with the success and reception of the single, asked the band to record all their material.[3] Venom once again returned to Impulse studios in August and over the course of only three days re-recorded all of the material they had, however, the label decided to release these re-recorded demos, unpolished and with little production values. The final product being the band's debut album Welcome to Hell, a collection of demos packaged with a cover.[2]

Music and lyricsEdit

The music of Welcome to Hell is described as a mix of heavy metal, punk metal and speed metal. The album had great influence on the emerging extreme metal genres of thrash, death and black metal[1] due to the album sonically being very raw and loud in part because the band members thought they were making a simple demo and not an actual album during the only three days they were recording in the studio. Lyrically, the songs explore themes such as hedonism, sexual depravity ("Live Like an Angel (Die Like a Devil)" "1000 Days in Sodom" "Red Light Fever" "Poison"), serial killing ("Schizoid"), drug use ("Angel Dust"), witchcraft ("Witching Hour") and Satanism ("Welcome to Hell" "In League with Satan"). Two tracks contain use of biblical scripture with the title track featuring a female voice reciting an extract from Psalm 23 and "1000 Days in Sodom" telling the story of the biblical city of Sodom and the prevailing depravity and degradation as the city and its inhabitants are destroyed for their sins. The track "In League with Satan" opens with a reversed recording of a demonic-sounding voice by using the backmasking technique. When played in reverse the voice of Lant can be heard saying "Satan, raised in hell, I'm gonna burn your soul, crush your bones, I'm gonna make you bleed, you gonna bleed for me" can be heard. This is one of the earliest instances of Satanic subliminal messages in music.[4]

ArtworkEdit

 
The Sigil of Baphomet, the official insignia of the Church of Satan.

The album cover, designed by Lant, used the same graphics for the cover of the single In League with Satan / Live Like an Angel. The only differences are the format and color of the print (golden instead of white) and the title. The artwork consists of a black background where there is a golden circular pentacle, inside is the head of the Goat of Mendes, symbol of the Church of Satan, a stylized Baphomet with a fierce expression; above that is the band logo "Venom" and under the title of the disc in gothic characters. The five-pointed star is in turn circumscribed by two concentric circles. In the space between the two circumferences there are five Hebrew letters, each corresponding to a point of the star which take on the value of Belial, Leviathan, Lucifer, Satan, indicating Earth, Water, Air, Fire; plus the southern tip which represents man. On the back cover is a photo of the band holding axes on a beach near Newcastle. In the very first copies of the disc, a black and white mini-poster of the group was also included.[5]

Release and receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic     [1]
Collector's Guide to Heavy Metal6/10[6]
Sounds     [7]

The album was released in Great Britain on Neat Records in December 1981. Early copies included a pink lyric sheet and a black and white mini-poster depicting the Venom members. The logo of the record company on the various vinyl LP prints varies in color, ranging from silver to blue, green, white and red.[8]

British journalist Geoff Barton stated in his 1981 five-star review of Welcome to Hell that the album had "the hi-fi dynamics of a 50-year-old pizza", and that it "brought a new meaning to the word 'cataclysmic' ".[7] According to AllMusic journalist Eduardo Rivadavia, highlights of the album include "Welcome to Hell", "In League with Satan", "One Thousand Days in Sodom" and "Witching Hour"; Rivadavia said of "Witching Hour": "Possibly Venom's single most important track, in it you'll hear a number of stylistic devices which would later pervade all extreme metal genres, indeed become their most regularly abused clichés."[1] Canadian journalist Martin Popoff wrote that "Welcome to Hell got a certain fabulously stupid impetus to it, despite the sub-bootleg quality recording, and Cronos quickly establishing himself as the most annoying voice in rock"; it should be considered "a record of historical metal relevance", but "not the band's most listenable product".[6]

TourEdit

With stories of the bands chaotic shows that they were playing in old church halls becoming well known to locals, the band was granted an opportunity to play a show at a sports hall called Maecke Blyde in Poperinge, Belgium. Lant, wanting to get away from the UK to see what the response would be to the band from fans who knew nothing of them, jumped at the chance. The concert took place on June 4, 1982 and was attended by over 3000 fans, and after a successful show in Poperinge the band now set their sights on the United States.[9]

LegacyEdit

Due to its unpolished sound as a result of it being recorded in only three days, author Dayal Patterson stated that the relatively low-fidelity of Welcome to Hell inspired numerous Norwegian metal bands, who considered it black metal. Patterson says that Welcome to Hell and Black Metal were both the genesis for the black metal genre, with the earlier album "where it was born."[10][11]

In 2017, Rolling Stone ranked Welcome to Hell as 74th on their list of 'The 100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time.'[12]

The black metal band Mayhem borrowed their name from the instrumental track "Mayhem with Mercy"[13] and covered the song "Witching Hour" on their EP Deathcrush. The German thrash metal band Sodom also reportedly named themselves in reference to the song "One Thousand Days in Sodom".

In addition to covering the song, Canadian parody metal band Zimmers Hole references "In League with Satan" in the title of their album When You Were Shouting at the Devil... We Were in League with Satan.

Track listingEdit

All tracks are written by Bray/Dunn/Lant.

Side A
No.TitleLength
1."Sons of Satan"3:38
2."Welcome to Hell"3:15
3."Schizoid"3:34
4."Mayhem with Mercy"0:58
5."Poison"4:33
6."Live Like an Angel (Die Like a Devil)"3:59
Side B
No.TitleLength
7."Witching Hour"3:40
8."One Thousand Days in Sodom"4:36
9."Angel Dust"2:43
10."In League with Satan"3:35
11."Red Light Fever"5:14
Bonus tracks in 1985 re-release by Combat Records
No.TitleLength
12."In Nomine Satanas"3:28
13."Bursting Out"2:56
Bonus tracks in 2002 re-release by Castle/Sanctuary
No.TitleLength
12."Angel Dust" (Lead Weight version)3:03
13."In League with Satan" (7-inch version)3:31
14."Live Like an Angel" (7-inch version)3:54
15."Bloodlust" (7-inch version)2:59
16."In Nomine Satanas" (7-inch version)3:31
17."Angel Dust" (Demo)3:10
18."Raise the Dead" (Demo)3:29
19."Red Light Fever" (Demo)4:51
20."Welcome to Hell" (Demo)4:57
21."Bitch Witch" (Out-take)3:08
22."Snots Shit" (Out-take)2:06

CreditsEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e Rivadavia, Eduardo. "Welcome to Hell – Venom : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards : Allmusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "The Complete History Of Venom". Official Venom Website. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  3. ^ Valentini, Andrea (1 March 2015). VENOM Metallo Nero 1979-1982. Italy: Tsunami. p. 43. ISBN 978-8896131725.
  4. ^ "In League With Satan Lyrics". Metal Kingdom. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  5. ^ "Venom History". www.venomcollector.com. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  6. ^ a b Popoff, Martin (1 November 2005). The Collector's Guide to Heavy Metal: Volume 2: The Eighties. Burlington, Ontario, Canada: Collector's Guide Publishing. p. 395. ISBN 978-1894959315.
  7. ^ a b Barton, Geoff (December 1981). "Venom: Welcome to Hell (Neat)". Sounds.
  8. ^ "Welcome To Hell". www.venomcollector.com. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  9. ^ "The Early Years". www.venomcollector.com. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  10. ^ Horsley, Jonathan (11 November 2013). "Dayal Patterson, author of Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult give us his Top 10 BM albums". Decibel. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  11. ^ Patterson, Dayal (2013). Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult. Feral House. pp. 6–16. ISBN 9781936239764.
  12. ^ "The 100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. 21 June 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  13. ^ The Dark Past.

External linksEdit