Venom Biography

This UK black metal band, a major influence on thrash pioneers Metallica, Slayer and Possessed, as well as the satanic fraternity, was formed in 1978 as Guillotine in Newcastle Upon Tyne by Cronos (Conrad Lant; bass, vocals), Mantas (b. Jeff Dunn; guitar) and Abaddon (b. Tony Bray; drums). Their debut was 1981’s legendary Welcome To Hell, a raw collection of brutal songs filled with dark, satanic imagery. Black Metal was much better in terms of playing and production, and remains Venom’s best album, containing the atmospheric ‘Buried Alive’ amid the more customary speed bursts. At War With Satan, a semi-concept album released in 1984, and numerous singles followed - BBC Radio 1 disc jockey Tommy Vance paid £100 to charity when Mike Read played ‘Warhead’ on his breakfast show for a bet - and Venom played numerous major shows worldwide (club dates were precluded by the nature of Venom’s pyrotechnics, which tended to cause structural damage in enclosed spaces), proudly refusing to be anything but headliners. However, 1985’s poor Possessed and a spate of unofficial live and compilation releases hurt the band, and Mantas left as the same year’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik live set emerged. Mike Hickey and Jimmy Clare were recruited for live commitments, and this line-up produced the commendable power metal of 1987’s Calm Before The Storm before Cronos left, taking both guitarists for his Cronos band.

Mantas rejoined Abaddon, bringing rhythm guitarist Al Barnes and ex-Atomkraft bass player/vocalist Tony ‘The Demolition Man’ Dolan. 1989’s Prime Evil harked back to the early Venom approach, albeit with rather more professionalism, and contained a good cover version of Black Sabbath’s ‘Megalomania’. Barnes left after 1991’s Temples Of Ice, and the remaining trio temporarily recruited guitarist Steve ‘War Maniac’ White and keyboard player V.X.S. Subsequent releases failed to emulate the standards of the earlier albums, but Cronos returned to the band in 1996, replacing Dolan and restoring the founding line-up. The following year’s Cast In Stone featured new and re-recorded material, and was followed by a world tour. After a temporary hiatus, Cronos and Mantas returned with new drummer Antton Lant to record 2000’s excellent Resurrection. Mantas left the band in 2004 and was replaced by Mykus. Venom, already the subject of a tribute album, remain among the most important of all heavy metal acts, having originated a style that became a template for much of the music’s modern practitioners.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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Welcome to Hell
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