CORRECT ME if I’m wrong but I do believe it was that well known heavy metal entrepreneur Malcolm McLaren who gave ‘Don’t let the public see the band’ as one of his rules of thumb. Venom, the Newcastle variety, aren’t exactly the Sex Pistols but judging by their deliberate non-ongoing gig policy they go along with the general idea.
Several mentions in Sounds, and Kerrang! courtesy of Baron Barton, the release of their Neat double ‘A’ side In League With Satan’/’Live Like An Angel’ and that’s been it for close on a year. Original vampire vocalist Clive has been given the boot and the back of the single lists the Venoms as a trio comprising guitarist Mantas, drummer Abaddon and bass player-vocalist Chronos.
Being a fairly sharp sort of bloke I realise that these are probably not the names the lads were born with, especially as both songs are credited on the record label to the more mundane ‘Lant/Dunn/Bray’. Knowing the baby-faced bassman from his days at Impulse Studios (aka Neat HQ) as tape boy, when he called himself the slightly less ludicrous ‘Conrad’, and having to ask for ‘Geoff’ when I ring up Mantas to fix up the interview, also tends to give the game away a bit.
On arrival at their gear-crammed rehearsal room in a deserted office building by Newcastle’s Quayside, it’s disappointing to find that the aspiring trio of demons are dressed in jeans and tee shirts. Not a gun belt, cauldron or book of spells in sight.
But wait a minute! This isn’t right. Why are Venom rehearsing when they don’t actually play live?
‘We do! We do!” gibbers Conrad-oops-’Chronos’.
“Wait and see,” offers Abaddon. It turns out that what Venom have in mind is a ‘super-gig’, at somewhere like a Mayfair with all the effects and the PA power of the big boys but further over the top, They’ve been rehearsing it for months, Abaddon explains why:
“It just takes more rehearsal than the average band because more goes into a gig. The average band can go and play in the pub down the road, go down good, bad or indifferent, get their money and go home. It’s different for us,”
“That’s why this gig has been so put off,” continues Mantas, stroking his moustache like he’s making sure it’s still there, “We’ve had to buy two gigs worth of bombs to test how close we can stand to them.”
But isn’t this a trifle excessive? Shouldn’t you be doing the spade work, paying your dues and all that? You could fall flat y’now. What if the people don’t come?
“You can either be well known and have people like you. Or, you can create the interest in people’s minds that maybe it’s going to be the biggest thing they’ve seen,” theorises Abby.
“If we were doing a gig you’d be there, right? If Diamond Head were playing a gig you wouldn’t be,”
THIS, it must be admitted, is true. But it does seem a bit on the naive side to assume that rehearsing is all it takes to be the grossest
thing since sliced bread, Money, as they admit, is tight and Venom don’t have the managerial muscle/bank balance of a Bill Aucoin, the way Kiss had. But they aren’t going to be talked out of this.
“If you can think of every cliche,” advises Abaddon, “that’s us. Everybody says ‘Not another over the top Kerrang! band,’ But we are! We are every cliche. The loud, the fast, the bombs, the black magic.
Ah yes, the black magic.
I know you think we’re meddling in it” interrupts the drummer. “But we’re not. We’re just writing songs. ‘I’m in league with Satan, yeah yeah.”
“If it came to the bit where this bloke with hairs all over him was going to jump up and say ‘Urgh!! You’re taking the mickey out of me! I’m going to kill yers’ we’d be all right because we’re singing on his side!” suggests Chronos brightly.
The Neat single is a pompous piece of horrifying power plod with vocals that sound like Chronos is being strangled by wire netting wrapped around a rugby player’s jock strap.
There can’t be any other band in the world who sound like that, So it’s a pity the name isn’t more unique. As seen in issue one of this august journal there’s another heavy band strutting their stuff under the handle of Venom, a gang of Mancunian Sweet-lookalikes, So what are the Geordie boys going to do about it?
(All, like a pack of baying hyenas): “We’re gonna punch their heads off! Write that down!”
Sure, But there are five of them, of course.
Chronos: “So what? You seen them?”
VENOM: ‘Warhead’ Neat 1983
Every major label in the world ought to rush out immediately end try and snap this lot up. They re so different it’s ridiculous. The band are utterly and completely OTT; what’s more they know it and have fun doing it. ‘Warhead’ is definitely the product of a band who are very honest with themselves – this is the way they are, this is the way they record and stuff commerciality!
They should continue in the same direction and eventually they’ll either become a Super Band or a comedy act.
‘At War With Satan’ (Neat 1015) Review by DANTE BONUTTO April 1984
BOYS FROM the Black Stuff (Metal, that is), Venom certainly have a lot to answer for. I mean, no-one objects to a little bit of devilry, the odd dabble in the dark, but at present we seem to be in the path of an idolatrous ill-wind, with almost every burgeoning outfit donning plastic horns and boil -infested beaks as a way of soliciting press/peer attention.
These would-be warlocks are everywhere, rising from personal pockets of mist with a crude, cavorting vengeance. Few can play their instruments, and hardly any, I suspect, would know a halfway decent song if it crept into their casket. So who’s to blame for all this? Well, I reckon the buck comes to rest somewhere around Cronos’ thigh-high Doctor Marten’s cos, as self-appointed ‘Black Metal Gods’, Venom have spawned a copycat litter determined to match them in both sentiment and sound. Which wouldn’t be so bad were it not for the fact that these discipular dodos invariably miss the point, focusing dark-ringed ayes on speed/satanic ritual when what really sets Cronos, Mantas and Adabbon at the head of the herd is their ability to come up with . . . songs . . . of a sort.
Yeah, yeah, I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s actually true. Venom may be of the opinion that a number isn’t ripe for unveiling until it’s been taken apart piece by piece, dragged twice through the slough and then slapped back together with plenty of sweat and spittle, but it’s on the worth of the original idea that the final product stands or slumps.
With Side One of ‘AWWS’ given over entirely to the title track (an epic, conceptual outing, of which more anon), let’s move straight onto Side Two and ‘Cry Wolf’, the only ‘regular’ number here that can live with the best ‘BM’ has to offer. More ‘Run With The Wolf’ than ‘Bark At The Moon’, it’s a genuinely, evocative piece of rock’n’roll drama, packed wall-to wall with biting animal urgency and intent Speaking of which . . .
‘Rip Ride’ and ‘Stand Up (And Be Counted)’ aren’t bad either, hinting at life beneath the ruptured Cronos vocal, while ‘AAAAAARRGHH’, the throwaway closer, briefly documents the lighter side of Venom who (I’m led to believe) are only human after all. As for ‘Genocide’ and ‘Women, Leather And Hell’, well, both are Venom alright, noxious and noisy in roughly equal parts, though neither wield a classic blow, the latter in particular losing out due to a threadbare chassis and an excess of revs.
Indeed (and you’ve no idea how surprised I am to be saying this), the most consistently impressive aspect of this lavishly packaged LP is the conceptual first half which starts full of promise and falters only rarely. Founded sensibly on a recurring motif-originally include-d as a ‘teaser’ on the ‘BM’ album – the whole carcass hangs together remarkably well, moving forwards, sometimes nobly, on the back of an anarchic logic with variations in mood and pace keeping interest level high and sensory powers poised.
In fact it wasn’t until the halfway mark had been passed that I had my first quibble though, the production side of things really is in need of a serious re-think.
I mean, ‘BM’ was far from brilliantly recorded but et least it gave us the full, unexpurgated brunt of Cronos’ hobnailed bass attack, his plunges up and down the neck, the pumping black heart at the core of Venom’s sound. Here, however, he’s been shamefully mixed down – and that drum noise!
Rightly and understandably, Venom wish to protect their sound, it’s theirs and theirs alone, a calling card of daunting drive, but the difference between being individual and being amateurish is one they might do well to ponder before placing themselves again in a