For a metal fan it took me an amazingly long time to get around to listening to the trailblazing work of Venom. I have to say that the experience of this album and the two that followed it, while not quite packing the punch it did when they were first released in the early ’80s, is thoroughly enjoyable and surprising. And, from a music history point of view, quite fascinating. I recommend this album and the two follow-ups, Black Metal and At War With Satan to anyone putting together a thorough collection of metal and hard rock.
I bought Welcome to Hell together with the other two albums and I have to say that, of the three, this the one that I enjoyed most on the first listen. In true Venom style, the riffs are wicked, the vocals are pure satanic machismo and the lyrics are irreverent and darkly humourous. The sound quality of this album is notoriously bad and I must say that I didn’t expect it to be as bad as it is. The album sounds like it was recorded in a dungeon and then someone forgot to mix it before releasing it. On many of the tracks the mixing of the guitar and bass is terrible, resulting in a monstrous mishmash of distorted sound. Famed metal critic Geoff Barton is often quoted as saying, in one of the first ever reviews of this album back in the 80s, that it had the hi-fi quality of a 50-year-old pizza. That may be a bit harsh, but just be warned, that if you’re expecting the polished production of Martin Birch, Rick Rubin or Bob Rock, you ain’t gonna find it here.
However, that does not detract from the experience of listening to the album. In a sense it adds to its status as a metal classic. Before the band’s ambitions overstretched their abilities after the At War With Satan album, they perfectly captured the essence of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal – the perfect comination of metal bombast and punk irreverence. Some people might say that this was best captured on Black Metal, but I’m inclined to think that Welcome to Hell was really their definitive statement. The album also includes what is probably the catchiest piece of satanic-themed metal ever released. If you don’t walk around for a week after hearing this belting out, “‘CAUSE I’M EVIL. IN LEAGUE WITH SATAN” either at the top of your lungs or under your breath, then you’re probably not a rock fan. So if you’re averse to having an infectious piece of devil rock stuck in your head, give this a miss.
This reissue comes in a slipcase and has a booklet with great photos and facts. There are also a lot of bonus tracks. Go ahead, it’s worth every penny.