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Venom – “Black Metal” (1982)


Venom - "Black Metal" (1982)

Venom – “Black Metal” (1982)

I never thought I found find myself championing “Black Metal,” the granddaddy of all Black Metal records. I hadn’t listened to the album in over twenty years and I was really surprised this weekend when I sat down to listen to it over and over again. I thought it would be terrible – that was my memory of it – but now I believe it deserves to be reevaluated.

No one debates the fact that “Black Metal” is an historic album – after all, it helped birth thrash metal, death metal and numerous of styles of “extreme” metal. It also lent its name to an entire genre – Black Metal.  Despite these indisputable influences on heavy metal, “Black Metal” has accumulated a lot of baggage – perceived wisdom – over the past almost thirty years; it is – incorrectly, I think – thought of as a joke of a record, a piece of trash that was poorly recorded by what one critic called a trio of “visionary village idiots.”

Let’s take a look at music in 1982 so we can situate “Black Metal” in some context. Here are the top 10 songs of 1982, according to Billboard:

1. “Physical” – Olivia Newton-John

2. “Eye of the Tiger” – Survivor

3. “I Love Rock and Roll” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

4. “Ebony and Ivory” – Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartnety

5. “Centerfold” – The J. Geils Band

6. “Don’t You Want Me” – Human League

7. “Jack and Diane” – John Cougar

8. “Hurts so Good” – John Cougar

9. “Abracadabra” – Steve Miller Band

10. “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” – Chicago

All these songs are all putrid pabulum; stuff you couldn’t pay me to listen to today (except for Joan Jett, of course).

Here is some better news: Van Halen – “Diver Down,” Iron Maiden – “Number of the Beast,” Judas Priest – “Screaming for Vengeance,” Motorhead – “Iron Fist,” Saxon – “The Eagle Has Landed,” and Hanoi Rocks – “Oriental Beat” were all released in 1982 (Ozzy’s “Diary of a Madman” came out in 1981 and Metallica put out “Kill ‘Em All” in 1983). Not bad at all; there is some good stuff there.  Into this mix of useless pop and crunching good rock crawled Venom’s “Black Metal” crawled into this mix out of Newcastle upon Tyne in northern England.

Why does “Black Metal” need to be reconsidered? The tempo of the songs. Take a listen to, say, “Eye of the Tiger,” “Abracadabra” and even Judas Priest’s “You Got Another Thing Coming.” All three feature classic rock beats at a regular, moderate tempo. Priest is notably faster but still nothing extreme or rousing.  Now listen to:

Venom – “Black Metal”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yliJqCXxKY0

Venom – “Heaven’s on Fire”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wi3mVX2thuY

It doesn’t sound fast to us today because at this point we are use to hearing songs this fast and even faster but this was territory that only Motorhead and Hardcore punk rock covered in 1982.  And speaking of punk rock, one thing that struck me while I was listening to the – thank god – remixed version of “Black Metal” available on iTunes was how punk the album was.  It is punk as hell; punk in its energy, punk in its approach to the instruments and songs.  Now I understand with so many punks embraced Venom.

Here is one Venom classic with a moderate tempo:

Venom – “Buried Alive”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IwcNs9bG6I&feature=related

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