When the news initially broke earlier this year regarding this Limited Edition vinyl-only box set that brings together remastered editions of the four studio LPs and a double live album recorded by the original line up of Black Metal gods Venom, I was immediately intrigued.
Add into the mix a further double LP of previously unreleased demos, an exclusive shaped picture disc of ‘Bloodlust’, and a veritable cornucopia of memorabilia that includes amongst other things a stunning 40 page ‘History Of Venom’ hardback book along with (if you pre-ordered it from the band themselves) a 12×12 art print signed by Cronos himself, and before I could yell “C’MAAAAAAAAAAAN TURN IT UP’, I had bought a copy.
I actually received mine at the start of May well ahead of the official release date of May 31st but I wanted to really get to grips with this mammoth set before giving you my verdict simply because with a retail price of £150 this is never going to be an impulse purchase.
As I’ve mentioned the ‘History’ book already let’s begin with a little bit of my own history and how I first heard Venom. It was early 1983 and a close friend (who remains so to this very day) who first introduced me to ‘Black Metal’, oddly via a mate of his who had bought said LP (complete with poster) and as he thought it was shit, he had given it away. It wasn’t really like any of the other metal bands we were listening to at the time other than those noisy bastards Motorhead and Tank, in fact, it reminded me more of the relentless racket created by the UK82 punk bands my other school mates were listening to at the time like G.B.H and Discharge. I have to admit I wasn’t exactly an immediate fan but I did have a copy of ‘Black Metal’ taped for me (there’s a gag in there that I won’t need to explain to old school fans) so it did make numerous appearance on my Walkman over the summer of that year but it wasn’t until June 1984 when I just happened to buy a ticket on the door for the awe-inspiring Seventh Date Of Hell show at Hammersmith Odeon that I fully got what Venom were really all about.
Picking up the “remastered from the original tapes” splatter and swirl LPs contained in this lavish box set (they all come with reproduction sleeves and inners) I actually begin my aural assault with ‘At War With Satan’ because that was the Venom record I first purchased for myself (on picture disc) at that legendary Seventh Date gig, and here pressed on heavyweight clear splatter vinyl it sounds absolutely magnificent. Okay, the gatefold doesn’t have the gold leaf cover of the original pressing or the original merch/poster inserts but that’s probably just me being a little bit too pernickety as otherwise this is stonking stuff.
I then go back to the band’s beginnings, with ‘Welcome to Hell’ and ‘Black Metal’ played back to back, and here the rumbling bottom end that bursts out the speakers is enough to wake the dead, or at the very least the neighbours. Both LPs come in embossed sleeves (and include replicas of the posters and lyric inners – here reproduced on the inner bags) and are again pressed on splatter vinyl, sounding as raw as they did back at the dawn of the eighties and equally just as ground-breaking. The only small niggle I have here is my copy of ‘Black Metal’ came with nasty click on the run-in groove to side one, again I may be being over critical here but with the hefty price tag attached to this set I would expect nothing short of perfection.
Which is something I do get with the 74 tracks on offer here that’s for sure, with perhaps the real highlight for me being the chance to rediscover 1985’s (at the time) critically panned ‘Possessed’ LP. A record that has never sounded better than it does here, and coming as it does pressed upon splatter vinyl complete with the original inner bag and a huge poster it’s never looked as good either.
Moving on to ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’ from 1986 and this double live LP for me has never really cut it, largely because some bright spark decided to leave silences between the tracks, so its not really like listening to a live album at all, and why would I want to listen to the band live just as they were falling apart at the seams when I could simply slip in my almost worn out VHS of The Seventh Date of Hell? The soundtrack of which I have always felt would have been a much better alternative as their official live album. Here ‘Nachtmusik’ is lovingly restored in a gatefold sleeve complete with the inner bags, so I’m sure I’ll get to play it more this time around.
With many Venom fans probably looking to buy this box set just for the 15 track ‘Sons Of Satan’ double LP I have to admit that if this were a standalone release I wouldn’t have been happy paying a top price for it. However, as a piece of Venom history contained within such an absorbing time capsule commemorating the band’s 40th anniversary it actually works well. Initially transporting us right back to 1979 via some very boomy cassette recordings of the band’s first line up complete with singer Christ, this is a world away from the Venom that would ultimately change heavy metal forever. However, by the time we get to the 1980 Impulse Studios demos that make up sides 2 and 3 of ‘Sons Of Satan’ the more recognisable “organised chaos” of the classic Venom sound is all but a few bottles of Jack Daniels away and waiting to take on the world. Something Cronos, Mantas and Abaddon were more than ready to do by the time they released the original ‘Bloodlust’/’In Nomine Satanas’ 7” single back in 1982 and thankfully it is included here as a shaped picture disc exclusive to this box set.
Whilst immersing myself in the satanic sounds of this box set I found the aforementioned ‘History Of Venom’ book to be the perfect accompanying piece, formed as it is from quotes from all the band members as well as being crammed with some of the cheesiest band photographs ever taken. This book for me is where this box set truly adds a bit of (black) magic to the mystery of Venom, as does the memory jogging reproduction tour programme.
Wrapping up the memorabilia part of this set you also get a huge Seven Dates Of Hell poster along with a Venom’s Legions back patch and if like me you order it from the band’s official store (linked below) you also get a very frameable art print signed by Count Cronos himself.
So, is it worth the £150 then I hear you cry?
Well, if you don’t already have these seminal albums on vinyl it most certainly is a must buy. If however you are a hardcore Venom collector and have these albums already a bazillion time over you’ll probably have done what I did and already have this box set filed away in your collection, in which case, “what the hell are you doing reading this review?” Ha!
‘In Nomine Satanas – 40 Years In Sodom’ will take a lot to top in the box set stakes that’s for sure and it once again proves that the devil really does still have all the very best tunes.
Double CD best of book edition Here
Author: Johnny Hayward