To understand just how influential (and indeed shocking) Venom, Newcastle’s very own masters of mayhem and metal, were back in the early to mid-‘80s you simply need to read Shane Embury’s sleeve notes which accompany this soon to be released reissue of the band’s second Hammersmith Odeon headline show from 1985. As sixteen-year-olds Venom really was the band we all wanted to be in, and alongside the Napalm Death man’s words of wisdom, Antton Lant (brother of Venom frontman Cronos/Conrad and one time drummer with the band too) also shares some insight into what it was like to not only grow up around, but also eventually be a part of, such a musical phenomenon.
With both musicians perfectly setting the scene for the madness to begin, I take a trip back in time and let Abaddon, Cronos and Mantas whisk me on the rip ride that was their World Possession Tour Part 2.
I was lucky enough to ride on the wings of the Hydra (or Fred Day’s mini bus to be exact) and catch Venom live on this very tour, attending the Birmingham Odeon show two nights before this Hammy O gig, this being a hastily arranged jaunt after the UK leg of the tour had been curtailed (and the Cardiff show I had front row tickets for was axed) following the band’s shock announcement that most of the venue’s booked wouldn’t allow the band to use their full pyrotechnic overloaded production. And having also been lucky enough to have witnessed the legendary Seventh Date of Hell show at Hammersmith Odeon back in the June of 1984, and still trying to grow my eyebrows back following that hotter than hell show, I was not about to miss the Godfathers of Black Metal return to the UK stage…so off to England’s second city we set. More of which in a second.
With the concert film having been initially released as ‘Alive in 85’ by Embassy video and then subsequently re-released on numerous formats by various companies over the years, this is, as far as I’m aware, the first time a UK record company have been audacious enough to bring together both the audio and the video from the band’s October 8th show into one hell of a value for money set. The live package capturing fifteen of the nineteen songs the trio played that night in London and fully utilising a multi camera unit to get (perhaps a little too) up close and personal with the band to showcase the metallic maelstrom that Venom always has been.
Then, newer tracks from the band’s fourth album ‘Possessed’ like set opener ‘Too Loud (For The Crowd)’, the anthemic lead single ‘Nightmare’ and a blistering ‘Satanachist’ all fit in faultlessly alongside such genre defining classics as ‘Black Metal’ and ‘In Nomine Satanas’ and whilst the show is nowhere near as chaotic as that initial Hammersmith headliner, what it lacks in levitating drum risers and bleeding/smashed guitars it more than makes up for in the band’s supersonic punch. The trio sounding and looking nothing like a band about to lose its guitarist (and resident ninja it would appear) watching the DVD once again.
The pyrotechnic bursts are conserved for a colossal sounding ‘7 Gates of Hell’ and the final flurry of ‘Bloodlust’ and encore ‘Witching Hour’, and I have to be honest and say that I distinctly remember coming away from the Birmingham show feeling somewhat underwhelmed by the band after the sonic and visual assault on the senses I had previously witnessed them deliver (it also didn’t help their cause that the Paul Baloff fronted Exodus supported them on the night and totally destroyed the place) but here thirty eight years on and without any of those “in the moment” distractions I found this ‘Live From Hammersmith Odeon Theatre’ to be one of the most rewarding (if that’s the right word to use here) re-issues I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing this year.
So, in the words of the mighty Cronos, “Come on, turn it up!”
‘Live From Hammersmith Odeon Theatre’ is released on 27th October 2023 via Dissonance/Cherry Red Records.
Author: Johnny Hayward