VENOM (1997–PRESENT). Cronos (vocals/bass), Mantas (guitar, replaced by James Barnes, Alistair Clarke, Mykvys, now Rage), Abbadon (drums, replaced by Antton).
Venom are one of the key originators of the black metal movement and are largely responsible for its spread, especially in England and North America. Although there were lean years for Venom, the band continues to tour as a sort of living fossil, demonstrating who it was that inspired all of those kids to sign a contract with the devil and pick up a guitar all those years ago (or was that Robert Johnson?). Venom’s legacy in terms of the history of black metal is indescribable.
The band was formed by Cronos (Conrad Lant) along with guitarist Mantas (Jeffrey Dunn) and drummer Abbadon (Anthony Bray), names taken to match the early satanic tilt of their lyrics. Venom, nominally a part of the New Wave of British heavy metal, can also be looked upon as the true fathers of the black metal scene. Their first record, the classic Welcome to Hell, hinted at the speed and power of the direction that Venom was moving in. By the time of the second record, Black Metal, the overall sound of black metal had been set. Venom had been inspired not only by Black Sabbath, from whom they cribbed the basic satanic vocabulary, but also by early punk rock, particularly hardcore, where the drums and guitars are sped up, sometimes beyond the technical capabilities of the band (Venom once did a show with legendary punks Black Flag, demonstrating the crossover appeal of the band.)
Mantas departed the band after Possessed, and the quality went downhill after that, although his replacements James Barnes and Alistair Clarke were more than competent. After a few years Mantas returned as Cronos left and a new lead singer Tony Dolan toured as Venom and recorded the forgettable Prime Evil and The Wastelands, which many fans do not consider to be “true” Venom records. Eventually the band reunited in the mid-nineties, but soon Mantas and Abbadon were gone again, and Cronos continued with new musicians, releasing the Metal Black record in 2006 as an indication that the band had returned to its roots. Although their career has been marred by personnel changes and spotty mid-period records, Venom is the most important band in the history of black metal and a key influence on thousands of other bands in the black and death metal scenes.
Discography: Welcome to Hell (Combat, 1981); Black Metal (Combat, 1982); At War with Satan (Combat, 1983); Eine Kleine Nachtmusic [live] (Dead Line, 1985); Official Botoleg Live (Magnum America, 1985); Possessed (Combat, 1985); Calm Before the Storm (AJK, 1987); Prime Evil (Maze/Kraze, 1989); Temples of Ice (Under One Flag, 1991); The Book of Armageddon (Combat, 1992); The Waste Lands (Under One Flag, 1992); The Second Coming Live at Dynamo 1996 (Nuclear Blast, 1997); From Heaven to the Unknown (Snapper, 1998); New, Live & Rare (Deadline, 1998); Cast in Stone (Steamhammer UK, 1998); Official Botoleg (Thunderbolt, 1999); Court of Death (Receiver, 2000); Resurrection (Steamhammer, 2000); Beauty and the Beast (Dressed to Kill, 2000); Kissing the Beast (Sanctuary, 2002); Under a Spell (Teenile Dementia, 2003); Witching Hour (Demolition, 2003); Metal Black (Sanctuary, 2006); Hell (Noise, 2008).