Extreme metal icons Venom newly unearth 1970’s demos and sessions, yet there is not much to offer
Venom, often considered the most polarizing band in metal music, have been making waves since their inception in the late 1970’s, releasing two pioneering works for black, death, thrash and extreme metal alike through their debut, Welcome To Hell (1981), and their highly-accomplished Black Metal (1982).
In the 40 years that have passed, however, Venom have been troubled with constant lineup changes and a lack of critical and commercial success, despite still releasing music as recently as 2018’s Storm the Gates. In 2019, the band released an anthology for their 40th anniversary titled In Nomine Satanas, meant to be released separately as 2 12″ vinyls and CD digipak, with 2020 being no exception. Sons of Satan is entirely demo versions of songs that diehard fans of metal and/or Venom can find themselves enjoying, even showcasing previously unreleased material.
The first five tracks, opening with “Angel Dust” and ending with “Venom,” are unrelentingly bad, even for black metal standards. Albeit for good reason. These tracks, save for the self-titled track “Venom,” have suffered through four decades or so of neglect, other than being put on Venom’s first two albums. The extremely chaotic instrumentation and awful audio quality is extremely gritty, and Jesus Christ’s somewhat unimpressive clean vocals are not much to write home about. These five sessions are notably from 1979, before their debut even came out, so it must be mentioned that although all of these tracks remained the same, there are still nit-picky details such as the vocals and even the altered bass guitar phrasing that differentiate these demos from the rest.
Interestingly enough, as the compilation progresses, the songs production value is obviously upped, but not that much. With the remaining tracklist, there is noticeable overlap on the 1980 Impulse Sessions, which include Venom staples “At War With Satan,” as well as the previously mentioned “Raise The Dead,” which actually is introduced as a second half to the short “Buried Alive.” These sessions are hilariously raw, yet somehow easier to listen to than the actual Welcome To Hell recordings, even with Cronos’ improved bass lines and throaty vocals.
The fact of the matter is, though, that there is an overwhelming amount of filler here that certainly not everybody can appreciate. At a time when “Video Killed The Radio Star” dominated the charts, Venom were in a UK basement somewhere inventing a disgusting form of proto-black metal, which is commendable in its own right. Nonetheless, there is not much to offer here that remains that impressive.
Yes, the early Venom demos are cool to listen to in hindsight of the success that Welcome To Hell and Black Metal had. And, yes, there is a newly released title track, in addition to the different production value on a handful of classic songs, but this is incredibly niche. It’s tough to imagine a casual listener opting to listen to the Sons of Satan demos. For Venom fans, or even followers of proto-metal and where it was at in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, this release is most likely very important. But, this release is just simply superfluous and not really worth much aside from its charm and quirkiness.