Venom_Welcome_To_Hell

The day I discovered the greatest album ever made is chronicled on this page. Here is the story of that unholy day when I first bought VENOM's WELCOME TO HELL album:

 

My favourite album of all time, and the album that changed my life. I clearly remember the day I first bought the album, despite it now being approx a quarter of a century ago as I write this. Here goes...

Almost every Saturday, I used to hitch-hike to a town (it's more of a city nowadays) called Letterkenny, which is 20-something miles away from my homeplace, Horn Head, in County Donegal, Ireland. Letterkenny was the only place it was possible to buy Metal albums back then, and there was one store in the middle of the town which always had quite a large selection of Rock and Metal albums. I had bought many albums there, and always spent a lot of time looking through all the albums they had on offer. As usual, I walked into the store and looked to my left toward the counter to say hello to the owner. Something caught my attention over the owner's shoulder - it was a vinyl album, featuring gold lettering and a goat's head on a black background, and it looked awesome, and also rather evil! I walked straight over to the owner and told him I want that album. Sorry, he replied, it was reserved for someone. No way, I'm having that album, and I told the seller if he sold it to me, I would also buy 2 more albums from him that day. As I was a good customer, he relented and passed me over the WELCOME TO HELL album. Checked the back of the album, and saw the picture of MANTAS, ABADDON and CRONOS on the back cover. A breathtaking photo, and still one of the most brilliant pictures ever taken. Went over to the Metal section and basically pulled out two albums at random (one was the first ACCEPT album, can't remember the other), paid the guy and he put the albums in a plastic bag for me, and I left for home...

Had to walk back through half the town to get to the road where my hitch-hiking point was. On the way I met a lovely girl from Canada, who always came to Donegal for her holidays each year. She was a Metal head, and she was really gorgeous. I'd first met her when we freaked together to LED ZEPPELIN at a local disco the previous year. Girls into Metal was a rare sight in Donegal back then, and like all my Metal mates back then, I seriously lusted after her. Talked to her for a few minutes, and she invited me to the house where she was staying, for a coffee. On any other day I would have gone with her straight away, but today I said no! Why? Because I wanted to get home and listen to this album which already had me so mesmerised. Walked on a bit and started hitch-hiking, a car stopped for me almost straight away...

Was dropped off in the small village of Dunfanaghy, which left me a one mile (1,6 km) walk to home. Took the album out yet again as I walked along, admiring the cover, etc, and noticed that there was a lyric sheet included. And it was pink!! Weird! I started reading the text, and could not believe what I was reading!! Songs about Satan, Drugs, Sex - fuckin' Hell, I'd heard 100s of Metal albums before this, but none of them ever sang as directly about these subjects as the words I was reading! Even more intrigued, I walked the road to Horn Head in probably record time, though it seemed to take forever....

In the door, a quick hello to Mother, and straight down to my bedroom to my record player. Nervously removed the vinyl from the cover, and placed it on my old trusted turntable. Set the needle in the groove and stepped back...

Fuckin' Hell!!!!!!!! What the fuck am I hearing here??? An amazing wall of noise, yet still tuneful, but so incredibly heavy. None of my other albums sound anything like this! SONS OF SATAN finishes, and the title track blasts in. Wow!!!! A Prayer being spoken by a Lady, over the most blasphemous words I'd ever heard. And the drumming which follows that section.... in-fuckin'-credible!!!!!!!!!!!!! SCHIZO, again with words that no band had before spoken, and then an amazing piece of acoustic music called MAYHEM WITH MERCY, with a wonderful wind effect, and even this piece of music sounded evil and menacing!! POISON, almost pornographic in wording, but very funny. Each track was just amazing. Turned to Side 2, my hands trembling with adrenaline and excitement. WITCHING HOUR featured the most evil intro I had ever heard to any song, and the track itself was played at a speed which just left me speechless! IN LEAGUE WITH SATAN was a Satanic Ritual captured on vinyl. I was drained by the time the album finished. I was just standing there, mouth open and still not quite understanding what I had just heard. I just turned the album over again and repeated the process. And again. And again...

I just played the album over and over. No exaggeration, but I played WELCOME TO HELL up to 10 times a day for at least six months! I just could not get enough of it, and I must admit that all my other albums were pretty much ignored during that time, as WTH just refused to leave my record player.

In many ways, the limits of Metal were reached with WELCOME TO HELL. OK, there may be faster albums made since, and many albums released in extreme Metal through the years that perhaps feature more growl and snarl than WTH... but no album released since 1981 by ANY band has had that perfect blend of Heavyness, emotion and evil feeling like WTH has. And it still sounds fresh, raw and energetic, even though there clearly was not millions of $s spent on production or anything. And it obviously was not just me that this album had such an effect on, as it gave birth to all forms of extreme Metal music, such as Black, Death, Thrash and Speed Metal, and countless sub-genres since.

Amazingly, despite being played so often, that original vinyl is still in my possession and is still in excellent condition. Even the pink lyric sheet has survived, though I did enclose it in plastic the day after purchase. At the last count, I have over 1,000 audio items in my collection of my favourite band, nearly all of which are very special to me. But my original WELCOME TO HELL vinyl is still my most treasured item. This album has meant so much to me ever since that first unholy spin - and it still just makes me wanna start freaking, even after almost 25 fuckin' years!! I went on to (so far) buy 34 different pressings of the album, including vinyl's, cassettes and compact discs from around the world. But it is still the sound of the original vinyl which gives me the most satisfaction. There may have been marvellous advances in sound technology since 1981, but I have yet to find a format which gives me a better listening experience than the original vinyl on any kind of a decent record player...

That middle section of the song WELCOME TO HELL remains my favourite passage of music ever. I quite simply have never heard anything near as heavy! As a whole, the album is just incredible. The bombastic blasts of ABADDON's drums, and the glorious guitar mayhem from MANTAS, coupled with the savage vocals and brutal bass playing..... excuse me - I have to listen to it again right now!!

I still often think back to that glorious day when I first heard the album. And even though I sometimes wondered since if that coffee would have lead to something else, I would not change one little detail of that day when I first picked up WELCOME TO HELL!!

John (Words from November 2007)

*Footnote - January 2017 - The total of WTH Vinyls, Cassettes and Compact Discs in my possession has now reached 64.....to be continued!