So, apropos of nothing at all apart from the stellar success recently of Venom offshoot Venom Inc, we find ourselves confronted with a presumably hastily put-together Venom singles compilation called, appropriately enough, The Singles.
You get ten tracks for your money as the album wends it’s way through the first five single releases of the Satanic Geordie Majesties’ storied career. At War With Satan plods along by way of introduction like a sulphurous, hellish take on The Osmonds’ Crazy Horses by way of a start, but the proto-thrash of Live Like An Angel (Die Like a Devil) has aged far better. Thankfully no expense seems to have been afforded for silliness like remastering or remixing – these releases sound as gloriously amateurish today as they always have, but you can really see why bands like Metallica got so excited by tracks like this.
Bloodlust is next and the progress the band have made in the year between releases is palpable. Venom were quite literally the heaviest thing we’d ever heard in 1982, and if Cronos one-dimensional bark hasn’t changed a bit then or now, it’s because we love (and loved) it just as it appears here – like a bargain-bin Gene Simmons running wild on Newcy Brown and tabs. Bloodlust’s b-side, In Nomine Satanas strives for a slightly more grown-up sound and almost pulls it off, with Mantas’ feedback-ridden solo bridging the work of two KKs – Downing and King – in time-transcending fashion.
Die Hard was always my fave Venom track at the time, for reasons which escape me now. It’s raw, it’s barely coherent, and it’s thunderous, all of which probably helped, and it’s attempt at a complex, structured chorus strikes a chord as much now as it ever did then. Die Hard was backed by Acid Queen, which I never listened to much when it came out. On re-introduction in 2018 I can see why – it’s forgettably inane.
By 1984 Venom were fully-fledged monsters of rock, especially in Europe, and next release Warhead reflects that. It’s the work of a band beginning to really flex its creative muscles, the work of a band that feels it can’t be beaten. It’s monstrous, and if you call yourself a metal fan and don’t have it in your collection then I guess this compilation does have a point after all! B-side Lady Lust is a merciless onslaught of high octane riffage, placed here probably to reassure Venom diehards that the band weren’t slowing down permanently. It’s a slight return to Black Metal, especially in Abaddon’s drum patterns, and if speed is all you need from Venom it satisfies those cravings and then some.
Finally here we get Manitou, which I never liked then and see no reason to now either, sorry. It’s b-side, Women, was much better, possessing a host of raunchy, Kiss-styled riffology and a booming chorus that goes on for days in the brain despite containing only one word. Venom at their wacky, crazed best in fact.
So there you have it. If you know Venom already you don’t need this, and if you don’t there are probably better places to start. But completists will doubtless snap it up, and it is nice to have these tracks collected together for play in the van or for hammering the neighbours with.
Venom’s The Singles is released, predictably, on Friday 13th of April…