Originally featuring 5 members under the name Guillotine (many claim that the band was first known as Oberon but Oberon was the band of future Venom members Tony Bray and Clive Archer and actually existed alongside Venom for a while until the two acts merged). When they became Venom they became famous for their occult Metal antics and were known only by their stage names: Cronos (Real Name: Conrad Lant; bass/vocals), Mantas (Real Name: Geoff Dunn; guitar) and Abbadon (Real Name: Tony Bray; drums), names they derived from the Satanic Bible. The act's moniker came from Dunn's work/road nickname. Cronos initially joined the group as a guitarist when Mantas asked him to sing Live Like An Angel, Die Like A Devil and the group immediately appreciated the result. It initially all started when Dunn met Lant at a friend's place and soon Lant was also part of Venom; Lant then adding bass to his talents when the original bass player quit less than one week before their first gig at the Meth in Wallsend on Friday 15th February; Lant originally played guitar along with vocals. On April 29th 1980 Venom entered the studio to record their first demo that included three songs: Angel Dust, Raise The Dead and Red Light Fever. They even managed to persuade the studio to give them half a day for free. Lant made copies of the tape and sent them to record companies, stations, magazines and venues.
Many people argue that this band isn't worthy of honorable mention because they weren't that good; in their own admission they were meant more as joke as an answer to the NWOBHM movement that was sweeping the Metal world in the early 1980s, rather than a serious effort. At the time, Venom were the cream of the crop - the most intense there was, and their influence, along with the likes of Iron Maiden, Motorhead, and others would lead to the creation of bands like Metallica, Dark Funeral and Slayer. At the time of the band's founding, Lant was an employee of Neat Records', a small English record company responsible for many NWOBHM group publications. Notoriety was struck when Geoff Barton, of the now defunct Sounds Magazine (now Kerrang!), heard their demo and told the world about it. The result was powerful songs and stage shows like never before, a loyal following of fans, and Venom being recorded into history as being the crossover point of NWOBHM to Thrash & Black Metal.
Their debut release, Welcome To Hell (1981), which was recorded before they ever played a single gig, made them legends with its satanic imagery and dark raw sound. Its quality lacked desperately making it a poorly recorded, sloppily played, openly satanic album. Nonetheless it was ultimately cool and these minor issues did not deter Metal fans of the day from grabbing it.
When they finally played their first gig in June 1981 Venom played at the Quay Club in Hebburn, Tyne & Wear, U.K. The fuses blew several times, the pyrotechnic bombs blackened every wall, and the fire department showed up because someone reported all the smoke emitted from the building. After this gig (Lant's first as the band's new vocalist since Clive Archer left) Venom was banned from the entire club circuit for some time.
Black Metal (1982), their next effort, with its Black and white cover picture of the goat's head of Satan, was better both in recording quality and performance and would widely be considered Venom's best. It featured marginally better production and lacked none of the lyrics depicting the conquests of Satan and his minions. At War With Satan (1983) would offer their most popularized works. It was a semi-concept album that spawned several singles (including the infamous AAAAARGH!! track). It was a more planned approach to their style that saw much of the musical mayhem left behind. It would get a U.K. charting of 64, their only album to ever chart.
Venom, from the start, was forced to play halls because small clubs were out of the question due to their large stage props and pyrotechnics. Their gigging increased as their act did. The following release, Possessed (1985), was a disappointing studio effort that failed to offer all it promised. It was further compounded by unofficial releases and compilations that would come to hurt the band in years to come.
When the Eine Klein Nachtmusik live concert double LP and The Singles 80-86 (1986) best of were released in 1986, Mantas was unhappy with how things were going and left to form his own act Mantas with Peter Harrison (vocals) and Alistair Braacken (guitar) resulting in the one-off Winds Of Change (1988) album. Guitarists Mike Hickey and Jimi Clare were hired to fill in, mostly for the live shows but also for the much stronger Calm Before The Storm (1987) and Prime Evil (1989) albums, but Mike, Jimi and Cronos would leave right after to form the band Cronos.
Abbadon, on the other hand, would be re-united with Mantas with a new guitarist Al Barnes, and featuring Tony "the Demolition Man" Dolan (ex-Atomkraft) on both vocals and guitar for the releases Tear Your Soul Apart (1990), Temples Of Ice (1991), the appropriately titled In Memorandum (1991) best of compilation, and The Waste Lands (1992).
Temples Of Ice also saw a membership change with Steve "War Maniac" White taking up a guitar spot and V.X.S. on keyboards (who left after Waste Lands, as did White who left to join KMFDM). At this point they grew tired of their image and the music business as a whole, so retired their upside down crucifixes and pentagrams, leaving several best of compilations in their wake including: The Book Of Armageddon (1992), Skeletons In The Closet (1993),Kissing The Beast (1993), Old New Borrowed And Blue (1994) and Black Reign (1996).
In 1997, however, the original line-up featuring Lant & Dunn, would be back in form for a reunification of sorts, starting with a tour and two releases, The Second Coming (1996) and Cast In Stone (1997) before their differences got the better of them again and once-again they split the act with the posthumous From Heaven To The Unknown (1997) following, proving to be yet another in a seemingly endless tirade of best of compilations during the 1990s that served no other purpose than to further erode their fan base.
But the music got the better of them and they re-united again to release Resurrection (2000), the follow-up that became widely considered their best-produced album ever. Bray, however, was not with the team, choosing instead to continue with his self-named project, Abbadon, which yielded one album of little acclaim; Antton Lant (the brother to Cronos) took his spot in Venom making it the first album to be published without Abbadon's stick work.
However, in 2002 Dunn again left the group and was replaced by a returning Mykus (Real Name: Mike Hickey) in February 2004 while Cronos returned to the fold as well. In late 2005, Venom released a career-spanning 4-disc box set MMV, which includes an exclusive mini-poster of the band's seven-date tour of Europe with Metallica and a 60 page picture book, with interviews and pictures. The set includes all their best-known songs, along with rarities like live tracks, demos and outtakes. This lineup of the band released the Metal Black album in 2006.
Hickey was replaced by guitarist La Rage in 2007. This lineup released Hell the following year. Antton Lant then left the group to concentrate on his band DEF-CON-ONE and was replaced by drummer Danny "Dante" Needham. The Fallen Angels album followed on 28 November 2011.
Venom released their fourteenth studio album, From the Very Depths, on January 27, 2015, further setting the standard that was to be emulated by many later practitioners, especially in the field of Black Metal.
Footnotes: The original 1978 membership of what would later become Venom are believed to be (in part) Dean Hewitt (bass),Chris McPeters (drums),Dave Rutherford (guitar) and Dave Blackman (vocals), all of whom left in 1979 when Clive Archer (vocals) and Alan Winston (bass) moved in. The classic membership of what we now know as Venom arrived in 1981 with Bray, Lant and crew.
The reverse lyrics on the track In League With Satan were translated by the RRCA staff as: (in the Intro): "Satan, Raised In Hell, I'm gonna burn your soul, crush Your Bones. I'm gonna make you bleed." and (in the outro): "Burn In Hell. Believe in Satan, your gonna burn in hell, nightmare, I want your soul."