It seems like the two main things you hear about the British heavy metal band Venom are: “Venom suck” and “Hey, they invented black metal.” Occasionally you see hybrids: “Venom suck, but they did invent black metal,” or, alternately, “Venom might have created black metal but they still suck.”
It has to be said that it’s pretty unclear how much of a debt the black metal movement even owes Venom. Aside from issuing an album in 1982 with the title Black Metal, Venom qualifies more as thrash metal and it’s hard to argue that there is much influence flowing from them to, say, Belphegor or Impaled Nazarene or whomever.
In 1980 EMI responded to Venom’s demo tape with a succinct answer that left little room for interpretation. I don’t know who wrote it and it seems like it could well have been an Internet-era concoction, but as best as I can tell, it appears that it was legit. Some think that it was typed out but never sent. If you’re interested in the details, there’s ample argumentation on both sides in this epic reddit thread about the letter.
In any case, we know that Venom never signed with EMI (their first few albums were on Neat Records) and that EMI signed Iron Maiden about a year earlier, so it can’t be said that EMI didn’t “get” heavy metal or was in any way liable to misjudge Venom’s fan appeal or sales potential. Venom suck.
Here’s a live Venom set from 1985:
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Amazing Venom, Motörhead, and DEVO masks!