Friday, April 17, 2009

Venom - Warhead (1984)

Warhead is the second of the singles put out after At War With Satan. This one was recorded at Impulse Studios in Newcastle and produced by Venom, with assistance from longtime engineer Keith Nichol. It was released on Neat Records in late January 1984 and it featured three different covers, each positioning a different band member at the forefront. It appeared in both 7" and 12" forms. The former contained only two songs while the latter had three, as well as an extended version of the title track. The single debuted on number 3 in the HM chart and stayed in the top 30 for 15 weeks. This release led to a monumental episode in the history of Radio One, when Tommy Vance conspired (by offering to pay sum of money to charity) to get the not-very-radio-friendly A-side played during daytime programming, to the distress and bewilderment of many sensitive souls.

"Warhead" begins with the faint pounding of drums and distant screaming. The music slowly builds and rises in volume until an explosion kicks the song into gear. There is a very primitive feeling on this one. The thrash section retains a subdued feeling, while the slow doom riffs dominate the sound. This is a very powerful song that should have been included on Possessed. Supposedly, many of those tracks were in existence as far back as the recording session for Black Metal anyway.

Side B features "Lady Lust", revisiting a common theme. For one reason or another, Venom likes to pay tribute to the ladies of the night as often as possible and this single is no exception. The song begins with a thrash riff and Abaddon's pulsing drums. Later on, Cronos gets a few moments to play with his bass before Mantas returns with a shrieking guitar riff. This song is fairly generic, not doing a whole lot for me.

Thankfully, the 12" version features a third song, "The Seven Gates of Hell". This is the best song presented here, as well as one of the best Venom tracks ever recorded. This one begins with an eerie intro, as the music slowly rises up from the murky depths. The song features a morbid pace, evil lyrics and incredible execution by all three band members. This one possesses somewhat of an epic nature, as well as very memorable riffs and vocal lines. The middle section features sparse guitars, mostly carried by drums and bass with some demonic vocals.

"When the flame of life grows cold
We chime the silent bell
And the unborn child is old
The seven gates of Hell"

After this verse, there is a very nice lead solo, maintaining a creepy feeling as it slowly winds its way through the mist. A sense of tension seems to be building after this point, as the pace quickens for a bit, faster and faster, before settling down once more. "The Seven Gates of Hell" is a true Venom classic. The reason why this song wasn't featured, prominently, on an L.P. remains a mystery.

Warhead is a very essential release, provided that you obtain the 12" that includes all three songs. The second track is kind of a letdown, but the others are prime examples of why Venom was so great.