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VENOM Hell at Hammersmith/ Live in London
Cargo Records (2006)


I am definitely not the most superstitious person in the world, but on the other hand, I admit that it is quite a weird coincidence that I get to review a Venom DVD, two weeks after attending one of their most recent shows. Is there something that I am missing here - are there any signs that I fail to "read"? Well, who cares! The bottom line is that, what I have in my hands is a DVD release from one of the most important and innovative bands of the 80's, so let's see what's on offer here!

It is a well known fact that Venom's classic line up members (Cronos, Mantas, Abaddon) did not enjoy the best of relationships, and that nowadays it is more than just a necessity to be aware of the band's current line up, prior to booking your tickets. Back in 1985, though, when "Hell at Hammersmith / Live in London" was recorded, things were much, much different! Having just released their fourth studio album "Possessed", Venom were definitely at the peak of their career, and that is reflected in this one hour long DVD release.

Obviously what Cargo Records did was to create a DVD based on the original VHS release, so if you are hoping to find in this release interesting extras such as band interviews and backstage footage, you will be sadly disappointed. On the other hand, the quite professional filming techniques, even compared to today's standards, and the band's amazing chemistry on stage will be more than enough to convince you that "Hell at Hammersmith / Live in London" is a DVD worth buying.

Venom never claimed to be the most technically efficient band in the world, and the very bad musical "execution" of "Black Metal", where both Cronos (who evidently broke a string of his base, while playing) and Abaddon sound totally out of tune in their attempt to play the song slightly faster than the norm, is a proof of that argument. On the other hand, the band's brilliant performance of classics such as "Countess Bathory", "Warhead" and the amazingly dark and sinister-sounding "7 Gates of Hell" was enough to win the audience's loud applause and generally speaking positive reaction.

Throughout the show, there is a great interaction between the band and the audience. Cronos is constantly using his renowned facial expressions and throws his stage shapes, while Mantas is running from one side of the stage to the other, looking as excited as a school boy on a day trip. One of the best, and obviously funniest moments of the show is when, prior to performing "Satanachist", Cronos ask the audience "Do you want to go home?", and when he received a negative response, his comment is "Well, we do!"

Other highlights were the use of pyrotechnics in "Bloodlust" and Cronos' refusal to leave the stage and continuing his performance of "Welcome To Hell" while bleeding from his very tight spike collar.

What Venom provide in "Hell at Hammersmith / Live in London" is a typical 80's concert, from a period in music history when stage shows were as important as the music itself. If you decide to invest in this DVD you will not only realise why Venom were the pioneers of extreme metal, but also become exposed to some of the most classic songs ever recorded in metal. Is that a treat, or what?


Review by John Stefanis

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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