Newcastle, England’s Venom are the undisputed forefathers of black metal, not only for their obvious musical definition of the style, but also for their role as irredeemable outsiders – almost untouchables – to the rock world at large. Subsequent generations of black metal practitioners inevitably relate to that misfit experience, as much as the music that conveys it.

Speaking of the music … Whereas nowadays they’re widely celebrated as seminal albums, Venom’s inaugural hellish quartet, Welcome to Hell, Black Metal and, to a lesser degree, At War with Satan and Possessed, received nothing but scorn from “professional” critics and “serious” music fans in their time. Most of these simply failed to see past these albums’ lo-fidelity limitations to the rebellious, punk-like D.I.Y. spirit that fueled them.

Sadly, by 1986, Venom themselves had lost heart in their demonic calling. First to leave was guitarist Jeffrey "Mantas" Dunn, who skipped 1987’s Calm Before the Storm; but he returned after vocalist/bassist Conrad "Cronos" Lant took his leave and was replaced by Tony Dolan for ‘89’s Prime Evil, ‘91’s Temples of Ice and ‘92’s The Waste Lands – all of which saw Venom transformed into a more traditional heavy metal outfit.

Finally, Cronos and Mantas reconnected with drummer Tony "Abaddon" Bray for 1997’s Cast in Stone, but the latter was soon replaced by Anthony “Antton” Lant (Cronos’ brother) for 2000’s rather optimistically named Resurrection (2000), and come 2006’s Metal Black, Cronos was the last founding member left standing, and so he has remained for 2008’s Hell, 2011’s Fallen Angels and 2015’s From the Very Depths.

Despite all this lineup instability, the raw and uncompromising blueprint of early Venom is very much alive in these new millennium albums, so to listeners who believe that the band’s worthy discography begins and ends with the legendary original trio of Cronos, Mantas and Abaddon, we say “not so fast”!

And we encourage you to click through the gallery above to see how Venom’s sinful creations rank, from worst to best.

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