At War with Satan

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At War with Satan
Studio album by Venom
Released 16 April 1984
Genre Black metal
Length 39:45
Label Neat
Producer Venom
Venom chronology
Black Metal
(1982)
At War with Satan
(1984)
Possessed
(1985)

At War with Satan is the third album by extreme metal band Venom, released in April 1984. A semi-concept album that tells the story of a war between Heaven and Hell where the latter side wins, it was touted as Venom's crossover into rock mainstream, but failed to do so. Shortly after it reached the stores the HMV record chain withdrew the album from their shelves due to its anti-Christian content.

Background[edit]

The inspiration for writing a track filling out an entire side of the record, according to Venom bassist Cronos, came from Rush's 2112 album.[1][2] "At War with Satan" is centred on a character named Abaddon (which is also the alias of Tony Bray, Venom's drummer), who's the guardian to the gates of Hell.[3] Venom bassist and vocalist Cronos started writing, back in his school days, a story about "how Hell revolts and takes over the heavens and throws God into Hell", a story later fleshed out as "At War with Satan".[1] The title track's imagery and storyline largely evokes the Book of Revelation and John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost (1667–1674) filtered through a postmodern horror movie and pulp aesthetic.[4]

With side A taken by the epic title track, side B offers the "three-minute scorchers" that band is best known for.[5] Metal journalist Malcolm Dome said that songs such as "Cry Wolf" showed how much Venom had matured in their songwriting without losing their edge.[6] According to Allmusic reviewer Eduardo Rivadavia, the album's last track, "Aaaaaarrghh", is "possibly the funniest song ever recorded".[5]

Artwork[edit]

At War with Satan '​s packaging resembled the leatherbound sleeve of a bookcover. A hundred-page The Book of Armageddon with the entire story of At War with Satan was supposed to be published alongside the album, but it never happened.[7] Swiss independent distributor Disctrade tried to interest Venom in H. R. Giger's Satan I (1977) to no avail.[8] Later on the painting became the cover art of Celtic Frost's second album, To Mega Therion (1985).[9]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[5]

By the time At War with Satan reached record stores, Venom had reached a crossroads on their career.[10] Critics felt that their third album should have propelled them into heavy metal mainstream but that didn't quite happen.[11] Venom were also being threatened by thrash metal upstarts such as Metallica,[10] who two months prior to At War with Satan '​s release were the opening act for Venom's Seven Dates of Hell tour.[12] (Roughly a year later Venom also took Slayer and Exodus on their North American Combat Tour.[13]) This was Metallica's first European tour, which included concerts in Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium and the Aardschok Festival in the Netherlands.[12]

The record was well-received by major music magazines. "Proof positive that Venom are the best heavy metal band in the world", said Melody Maker '​s Neil Jeffries of the album. "It will definitely go down in Heavy Metal history as the ultimate headbang" claimed a Sounds reviewer of the title track.[14] At War with Satan's entry on the "Where to Start with" section of the Kerrang! site states that this was the "last truly great record the Geordie three would make".[15] Some criticism, though, was directed toward the album's production values, viewed as subpar.[16]

The title track's merits divided critics. In the opinion of About.com's Chad Bowar, "At War with Satan" is at the same time "highly ambitious" and "bloated", but the song was "so over-the-top and so dramatic that it somehow worked" and made the album "an overlooked metal gem".[17] The Allmusic review's tone was harsher: this concept piece was an "ill-advised anomaly", much of it "decidedly crap".[5]

The rise of metal's popularity in the eighties was paralleled by the political power gained by conservative organisations such as the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). The Christian, right-wing campaign against the "offensive" content of rock music carried out by certain political groups in America eventually crossed over to the United Kingdom. Venom became one of its early victims: HMV stopped selling At War with Satan in fear of being threatened by legal action due to Britain's Obscenity Law.[18] The PMRC would later include the title track of Venom's following album Possessed into their Filthy Fifteen list.[19][20][21]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Cronos and Mantas.

Side A
No. Title Length
1. "At War with Satan"   19:57
Side B
No. Title Length
2. "Rip Ride"   3:09
3. "Genocide"   2:59
4. "Cry Wolf"   4:19
5. "Stand Up (And Be Counted)"   3:32
6. "Women, Leather and Hell"   3:21
7. "Aaaaaarrghh"   2:25
Total length:
39:45
Bonus tracks in 2002 re-release by Castle Music/Sanctuary Records Group
No. Title Length
8. "At War with Satan (TV Adverts)"   1:04
9. "Warhead"   3:40
10. "Lady Lust"   2.48
11. "The Seven Gates of Hell"   5:28
12. "Manitou"   4:42
13. "Woman"   2:56
14. "Dead of the Night"   4:09
15. "Manitou (Abbey Road uncut mix)"   4:49

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

Works cited
  • Fischer, Tom Gabriel & Ain, Martin Eric (2009). Only death is real: An illustrated history of Hellhammer and early Celtic Frost: 1981–1985. New York: Bazillion Points Books.
  • Dome, Malcolm (2002). At War with Satan. In: Venom (1984). At war with Satan [CD]. Surrey: Sanctuary Records Group.
  • McIver, Joel (2008). The bloody reign of Slayer. London: Omnibus Press.
  • McIver, Joel (2009). Justice for all: the truth about Metallica. London: Omnibus Press.
Footnotes
  1. ^ a b Kitts, Jeff (19 November 2008). "Venom's Cronos: The Guitar World Interview" (web). Guitar World. Retrieved 21 April 2013. 
  2. ^ Kupfer, Thomas: Venom. Jesus musste gehen. In: Rock Hard, no. 304, September 2012, p. 40.
  3. ^ Karsmakers, Richard (January 1995). "An Interview with Abaddon" (web). Metal-e-Zine. Retrieved 21 April 2013. 
  4. ^ Barron, Lee (Autumn 2004). "Milton's infernal majesty: Postmodern poetics within Venom's At War with Satan" (web). Chapter & Verse. Retrieved 2 May 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d Rivadavia, Eduardo. "At War with Satan – Venom". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  6. ^ Dome 2002, p. 7.
  7. ^ Stöver, Frank (1995). "Interviews: VENOM" (web). Voices from the Dark Side. Retrieved 4 May 2013. 
  8. ^ Fischer & Ain 2009, pp. 148–149.
  9. ^ Fischer & Ain 2009, p. 227.
  10. ^ a b Dome 2002, p. 8.
  11. ^ Dome 2002, p. 9.
  12. ^ a b McIver 2009, p. 125.
  13. ^ McIver 2008, pp. 64–65.
  14. ^ "Venom Quotes" (web). Venom Collector Page. Retrieved 4 May 2013. 
  15. ^ "Venom – Where to Start with" (web). Kerrang!. Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  16. ^ Dome 2002, p. 6.
  17. ^ Bowar, Chad (17 September 2010). "Retro Recommendation: Venom – At War with Satan" (web). About.com. Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  18. ^ Dome, Malcolm (5 September 1985). "Battle of the Bans" (web). Kerrang!. Retrieved 2 May 2013. 
  19. ^ Jonathon Green, Nicholas J. Karolides: Encyclopedia of Censorship. New Edition. New York: Facts on File 2005, p. 625, accessed on 14 May 2013.
  20. ^ Barry Miles: Zappa: A Biography. New York: Grove Press 2004, p. 332f., accessed on 14 May 2013.
  21. ^ Wes Orshoski: Classic Metal. In: Billboard, 25 May 2002, p. 76, accessed on 14 May 2013.