1984. At War with Satan

is the third album by 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.

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. “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. 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”. 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. 

With side A taken by the epic title track, side B offers the “three-minute scorchers” that band is best known for. Metal journalist Malcolm Dome said that songs such as “Cry Wolf” showed how much Venom had matured in their songwriting without losing none of their edge.

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 did happen. Swiss independent distributor Disctrade tried to interest Venom in H. R. Giger’s Satan I (1977) to no avail. Later on the painting became the cover art of Celtic Frost’s second album, To Mega Therion (1985).

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

                  Cronos             Mantas          Abaddon 

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