Venom: Conrad "Cronos" Lant (vocals, bass); Jeff "Mantas" Dunn (guitar); Tony "Abaddon" Bray (drums).
Recorded between 1981 & 1985. Includes liner notes by Dave Ling.
When Venom first appeared in the early '80s, they sent a shockwave through the metal underground almost immediately. Catching the attention of both metalheads and punks, the band was emulated by the former and turned into camp icons by the latter. This was obviously the strongest period of their career, and to celebrate that time frame they have included 20 tracks from between 1980 and 1983 to fill the first disc of In League With Satan, the most complete compilation the band has released in their 20-plus years. Coming on strong with sloppy riffs swiped from Motörhead, drumming that echoed the urgent drive of hardcore, lyrics that would do Anton Levay proud, and their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks, they bashed away at these metal classics with an intensity never felt before in the genre. The sound quality may be thin by modern standards, but the tracks found on the first disc mark a turning point that made an enormous impact on the direction metal went in. The second disc is a much more hit-and-miss affair, with the tracks from At War With Satan being the first of the bunch to lose the raw edge that drove the band's first efforts. Still, several of those tracks are quite potent, with "Stand up and Be Counted" and "Aaaaarghhh" displaying their trademark mix of humor and aggression. Only the latter element carries over into the rest of the album, leaving the tracks from Possessed to stand out as the weakest on the compilation, if only because of their stone-faced seriousness that betrays the tone of the previous material. As far as extras, this does include singles that never made it to these albums ("Die Hard" being the best of the bunch), commercials for album releases, radio spots, and even their live-intro tape. On top of that, there is a concise biography and a history of the official recorded output from this lineup provided inside. These items alone will make it a necessity for fans, and the commercial and radio bonuses are spread throughout in a non-obtrusive fashion. There is almost 15 years of material being ignored by this compilation; it is hardly missed when compared to the excellent tracks displayed here. In League With Satan provides easy access to the best songs from their creative high point, and despite a weak ending, it is arguably the finest compilation provided by group thus far. ~ Bradley Torreano