Early years (1978–1981)
Venom's original personnel came from three different bands: Guillotine, Oberon and Dwarfstar. The original Guillotine featured Jeffrey Dunn and Dave Rutherford on guitars, Dean Hewitt on bass guitar, Dave Blackman on vocals, and Chris Mercater on drums who replaced Paul Burke, the original drummer when the band was founded. Blackman and Mercater were later also replaced by drummer Anthony Bray (b. 17 September 1957 in Jarrow, Tyne and Wear) and vocalist Clive Archer of Oberon, and later on Dean Hewitt was replaced by Alan Winston on bass. Around that time a number of personnel changes occurred. Clive Archer, Eric Cook, Tony Bray and Ian Kell formed a band while working at Reyrolles. Ian Kell was replaced in summer of 1978 and went on to play in folk band "Kropotkin Lied" In the late autumn of 1979 Conrad Lant, from the bands Dwarfstar and Album Graecum, replaced Dave Rutherford who went on to play with local Jarrow band Silver Fox. Lant later switched to bass after the departure of Winston. The band members took on new stage names. Archer became "Jesus Christ", Lant "Cronos", Tony Bray "Abbadon", and Jeff Dunn "Mantas".
Prime influences of the formative band were Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Motörhead, and Kiss. Other musicians that have influenced Venom are Deep Purple, Sex Pistols, the Who, the Tubes, Van Halen, the Rolling Stones, and Elvis Presley.
Since the beginning of their career, Venom have often used "Satanic" lyrics and imagery. However, such references were mostly for shock value.
In late 1979 Lant introduced the band to his original song ideas as he didn't want to keep playing the same cover songs, and with Dunn he began writing new songs for the band. Lant had yet composed songs like "Sons of Satan", "Bloodlust" and "Welcome To Hell", while Dunn had yet composed songs like "Angel Dust", "Red Light Fever", "Buried Alive", "Raise The Dead" and "Live Like An Angel, Die Like a Devil". Dunn and Lant redefined together these songs with a mutual collaboration and then, after a few weeks Lant recorded a rehearsal session on a basic cassette recorder which he played for the label he worked for, although as the band rehearsed in an old church hall the sound was not good. In April 1980, Lant was able to persuade the label to give him some free studio time and the band recorded a three song demo. Soon after, six more tracks were recorded for just £50, with Lant taking vocal duties on the song "Live Like an Angel". Archer then left the band, and Venom's line-up became a trio.
Classic line-up (1981–1986)
Venom's professional recording debut was the 1981 single "In League with Satan"/"Live Like an Angel", which was released by Neat Records. Later that year they released their full-length debut, Welcome to Hell.
Welcome to Hell was a big influence on future thrash bands. Venom's music was faster and harsher than most heavy metal contemporaries and while Satanism and other dark topics had been featured in metal before, the subject had rarely been more prominent. Lant was quoted as saying that this celebration of evil subjects was inspired by the perceived need to out-do musicians like Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath, who would "sing about evil things and dark figures, and then spoil it all by going: 'Oh, no, no, please, God, help me!'"
Their second album, 1982's Black Metal, is cited as perhaps the most important influence in the development of black metal, thrash metal, death metal, and other related styles that are often grouped under the extreme metal umbrella. Many defining elements of these genres are first found in the lyrics and song titles created by Lant, his unique singing style and larger than life presence. The artwork designed for Venom's albums were also the inspiration of Lant and his illustrations for the first two albums are regarded a some of the most epic album sleeves of all time, going a long way to help sell the albums before people even heard the music. Venom's first two albums inspired cult followings to this day. While many of their NWOBHM peers (like Iron Maiden) had found measures of popular success or critical acclaim, or (like Def Leppard, were moving away from heavy metal towards hard rock), Venom were still regarded by critics as "a trio of rock stars".
In 1984, Venom recorded the At War with Satan album, an epic 20-minute title track, with substantial influences of many different musical styles, which took up the first side of the LP. The title track written by Lant, was a deliberate way for him to shove a middle finger up to the critics who said Venom couldn't play. The B-side was focused on the rapid-fire, three-minute "scorchers" Venom were known for, including "Stand Up And Be Counted". A live video, The 7th Date of Hell Venom Live At Hammersmith Odeon, was also released that year. In 1985, Venom released their fourth studio album, Possessed, which was recorded in a stately home, and saw a band enjoying their success with different chefs being flown in every day during the album's recording, lavish parties of sex, drugs and rock n' roll. By this time Venom had released several singles (Warhead, Die Hard and Manitou to name a few) and live EPs (The Assault Series including Canadian Assault, American Assault and French Assault). Cronos and Abaddon appeared on the Combat Tour Live: The Ultimate Revenge video with Slayer and Exodus. Cronos cites the Possessed album as underestimated. "I don't think there's any songs that are kind of overlooked, I just think some songs maybe weren't recorded as well as we could have recorded them. Like say for example on the Possessed album, I still think there are great songs".
During March/April of '86, Venom the band seems ready to record the fifth album (then never released), called Deadline, but internal relationships begin to deteriorate. A live album, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, and a second live video, Alive in '85, were released in 1986. Dunn then left the band to release a solo album.
Line-up changes, Calm Before the Storm release and departure of Conrad Lant (1987–1988)
Two guitarists, Mike Hickey and Jim Clare, were hired to replace Dunn. Their fifth album, 1987's Calm Before the Storm, moved away from Satanic themes in favour of "sword and sorcery" material. This was a new direction for Venom, although it didn't last long with only a short Japanese and Brazilian tour in 1986, so the band decided to split, and Lant, Clare and Hickey all left to form Lant's solo band Cronos.
Return to scene at the behest of Abaddon: The "Demolition Man" Dolan age (1988–1992)
Bray was left as the only group member, but he was able to convince Music for Nations for a deal to release a new Venom album on the Under One Flag label, using Deadline demo tracks which were recorded with previous line-ups but never released. In 1988, Bray offered a vocals/bass role to Tony Dolan (The Demolition Man) from Atomkraft. Bray and Dolan wrote new material prior to Dunn's rejoining the band along with rhythm guitarist Al Barnes. Together they recorded Prime Evil (1989), Tear Your Soul Apart (1990) and Temples of Ice (1991). Barnes then left the band, and Steve White from Atomkraft was hired as his replacement. They released The Waste Lands in 1992, also without success. Music for Nations refused to release any more Venom albums, so Dolan and Dunn quit, effectively disbanding Venom. Bray continued to release compilation and live albums up to 1995. Nonetheless, Dolan, Dunn and Bray continued performing as a trio.
Reunion of classic line-up (1995–1999)
In 1995, Lant, Dunn and Bray reunited the "classic" line-up, beginning by headlining the Waldrock Festival on 24 June 1995. They recorded and self-released the Venom '96 EP with four re-recorded old tracks and one new song, resulting in a record deal with the SPV label. Following this was a live CD/video box set, The Second Coming, composed entirely of songs from their classic era such as "Welcome to Hell", "Countess Bathory", "In Nomine Satanas" and "Black Metal". An album, Cast in Stone, was next released in 1997, split between two discs which was one of all new material and the other with re-recordings of popular early-'80s songs.
Recent work (1999–present)
By time 1999 arrived, it was time to supply SPV with the second album in their deal and internal conflicts between members of the band did not take long. Eric Cook (manager of Venom) and Abaddon meet each other and decide not to work with Cronos again. So Abaddon writes a letter to Cronos with the intent of firing him out of the band. The letter written by the drummer communicates that the role of Cronos in the band and his service is no longer necessary and that he would carry on the band with Jeff "Mantas" Dunn and other people. So Cronos calls the German record company SPV/Steamhammer to communicate the situation of the band and wish everyone good luck for whatever they decide to do. At that point the record company furiously refused to point to point blank to have a line-up of Venom who had no Cronos in the band. After that, Conos answered Abaddon telling him: "You can't kick the Devil out of hell, I’m firing you!". Despite this, the band tried to invite Abaddon to play with them again but Bray did not want to perform on the album and he was replaced by a nu-metal drummer called "Anton" which, among other things, was the younger Lant brother. This line-up released Resurrection in 2000 on SPV. However, in 2002 Dunn was next to leave the group and Lant replaced him with a US guitarist, Mike Hickey, which already took part in 1987 release "Calm Before the Storm" and Cronos solo albums. In late 2005, Venom released a career-spanning four-disc box set, MMV, which includes an exclusive mini-poster of the band's seven-date tour of Europe with Metallica and a 60-page picture book, with interviews and pictures. The set includes all their best-known songs, along with rarities like live tracks, demos and outtakes. This line-up of the band released the Metal Black album in 2006.
In 2007 Mike Hickey left the band and guitarist Stuart "Rage" Dixon joined the band and this line-up released the record Hell the following year. In 2009 drummer Danny "Dante" Needham joined the band and Lant wrote that this will be known as "The Epic Line-Up Of Venom", and they set off on a full South American tour. After headlining festivals around the world for the next couple of years gaining in popularity, they released the Fallen Angels album on 28 November 2011.
Venom released their fourteenth studio album, From the Very Depths, on 27 January 2015. The band also played one song, "Rise", they were working on in the studio, live for the audience at Rockfest 2014.
A three-track EP, 100 Miles to Hell, was released on 22 December 2017. The fifteenth album Storm The Gates was announced on 9 November 2018 and was released on 14 December 2018.
Reunion of the Venom '89/'90 line-up under the name "Venom Inc."
In April 2015, in anticipation of a date of the M-pire of Evil (Mantas and Demolition Man band) at the Keep It True Festival in Germany, the organizers of the festival, asked Mantas and Demolition Man if they could play the songs of Venom with Abaddon. Mantas had not talked to Abaddon since 1998. So after thinking a bit, the two ex-Venom played along with Abaddon without having done any rehearsals for the show. At this point the three brought together the Venom line-up of 1988–1992 under the name of Venom Inc. for the sake of the fans (instead of the name "Iron & Steel", that was initially conceived by the members themselves).
On 3 February 2017, Venom Inc. signed with Nuclear Blast and released their first album, Avé, on 11 August 2017. The two singles off the album were "Dein Fleisch" and "Ave Satanas".
After playing on the Blood Stained Earth Tour 2017, the band continued to play until the beginning of March 2018, when at the end of the Australian tour, Abaddon asked for a break from the band's activity (due to the birth of his daughter, Anja) and agreed that he would be temporarily replaced by the band's front of house engineer Jeramie Kling for a period of one or two months (until April 2018) to complete the European tour before he came back.
However, following some internal disagreements, Abaddon was fired and replaced by Kling. Meanwhile, Kling (from The Absence) took his place on the band's European tour and on recordings for the next record.