"They’re not just wearing our shirts, they’re stealing the f**king music as well!" Venom's Cronos on his first impressions of Metallica, and nearly choking Lars Ulrich

Venom's Cronos and Metallica's James Hetfield
(Image credit: Cronos - Fin Costello/Redferns | James Hetfield - Pete Cronin/Redferns)

At the dawn of the 1980s, the world's biggest hard rock and heavy metal bands were not blind to the emergence of an exciting new generation of raw, hungry and ambitious young British groups with aspirations to join them at rock's top table. As such, emerging NWOBHM upstarts Iron Maiden were booked to join Kiss and Judas Priest on tour, while Def Leppard hit the road with AC/DC. 

Venom, however, received no such invitations.

"We never asked and were never offered anything," band leader Cronos told this writer. "I felt we were a totally different entity, and we didn’t want to be in anyone’s club. We knew from the kind of mail we were getting back then that our audience was extreme. I remember saying to the lads [guitarist Mantas and drummer Abaddon], Our crowd is going to be one fucked-up bunch of motherfuckers."

Among those "motherfuckers", Cronos came to learn, were an excitable quartet of diehard Venom fans in California who had formed a band of their own, Metallica.

"I had a friend who was a bootlegger and he sent me this VHS of Metallica playing in LA or San Francisco, and [guitarist, and future Megadeth frontman] Dave Mustaine was wearing a Welcome To Hell shirt," Cronos recalls of hearing Metallica's name for the first time, ahead of Venom's first headline shows in America. "And then when I listened to Whiplash, I thought, Wait, that’s fucking Witching Hour! They’re not just wearing our shirts, they’re stealing the fucking music as well! But they were young and enthusiastic so they seemed like a good fit to play with us, so we invited them to open the Staten Island shows [on April 22 and 24, 1983]. Those guys had so much energy and we all had a fucking great time."

It was at one of these shows, that Cronos discovered that his instincts about Venom's potential audience were correct.

"When the gig was over and we were packing the gear away, one of the security guys called me over," he recalls. "He pointed at these big metal barrels by the door of the club, and said, ‘Check this out.’ I looked in and these barrels were half full of weapons, knives and clubs, that they’d confiscated from kids on the way in. We were like, Shit the bed! Fucking Hell! That was the sort of crowd that we attracted."

Later that year, when they started plotting out their Seven Dates Of Hell shows in Europe for early 1984, Venom once again invited Metallica along for the ride, and a good time was had by all.

"They were good guys, they were cool," Cronos recalls. "I remember Lars [Ulrich] asking for the shirt that I had on, and he swapped it for a Metal Up Your Ass T-shirt. We got on really well, the tour was great and we had a good laugh. I remember at their last gig, in Belgium, we cut Lars’ drumsticks halfway through, and put talcum powder on his snare drum, and pyro underneath his little drum riser. When he started playing, he snapped his sticks, the talc went into the air and nearly choked the guy, and then the kit exploded underneath him. And then we threw rotten tomatoes at them. It was like, there’s your initiation, you’ve been Venomized! But it was all taken in good spirits, considering that we were fucking up their gig!"

Metallica have continued to sing Venom's praises to this day, but, perhaps oddly, given their obvious debt to Cronos' band, the group have never recorded a cover of a Venom song. Yet, anyway.


Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.