On the Bandwagon: The non punk records of SST Records.

When one thinks of SST records they think of classic punk like Black Flag, The Descendents, The Minutemen etc. SST is more known for hardcore punk than anything else and they put out some classic albums by some classic bands. SST was started by Greg Ginn, who founded Black Flag, in Black Flag’s later albums like “Slip It In”, Greg and the crew slipped in heavy chords and dissonant solos and they were accused of “selling out” and “going metal”. Greg got pissed at that and was one guy that didn’t want to stagnant as a writer or player, he said something along the lines of “It shouldn’t be too much as a band to practice your instruments once in awhile”. It would make sense that Greg would sign acts that went into different territory on to his label, this earned the derision of the punk hipsters in the scene. Fuck them, not many people know the non punk acts of SST so without further ado and not in any order here is most (not all) of the non punk acts of SST records.

1.Overkill L.A.

Sounding like fried, burned to death Motorhead, Overkill L.A. started as as a hardcore punk band, in fact, their first E.P. “Hotter Than Hell” was O.K. punk music, however, on their 1985 album “Triumph of the Will” they went for the throat mixing hardcore punk with speed metal, the result wasn’t thrash, it was pure Motorhead worship. I can’t recommend “Triumph of the Will” enough, its a killer album I’ve listened to on repeat. There was a lot of band changes, people getting pissed at each other for stupid comments, dumb drunken behavior and “Yoko” girlfriends. Overkill L.A. had one of their songs put on “Metal Massacre 2” that was a different version than appeared on their studio album and their first singer was more of high pitched hair metal singer who they ditched in favor of the crazy Merrill Ward. At first when Ward quit, Ginn wasn’t even gonna release the album, Felice Lococo talked Greg into it after getting Merrill on board again to do lyrics and vocals. Overkill LA had to change their name when the New Jersey thrash metal act, Overkill, copy righted their name.

2. DC3

Dez Cadena of Black Flag started the band in 1983 and their sound was a far away as possible from Black Flag. Psychedelic Stoner Hard Rock is more like it and its fucking beautiful, along with Dez was Kurt Markham on drums and Kira Roessler on bass until she left for Black Flag, her brother Paul stepped in and played bass and keyboards. This is one band I really dig on and was forerunner of the stoner/doom metal movement that would come in the 1990’s alternative rock explosion. “Your Only Blind As Your Mind Can Be” is a fucking killer album, mushrooms and pot smoke down the hatch!

3. Saint Vitus

Saint Vitus were out and out Sabbath worshipers their sound was dipped in sludgy muck of Osbourne/Iommi/Ward/Butler, started in 1979 they were in the second wave of doom metal along with Pentagram, Candlemass and Trouble, they weren’t into snorting coke off the spandex clad asses of groupies, they were more into drinking cheap beer, smoking good weed and banging hair pie, as a result they were hard to peg in the hair metal go go 1980’s. Greg Ginn was a huge fan and took them along on shows and tours with Black Flag, some punks hated their guts being dumb fucking elitist hipsters, but some warmed up to them, Chandler said “the heavy metal fans at the time hated us, and so did the punk rockers, but the punk rockers grew to appreciate us”. Saint Vitus would be among some of the best retro hard rock bands to come out in the 1980’s. At first the band consisted of Scott Reagers on vocals, Mark Adams on bass, Armando Acosta on drums, and Dave Chandler on guitar, that was on the first two albums self titled and “Hallow’s Victim”, after Reagers quit Scott “Wino” Weinrich from the doom band Obsessed joined in 1986 on the album “Born Too Late” my favorite of the band’s albums and the line up hasn’t changed since. Some people like Reager’s voice better than Weinrich, I like them both.

4. Wurm

Chuck Dukowski who went to play with Black Flag, started Wurm in 1973 and continued the band after Black Flag broke up. Wurm is considered the godfathers of Sludge Metal. Wurm recorded an album in 1977 but the tapes were destroyed after they stiffed the studio on payment. Wurm split apart because that is what good bands do and Chuck joined a band called Panic which had Greg Ginn in it and would change its name to Black Flag, during a Black Flag hiatus Chuck brought Wurm back and recorded a three song E.P. in 1982 “We’re Off/I’m Dead/Time Has Come Today (cover)” they then added Simon Smallwood from the band Dead Hippie as vocalist and recorded the fucking awesome “Feast” and released it in 1985 on SST records. “Feast” is a killer, its blistering, nasty, hard rock that smashes your face in. Greg Ginn and company had good musical tastes.

5. SWA

This is one band a lot of people like to shit on in the SST Records roster and I don’t see why, they are a hard band to pin down, are they punk? Are they hard rock? Are they pop rock? Jazz rock? Experimental? Listening to a SWA song is like saying “WTF?” Those are the bands I like. The name was picked by alphabets to numbers and rolling dice, SWA came up, again Chuck Dukowski came up with the concept of the band and when Wurm fell apart Chuck recruited a teenage drummer who hung out around SST records, Greg Cameron, Ted Falconi of the band Flipper joined on guitar, but that version of the band was short lived. The group was soon joined by Merrill Ward of the aforementioned band Overkill LA on vocals, Richard Ford of Frantic Technoids on guitar, and Greg Cameron’s friend Ray Cooper on guitar in 1985, the band recorded their first album “Your Future If You Have One” which was produced by Greg Ginn. The band continued to change line ups, this is a strange band no doubt, I’d recommend “Evolution” which collects all their recordings from 1985-1987. Check this band out.

6. Zoogz Rift

A one man killing machine and amateur professional wrestler, Zoogz Rift was one of a kind and the type of guy I like, he didn’t give two fucks about what people thought about him or his music. Whatever crazy idea he had he ran with it, this man was genre defying and didn’t like to be tied down. SST Records re released his older albums and newer material because nobody else would. Zoogz has said he took inspiration from many sources like Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Salvador Dali and Ayn Rand (!). Wow so you know what your headed for if you dip your ears in this audio acid, as for Zoogz fray into professional wrestling, Zoogz booked the Universal Wrestling Federation in 1993, he left in 1994 but returned in 1995 to become Vice President of the UWF along with  founder Herb Abrams after Abrams died in 1996. Zoogz did a online show commenting on professional wrestling called “Puke-A-Mania”, his wrestling career was ended when Lex Luger torture racked him and injured him. Zoogz passed away in 2011 from complications of diabetes. I recommend the awesome and weird “Ipecac”.

7. Tar Babies

Another SST Records fray into psychedelic rock, Tar Babies was a weird combo of jazz, psychedelic and avant garde craziness, Acid Punk if you will. The band formed in 1982, the original line up was Jeremy Davies on vocals, Bucky Pope on guitars, Dan Bitney on drums and Robin Davies on bass, the guys came from different bands with different sounds and they came together to create this audio mutant. Their first two albums “Face the Music” and “Respect Your Nightmares” were released on their own label Bone Air Music, but their next album “Fried Milk” was put out by SST Records. In my opinion, “Fried Milk” is their best album acid freaked, experimental rock to the hilt done right. Their later albums would have a more funk sound, I enjoy all of their albums. A band that decided to go out on the limb of Weird Tree as far as they could go.

8. Lawndale

Nothing beats a reverb soaked Surf instrumental after listening to bad acid trip, avant garde black or death metal, a cool blue tropical drink of a Surf instrumental gets rid of that weird after taste. Lawndale toasts that drink to those masters of yesteryear like Dick Dale and Link Wray. There is no dumb vocals that get in the way of the music, ride the wave, baby, ride the wave. When SST had retro acts like Saint Vitus, DC3, Tar Babies and Lawndale they did it right. A band from, where else, Lawndale, CA and oddly enough SST Records mailing address but not their physical address, the band was started in 1984 by Rick Waddell aka Rick Lawndale on guitar and Jack Skelley on bass, on second guitar was Steve Housden and on drums was Dave Childs naming themselves after the city they were from. Greg Ginn signed them and they released the fucking awesome “Beyond Barbecue” and the still awesome “Sasquatch Rock” as well as numerous compilations.  They split in 1987 but Rick revived the band in 1997 under the Rick Lawndale Band. Search these guys out and ride the wave! LA Weekly described them as “The Ventures meet Led Zeppelin in Don Knott’s living room”. Pretty apt description.

9. October Faction

While October Faction was a band rooted in punk, October Faction’s tree branched and strengthened in avant garde jazz and psychotic hard rock. The members were SST Records regulars Chuck Dukowski on bass, Greg Cameron on drums, Greg Ginn on guitar, Joe Baiza from the punk band Saccharine Trust on second guitar and Tom Troccoli from Troccoli’s Dog on vocals and they were mainly a instrumental jam band. Their first album is a live recording from 1985 that is self titled and this is my favorite of their two albums, this is where the experimentalism rears its ugly, mutated head. The back and forth jamming of the players in created something that partakes of jazz, punk and hard rock with equal fever. Their second album “Second Factionalization” is a studio recording, still good but not as insane or dangerous as their first live recording.

So there you have it! Unlike a lot of punk labels, SST Records wasn’t afraid to go into different musical territory, even if it meant dying of thirst and hunger. I am sure I am leaving off bands, SST Records had two different labels under its umbrella, Cruz Records and Issues Records which released a spoken word album by NBA Celtic legend Bill Walton with Ray Manzarek of the Doors doing background music. In the late 1980’s Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. soured on the financial practices of SST and went elsewhere. Sub Pop started to gain more prominence and became the underground label in the 1990’s. SST went into hibernation when noise/sound collage act Negativland sued SST after Negativland’s kerfuffle with U2 over sampling, SST agreed to hand over masters to Negativland in exchange for completing a planned live album along with keeping the original three albums for a short period. In the 1990’s Ginn only kept the catalog of the punk classics, some bands sued to get their rights back. In 2002 Ginn signed a deal with Koch records and digital music distributor, The Orchard, released a bunch of SST Record acts on I tunes and e music in 2006.

While SST Records is known for classic punk, people forget their rich back catalog of non punk acts, most of which was the womb of what would become the alternative rock/metal movement. The Stoner/Doom/Garage Rock/Metal scene owes a debt they can never repay to SST Records.


On the band wagon: Venom rip offs.

This will be a new feature where I will review a whole band’s catalog or anything that is band related. This will be my first one on the rip offs of the almighty band, VENOM. The original, filthy, offensive, Satanic, black metal band they were the progenitors of extreme metal, without their mangling of heavy metal into lo fi, punk terror you wouldn’t have death metal, thrash metal, black metal, grindcore etc. “They” being Cronos lead “singer” and bassist, Mantas on guitar and Abbadon on drums.  Of course Venom didn’t take themselves seriously, and their “Satan worship” was more like the costumed, cowled followers in a Hammer horror film. To many Venom was a band that represented what not to do in a metal band, play sloppy, use cheap equipment to play and record yourself, and sing like your vocal chords were shredded by drinking acid. That being said Venom’s blackened speed metal, proto thrash, metal punk sound will get into your head, if you listen to them long enough you’ll catch yourself humming “Angel Dust” without consciously doing it. So as the godfathers of extreme metal, there has been a lot of bands who have tried to rip off or sound like Venom, most fail because they aren’t Venom. Eventually I will get around to doing a “On the band wagon” on Venom’s discography, so right now I am going to do the top bands that do the best ripping off Venom.

  1. Whipstriker

Straight from the wild lands of Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, Whipstriker is a newer band that takes no prisoners and they also sound like Venom reincarnated if you ever wished that the old, classic line up of Venom would’ve recorded more stuff, than this band will be up your dirty, needle strewn alley. Viktor Whipstriker sounds almost identical to Cronos and the other guys in the band emulate the down n’ dirty sound and recording techniques that Venom used in their heyday. The difference between Whipstriker and Venom is Whipstriker won’t sing about Hell and the Devil in every song. Whipstriker will go into “crust punk” territory with songs about war and destruction. And some of their songs are more hardcore punk and crust punk than straight up blackened speed metal. So if you want an almost exact copy of Venom, Whipstriker is your band.


Rising from the ashes of punk bands Blood and Angelic Upstarts, drummer and lead vocalist (rare combo) Evo wanted to take his punk sound in a more metal direction. Out of all the “Venom rip off” bands, they are the ones that fucking kill, but they just aren’t a rip off, they play dirty, record lo fi, and shred vocal chords, they don’t sing about the devil, they mainly sing about war and street violence, they take no prisoners they were also on the same label as Venom, Neat, which is known for signing “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” i.e. NWOBHM but Venom and Warfare sound nothing like their label mates. Their one of the few bands that could balance metal and punk without tipping into either one. Venom and Warfare aren’t “thrash bands”, too many people make that mistake, they could be labeled “proto thrash”, they play too sloppily and don’t have a lot of guitar breaks, their “solos” are mostly technically deficient. That is why I love this fucking band. In fact, Warfare’s three classic albums “Pure Filth”, “Metal Anarchy”, and “Mayhem Fucking Mayhem” were produced by Algy Ward of Tank, Lemmy from Motorhead and Cronos of course from Venom respectively. Suprisingly Evo says he wasn’t inspired by Venom at all and thought they were stupid, even though Cronos produced their third full length and they also did a collaboration on the last song on “Pure Filth”, the dirty and nasty “Rose Petals Fall From Her Face”. They aren’t the only ones on this list who downplay or outright say they weren’t influenced by Venom. I figure back then people were embarrassed to even be associated in any way with them. Search out Warfare, their first three albums and EPs kill, I am almost a bigger fan of them than Venom.

3. Amebix

Considered the “Godfathers of Crust Punk” Amebix mixed Killing Joke post punk, with Sabbath Sludge, Motorhead Speed and First Wave of Black Metal nastiness. Amebix, especially on their best album “Monolith”, sounds like Venom with slower tempos, Baron, the lead singer sounds very close to Cronos’ “gargle with acid and razor blades” vocal style, their sound is down, dirty, but sludgy, slow and eerie. They didn’t sing about the Devil at all but their lyrics were more occult and anarcho politics. They also set themselves apart from the other punks by dressing in black and carrying around books by Aleister Crowley. Baron had denied that Venom had in any influence on them whatsoever, another band disavowing or being embarrassed by Venom, sorry Baron, all one needs to do is listen to your music and look at this picture to show that your full of shit.

Baron, lead singer of Amebix, caught red handed with the Venom “Nightmare” EP when he said Venom didn’t influence Amebix whatsoever.

4. NME

Teenagers bored with life in Tocoma, Washington listen to Venom, Hellhammer, Bathory, GBH and Exploited records non stop, get drunk and high on skunk weed and decide to start a band. Its Venom reborn (or possessing) in them, what vomits out is a cacophony of noise that does their heroes proud. A sonic blackened speed metal punk attack that sets all faders to red. I have never listened to their later albums without the original members but their demo “Machine of War” and their full length “Unholy Death” is Venom worship but with their own spin they mainly sing about the same things that Venom does but they also sing about being Loud and Black Knights. Vocalist Kurt Struebing is notorious for killing his adoptive mother while high on drugs with a hatchet and scissors thinking she was a “robot” in 1986 around the time their album “Unholy Death” was released, he got a second degree murder charge and was sent to prison for twelve years but only served eight. After getting out he seemed to clean up his life doing music and having a steady job until in 2005 Kurt was killed by driving off a swing bridge in Seattle. He wasn’t anything like the guys in the Black Metal scene in Norway, he didn’t murder his adoptive mother to promote the music or band, he was just crazy and whatever substance he did knocked him off balance. That incident just adds to the strange, dark atmosphere of the band’s early days. From what I hear their later stuff without their lead singer is just tepid, unoriginal crossover thrash, maybe what I hear is wrong, so just stick with the EP and first full length if you want Venom worship.

5. Barrow Wight

From the cold wastes of Ontario, Canada come BARROW WIGHT!!! ARGGHHHHH!!! Imagine Venom singing about Hobbits, Elves, Orcs, Dwarves, Morgul Blades and Sauron instead of Hell and Satan then you have a good idea of what your in for. This is one Venom rip off band that is relatively new to the scene that is one of my favorites. Why they are further down the list is they aren’t a straight up rip off, they mix the ambience and atmosphere of Amebix and Hawkwind. So far they’ve only released two demos, one EP “Power from the East”, a awesome full length “Kings in Sauron’s Service” and a appearance on the “Trapped Under Ice” compilation with the song “Morgul Blade”, I hope their not one of those bands that just stops, their gonna piss me the hell off if that happens. I have “King’s in Sauron’s Service” in CD and on vinyl because the vinyl came with a shirt and a cool fucking pin. “King’s in Sauron’s Service” is an awesome album, a mix of post punk, crust punk and blackened speed metal. The songs change up a lot, the “Knights in Sauron’s Service” track is banging Venom until it descends into a blissed out, jazz keyboard jam that would make the progressive space rock band Hawkwind blush. I’ve listened to this album I can’t tell you how many times, most of the time when I hear a band is singing about “Lord of the Rings” I think their some boring, cheesy, cosplaying, over the top, operatic, crappy “Power Metal” band. Barrow Wight isn’t that band, founded by Antero on bass and vocals, Akiva on guitar and Ace on drummers, a three piece like Venom. Give this band a spin, while the Power Metal bands play Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings”, Barrow Wight play Ralph Bakshi’s animated/rotoscoped low budget cult film version of “Lord of the Rings”.

6. Bathory

Lo fi production. Check. Gargling razor blade vocals. Check. Inept playing. Check. Songs about Satan and Hell. Check. Again Quorthon claims he didn’t know about Venom or wasn’t influenced by them in any way. Quorthon claims that he got the band name from the blood bathing countess, Elisabeth Bathory, while visiting her wax likeness in the London Dungeon Wax Museum in England, however Jonas Akerlund, drummer and future director of “Spun”, “Lords of Chaos” (a movie based on the book of the black metal bands of Norway in the early 1990’s influenced by Bathory and Venom) and numerous music videos claims Quorthon was full of shit and got the title from the Venom song “Countess Bathory”. Bathory’s album art, especially on the first three “Devil” albums, the crappy lo fi production, the punk like playing and throat shredding vocals all scream “VENOM!!!” However, he denied ever listening to them until 1985, and said he was more influenced by Black Sabbath, Motorhead and GBH. Later, Quorthon admitted to listening to Venom’s “Black Metal” in 1983 and calling it “One of the Best Albums Made”. But at the time he denied ever listening to them. Cronos called Quorthon a “dick” and said that Bathory copied Venom without ever giving them credit. Bathory’s first three records, the self titled one, “The Return” and “Under the Sign of the Black Mark”, the three Venom rip off albums are superb First Wave of Black Metal, Quorthon and company put their own spin on the sound. After the third album they started drifting into “Viking Metal” territory and are considered one of the first bands to explore the sound. Quorthon would pass away in 2004 of heart failure. 

7. Hellhammer

Hellhammer was started by Swiss teens Tom Gabriel Fischer (aka Tom Warrior) and drummer Pete Stratton. Influenced by Venom, Motorhead and Discharge (the usual suspects) Hellhammer screamed “Damn the torpedoes if Venom can be shitty and semi succeed, we can be shitty and semi succeed!” In 1983 they recorded their “Triumph of Death” demo for 70 bucks, which spells lo fi, punk metal assault. They sent the demo to various metal magazines, the reception was either “We love this primitive demo!” To “These fucking guys suck, their not even good as a punk band, they should kill themselves!” And I am paraphrasing there, there was no mediocre or OK reviews, their demo inspired strong reactions which is a good sign of a future cult status, they also made an appearance on one of the classic “Metal Massacre” compilations. Noise Records came knocking interested and released a revamped version of their demo “Apokalyptic Raids 1990” in 1990. They were considered one of the “First Wave of Black Metal” bands, one of the bands to inspire the Black Metal mayhem that was to come. Eventually, Tom Warrior shed his metal punk roots and started the avant garde/experimental/thrash band, Celtic Frost. In fact, Metal Hammer of England didn’t like Hellhammer at all and as a result wouldn’t give Celtic Frost a chance, in fact, some claim that they were black listed from England for the longest time because Metal hammer shit on them.  Tom viewed Hellhammer as a curse for the longest time, but there has been numerous reissues of their work, and Tom at the time wanted to beat Venom in the unholy noise race. In fact, Tom and the band went to a press conference Venom had in Switzerland and Tom brought his demo and told Cronos with a crowd watching that their band was louder, better and faster than Venom. Cronos wanted to hear it so Tom put in the tape and played their demo, the crowd laughed in derision and Cronos and the guys from Venom shrugged in derision. Tom said he was embarrassed. Hellhammer is a lot more primitive and punk than Venom, in fact, Venom sounds like Malmsteem compared to Hellhammer, but fuck these guys just went for the throat and I love it. They sing about what Venom does but they also gargle about execution and battle. Tom Warrior released an awesome book which I will review sometime down the line called “Only Death Is Real” which documents the years he was with Hellhammer and early Celtic Frost, there is pictures of their shows, the band, their girlfriends, posters, album art, HR Giger encounters (another Swiss art celebrity who if you don’t know who he is by now you should show yourself out of my blog) and interesting back stories and history on the band.

8. Midnight

Ahhhh!!! Fucking Midnight, the last band on this list, not last because they are least, but last because they take the Venom sound, run over it a high speeds with Motorhead, thrash the shit out of it with early Sodom and sing it to sleep as it dies with “New Wave Of British Heavy Metal” melodies. Midnight fucking kills and rocks!!! Athenar takes the lo fi sound and aesthetic and plays proficient and technically efficient metal punk without being too flashy or over produced sounding. This combination makes Midnight’s sound unique. Coming from the more Stoner Rock oriented band “Boulder”, Midnight will strangle you in your sleep and fuck you silly. The songs will stay in your head, and I have yet to run into a bad Midnight album, EP or compilation, the dude, Athenar, almost does a pitch perfect rendition of Cronos’ gargled razor blades and acid vocals. And he sings about Hell, Sex, Drugs, Rock n’ Roll and Violence. A recent addition to the Venom worship cult, go check him out, on the albums he plays every fucking instrument, and touring he gets the best people possible to play. FUCKING MIDNIGHT!!!

So in closing I might’ve left out some Venom copy bands, some of you might be going, “Hey he left out…” I am sure I did but I am not looking for bands like Darkthrone or early Burzum who are straight up Black Metal and were only influenced by Venom for this post, I am looking for bands who try to emulate Venom in their own way. But no band, no matter how much they try will reach the rotten filthy sound that the classic Venom achieved with their first four albums and Eps. Nobody ever will, classic Venom will always be VENOM.