Death metal already is impossibly heavy art because the music is pulverizing, and it can torture the untrained ear. It also can be devastating to someone who is used to the style just due to the sheer weight, especially if you’re witnessing it live. When you add words and philosophies that challenge political and social structures, it makes death metal that much more challenging to behold.
UK death band Venom Prison have, over the course of three full-length albums (one of those was comprised mostly of rerecorded tracks from their two EPs), established themselves as an uncompromising force both musically and lyrically, and they have created some of the more thought-provoking songs in the entire sub-genre the last decade. They now are landing with metal giant Century Media with their new record “Erebos,” one that mostly will feel at home for long-time listeners but also demonstrates an expanded collection of textures and sounds. It’s a sign of growth for the band—vocalist Larissa Stupar, guitarists Ash Gray and Ben Thomas, bassist Mike Jefferies, drummer Joe Bills—that continues their explosive and melodic heaviness but also shows you there is more lurking beneath the creative surface than some of us may have expected. Stupar yet again hits back with lyrics that are headier and more vulnerable than almost anything else in death metal, touching on politics, social issues, depression, PTSD, and other topics most don’t have an easy time expressing.
“Born From Chaos” is a quick instrumental opener to get your appetite activated, adding chants and jarring power, flowing into “Judges of the Underworld” that brings melodic death that Venom Prison do so well. Stupar’s howls open wounds as her voice is a muscle flexing as she howls, “Guilty as charged! A childhood of abandonment and desolation, adolescence filled with guns, institutionalization, who is to blame?” There are moments of hardcore bruising, some clean calls later, and a finish that leaves you buried. “Nemesis” lights up immediately with the tempo raging and the vocals bloodying lips, Stupar howling, “I am the damaged one! You deserve all damage done.” Synth also shimmers amid the death blazes that gasp billowing smoke, and the track muscles out, leaving everything flattened. “Comfort of Complicity” opens with warmer guitars before the thorns strike, and more hardcore-style energy gives off pulsating blasts. The pace is surging and violent, a melodic burst adds new colors, and the final moments are dreamy in the manner of glimpsing beauty as the heart of Armageddon. “Pain of Oizys” is a much different style of song for Venom Prison, one that might keep some at arm’s length as it opens in static blips and Stupar going full clean singing, something at which she’s quite powerful. The track goes back and forth from gothy vulnerability and gut-wrenching power, with Stupar wrenching, “This feeling of the constant pressure on my chest, and all I wish for is an end, a way out of this dirty mess, an escape from wishing I was dead.” The track is devastating both musically and lyrically, an impressive display from a band never hesitant to show new shades of themselves.
“Golden Apples of the Hesperides” hums as guitar heat generates in its belly, eventually unraveling into violent hell. The guitars sludge as the mud thickens, making your tracking nearly impossible, and then a prog-style sheen spreads, the vocals taking you on and wrestling you to the ground. “Castigated in Steel and Concrete” open with chilling synth before death sprawls, and the playing pulverizes. Melodic calls rain down behind the fires, though they never soothe, and even a quick drink of calm refuses to quench the violence as the final moments return to hell. “Gorgon Sisters” is ripped from the heart of Greek mythology and smashed into a world that hasn’t come all that far since the tales were written. This is total savagery and justified fury, the vocals shredding flesh, the playing absolutely terrifying. Later, synth brings some cooler air, but that’s extinguished in a hurry with skull-crushing mud and strange echoes, leaving you gasping for air. “Veil of Night” is punchy and humid, taking calculated shots and balancing misery and melody. Stupar spits nails on the verses, later howling, “My love will burn forever,” putting your heart and mind to the test. “Technologies of Death” is the closer, bringing angry guitars streaming and a quaking assault, the vocals going back and forth from serene to smothering. Synth glaze lives alongside heavy grinding as the guitars turn up the heat, and repeated chants dig into your psyche. Fog thickens as the struggles subside, and the final moments lather in the blood and oil spilled and left to collect in our hearts.
Venom Prison have a lot riding on “Erebos,” the first for metal superpower Century Media and one that’ll likely have more attention once it’s released than any of their other albums. Luckily, the band answers the bell over and over, amplifying their melodic and ripping death metal and adding some new elements not heard from the band before now. This is a triumphant, powerful record from a band that’s likely to be one of the main carriers of death metal’s banner over the next decade.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/venomprison
To buy the album, go here: https://www.cmdistro.com/
For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/centurymedia