Review Summary: Venom Prison delivers something that isn’t anything new but still feels fresh.
Given its explosive attitude and technical proficiency, death metal is perhaps one of the most accessible subgenres of metal, ironically. Bands like Death, Celtic Frost and Possessed first founded the genre and it’s continuously remained a frank approach to delivering condemning messages against humanity, politics and religion by way of characteristically fast and distorted instrumentalism with brutalising vocals. Its unwavering bluntness and unfazed attitude are what makes death (and thrash) metal so easy to identify with, if you can accept the ideologies and harsh music.
There’s a great quote by Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse, bass) with regard to the gory aesthetics and apparent inaccessibility of death metal. He says “…Like, ’death metal would never go into the mainstream because the lyrics are too gory"' I think it's really the music because violent entertainment is totally mainstream”.
With this in mind, the graphic artwork of Venom Prison’s debut album, depicting a tortured man getting his own genitals stuffed down his throat, fills the death metal box with a big tick. But, does it truly serve as an example of what to expect the music to sound like" Let’s hope that the music does the controversial artwork justice and not just to serve as a fancy poster for a boring film.
After some purring bass and narration of the intro, “Animus” displays an uncompromising and bludgeoning façade and you can tell that this band is clearly angry about something and ‘Abysmal Agony’ continues to obliterate anything in the path with jagged riffs, hysterical drumming and slamming breakdowns. This approach is common practice throughout “Animus” as the uncompromising tone acts as the spine of the music. ‘Desecration of Human Privilege’ features some erratic harmonies erupting from the maelstrom of fierce riffs and ‘Devoid’ is a distorted, brutalising example of controlled chaos. However, it’s half way through the album that we finally receive the first taste of actual variation. ‘Immanetize Eschaton’ and closer, ‘Womb Forced Animus,’ features slower tempos that allow Venom Prison to expose their talents. You can actually hear the dynamic approach of the whirlwind drumming and the cruelty of the riffs during the rare moments where Venom Prison decides to play a little slower, even if it only last a short time.
Although Venom Prison are death metal, they have a prominent flare of hardcore about them. Larissa Stupar’s constant howling remains ferociously rigid throughout “Animus” but fittingly matches the brutal tone that her band members construct. In fact, the hardcore qualities surface through her lyricism more than the instrumentalism. Totalitarian ideologies and religious damnation are dealt with extreme conviction in ‘Corrode the Black Sun’ and ‘Celestial Patricide’, while more relatable topics like gluttony are sentenced in ‘The Exquisite Taste of Selfishness’. Stupar’s lyrics are anything but edgy. She’s not trying to pry a reaction; she’s expressing her own reaction and has absolutely no concern as to what response or excuse her target will yield.
Effectively, the biggest issue with “Animus” is also its strength. The unrestrained approach of delivering their death metal is admirable however the fact that there is so little progression devalues the power that Venom Prism holds. Not to mention the fact that the gory and graphical imagery that this band thrive on has become something of a common expectancy in the fruition of death metal. Venom Prison is a band fit to burst with promise. But, in their haste to project it, they’ve just burst the dam and let the river erupt uncontrollably, rather than release their potential in a more focused way.