Review Summary: A morbid delight.
Mid-year Review Series: (Part 4)
For many casual listeners, misogyny may not be the first word first come to their mind when they are asked about keywords that related to death metal. Not to be politically correct, but it is not uncommon for bands in the death metal genre to have toxic masculinity running rampant within back at the genre’s early days, in order to enhance the violence factor in their sound, not to mention the typical topics of the genre itself, which leaves some bitter taste for some towards the heavy metal subgenre. Enter Venom Prison
, a Welsh death metal band who dismissed such feature, with the track “Perpetrator Emasculation” from their debut album Animus
alone proves they are not your typical death metal band, and instead played realistic, sociopolitical themes, not unlike the later years of death metal pioneers Death
, while remaining the intensity and brutality of death metal. With pummeling blast beats, unpredictable pace shifts, dissonant guitars, swampy bass, and lead singer Larissa Stupar’s petrifying growls, the band’s sophomore effort, Samsara
, is a humane and powerful record that is still dark and punishing that would not only transcend the genre’s rather unsavory feature, but that could move the hearts of many.
The lyrical themes surrounding this album alone are enough to let the band stand apart from their contemporaries: the lead single “Uterine Industrialisation” details the graphic horror of commercial surrogacy, as Stupar furiously growled the shocking exploitations of the Third World women for being surrogate mothers amid the blast beats and swampy guitars and bass, with her spitting her caustic words about surrogates’ lost of freedom (“Beauty, once wild and free/Now domesticated
”) and the pain that they suffered(“Aggressive birth trauma/Ushered from the comfort of the womb
”), while angrily accusing the heartless capitalism behind such inhumane practice(“In regulations that protect business interest, not people/The female body used as a vessel
”) and having the song filled with thrilling, shredding guitar solos. This song, of course, is only part of the showcase that displayed its sociopolitical oriented lyrics, which makes the album such a unique visit. In fact, the band also successfully explores hot button topics such as anti-queer laws (“Megillus & Leana”), the increasingly broken justice system that silenced many sexual assault victims(“Implementing the Metaphysics of Morals”), the corruption-and-prejudice-riddled, divided society (“Asura’s Realm”), elimination of individuality(the chaotic “Sadistic Rituals”) and mental illness(“Self Inflicted Violence”, “Dukkha” and “Naraka”). Some might say that such a lyrical approach to social and political topics is simply an attempt for the band to gain more attention. However, that is the reason why Samsara
is such a remarkable record that allures many listeners at the first place since there are very few bands in the death metal genre who could write such themes without being pretentious.
Despite the unusual lyrical themes, the band did not forget to create spaces for themselves to experiment with various sonic territories within the death metal genre. Take the instrumental “Deva’s Enemy” as an example, with the song has a loop of metal clanking serves as the central groove, while an eerie synth serves as the melody of the song, only to have some more ominous shuffling electronics rumble in, building up the tension to the colossal follow-up track “Asura’s Realm”, a highlight sprinkled with towering lead guitars, Stupar’s monstrous yet comprehensible screams and crushing double-bass drums. If that’s not enough, the bookend tracks that are “Matriphagy” and “Naraka” showcased the two sides of the album: The former is backed with an adrenaline-pumping blast beat and crunching riffs, while the band shifted their pace unpredictably frequent, as if their sound could explode at any moment, even after the tempos drastically dropped; Began with an atmospheric guitar arpeggio, the six-minute, doom-laden latter is a (relative) melodic song that found the band experimented with more smoother tempo changes, as it alternates between the crunching beginnings and the more atmospheric sections, while being contrasted by the melodic guitar leads and machine gun-paced rhythms and concluded with a spiraling guitar shredding and frantic rhythms. While tracks such as “Sadistic Rituals”, “Self Inflicted Violence” and “Uterine Industrialisation” proved that the band still remain their gore-riddled death metal routes, Samsara
also showcased that the band is also capable of unleashing their creativity as artists, making it an exciting album to listen to.
My only qualm about this album is that its murky instrumental mixes, as it somehow leads the album to sound slightly difficult to listen without any earphones and high amount of volume, though it also boosts the album’s chaotic tone. Despite such sonic flaw, Samsara
solidify the fact that death metal can be humane and eclectic, both lyrically and sonically, without losing its signature brutality and heaviness, while establishing Venom Prison as one of the most exciting death metal bands in the 21st Century, thanks to the band’s successful blend of the gory, Carcass
-recalled death metal, stunning songwriting with opaque hooks and the profound sociopolitical topics that are sadly relatable in this currently chaotic political state. Although gores and violence are pretty much essential to the death metal, Venom Prison proves that a death metal does not have to rely on blood-drenched fantasy to beef up the brutality, and instead can serves as the mirror to the modern world’s twisted cruelty and one’s inner struggles, without jettisoning the signature dissonant, harsh sound of the genre. As a result, Samsara
is a perfect cocktail of blood-curdling music, sonic innovation and thought-provoking lyrical themes, one that a morbid delight that deserves a spot at any year-end list.
Personal Rating: 4.35 / 5
Megillus & Leana