Okay, confession time. I took on this review intending to do a hatchet job on the mediocrity of deathcore/slam in general. However, a cursory listen to this album proved that Venom Prison have a lot more to offer than the repetitive riffs and posturing breakdowns of lesser peers. Formed in 2014 and turning heads with their debut album in 2016, tours in 2018 with Trivium and Dying Fetus have already cemented this band a reputation with larger audiences as a fierce live act.
The style here is certainly fast and loose, but not sloppy. Early material from At The Gates serves as a fair auditory point of reference, this being an extremely brutal delivery of progressive tempo and riff changes. Indeed the vocals throughout this album are reminiscent of Tomas Lindberg, further accentuated by ferocious throaty screams which bring to mind the intense performances of Landmine Marathons’ Grace Perry.
The musicianship is of a high calibre, though it’s something of a disappointment that a lot of the subtle guitar harmonies and flourishes are almost lost in the vastly overdriven mix. Songs such as “Megillus & Leana” and “Sadistic Rituals” demonstrate that Venom Prison can tap into an emotional melodic vein without losing any of their intensity, and the intro to “Dukkha” is one of many examples of their ear for hooks.
Saving arguably the best until last, album closer “Naraka” starts with some spooky atmospherics before giving way to a progression of massive riffs and harmonies. You couldn’t normally justify describing anything in this genre as epic, but in the case of this song no other word is fitting. Also noteworthy here is the brush of Eliran Kantor, as yet again, he’s created a masterpiece of cover art that captures the themes of the album in a classical style with contemporary spirit.
Much has been made in other publications of the politics that Venom Prison stand for. There’s little of relevance that a middle aged, middle class gammon-faced fucker like me can add to either validate or undermine their message. However, it’s worth observing that 30 years ago, several bands broke out of the UK underground after successfully striving to subvert the stereotypical clichés associated with metal. The parallel is hopefully obvious.
Already sneering in the face of tired tropes at this early stage of their career, Venom Prison have the intensity, musicianship and commitment to attain revered status. They’ve firmly recruited this jaded cynic to their cause, and “Samsara” will strongly appeal to slam-scene kids and old-school death metallers alike.