Genre: Death Metal
Favorite Tracks: “Judges of the Underworld,” “Comfort of Complicity,” “Pain of Oizys,” “Castigated in Steel and Concrete,”
Venom Prison is back with another slice of righteous, socially-conscious, spitfire death metal. Their latest, EREBOS, shows them taking a few tentative steps in new directions that pay big dividends for their sound, most notably with the inclusion of *gasp* actual singing from Larissa Stupar.
That’s not to say Venom Prison has gone soft on us. EREBOS actually contains some of their most pummeling and pissed-off tracks to date—particularly the songs “Castigated in Steel and Concrete” and “Golden Apples of the Hesperides.” But the addition of singing is worth discussing within the trajectory of the band because it’s pulled off so well. The choice to bury Stupar’s vocals in the mix and slather it in a family-sized serving of reverb make it feel like a natural addition, one that somehow feels like it’s always been in the band’s repertoire. It helps that, despite those production choices, one can still clearly tell that Stupar does, in fact, have pipes made for both crooning and growling.
It’s rare on EREBOS that the singing takes center stage, as most of the time it’s used more like backing vocals to add dimension to the more forward growls, but when it does take center stage, like in “Pain of Oizys,” it shines brightly. This track in particular takes Venom Prison’s mastery of tension and release to new heights, as the contrast between the mellow and intense moments becomes so severe; it wisely holds back from fully erupting into a satisfying breakdown as long as it can—the musical version of edging. If there is a single misstep on this album, it’s “Nemesis,” which represents ho-hum standard death metal from a band that is usually anything but.
EREBOS explores a number of themes, but the most prevalent is that of incarceration and the horrors carried out by the carceral state on our behalf. A good half of the songs here directly point the finger at the prison system, hitting on over-policing, border enforcement, solitary confinement, eugenics, and more. It’s a justifiably angry record, and an excellent companion for when the weight of how unjust the criminal justice system is smothers your mind. Venom Prison’s song and album titles may consist mostly of classical references, but they use these references as anchor points to explore modern issues in a profound way. Anyone with a taste for extreme metal absolutely needs to give EREBOS a listen.