Venom Prison’s demonic Samsara album is a twisted modern death metal classic

Brit death metal firebrands delve deeper into the dark on second album

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Samsara tracklist

1. Matriphagy
2. Megillus & Leana
3. Uterine Industrialisation
4. Self Inflicted Violence
5. Deva's Enemy
6. Asura's Realm
7. Sadistic Rituals
8. Implementing The Metaphysics Of Morals
9. Dukkha
10. Naraka

It’s easy to get carried away when a new band bursts into your life and grabs you by the ears. Venom Prison have certainly earned the small amount of hype they’ve enjoyed over the last couple of years, partly because 2016’s Animus debut brimmed with furious promise, but also because Larissa Stupar’s lyrics gleefully turned death metal’s penchant for bloody violence on its patriarchal head.

You might also say that Venom Prison have become a deathly cause célèbre for younger metal fans, and there’s much to be said for any band that steers newcomers towards the dark side, but anyone expecting them to inch towards crossover success – with the inevitable musical dilution that goes with it – will be choking on their own teeth mere seconds into Samsara’s opening track, Matriphagy. It’s five minutes’ worth of lurching, excoriating brutality that is so devoid of light or levity that, with the song’s title in mind, you can almost hear the sound of a stricken mother being devoured by her demonic offspring. Larissa sounds as livid as usual, of course, but there is a thicker tone to her growls, more vitriol in her shrieks and a greater sense of personality and presence throughout. Meanwhile, her comrades are going at it like savages; riffs churn, blastbeats batter and wild, dissonant solos pierce the mêlée like rusty blades to the gut. Seldom has any band sounded less interested in becoming the next big thing, and it’s ridiculously exciting.

With their stall firmly set out, Venom Prison then embark on one of the most twisted and disturbing death metal journeys in recent memory. Whether it’s those lyrics – which again delve into all manner of real and metaphorical horror and injustice – to what are avowedly uncommercial and often non-linear song structures, Samsara is an album that bulges with honesty, self-belief and the kind of flat-out zealotry that only the truly sworn-to-the-black can master. Every song boasts at least one moment that will make you want a drive a bus full of whimpering priests into a brick wall, but it’s the schizophrenic, multi-tempo rampage of Implementing The Metaphysics Of Morals that provides the album’s most startling six minutes.

While many of the UK’s bright death metal hopes subscribe to an ultra-modern, polished, post-deathcore ethos, Venom Prison are passionate wallowers in sonic filth, eschewing clipped kicks and Pro Tooled precision in favour of a deranged, angular and unpredictable squall that owes more to Immolation and Skinless than to anything more self-consciously contemporary. Any slight nods to more hardcore-style urges, as on Megillus & Leana’s staccato stomp, are no more indicative of genre-hopping instincts than Suffocation’s beatdowns were in the early 90s. Instead, Venom Prison’s brilliance can be found both in the eyeball-popping intensity of every last riff, scream and thud, and in the subtly unique way these homegrown misanthropes are channelling their rage.

The most important thing to know about Samsara is that it’s an album that belongs squarely and proudly in the death metal realm. Considerably less accessible than Animus and all the more powerful for it, it’s the sound of a much-vaunted new band fulfilling their potential and maturing into something deep, destructive and gloriously beastly. Not only have Venom Prison lived up to expectations, they’ve done it with the spirit of the underground coursing through their veins. Bravo.

Samsara is out on March 8 via Prosthetic and is available to pre-order now

Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson has been writing for Metal Hammer and Prog for over 14 years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He also contributes to The Guardian, Classic Rock, Bravewords and Blabbermouth and has previously written for Kerrang! magazine in the mid-2000s.