In these days of boundless technical brutality from every possible angle, it’s very easy to forget how exciting it can be to hear a band working as a unit to truly ravage. Often, one or more elements is lacking, and with the prevailing production approach being one of clinical sharpness over in-the-room pugilism, hearing an album heaving with bilious rage is an exciting prospect.
Enter Samsara, the new full-length from Venom Prison. Seemingly everywhere at the moment, thanks to a commendable work ethic and extremely sturdy foundation in both previous releases, Animus and The Primal Chaos, this record needed to be a bone-splintering barn-burner from start to finish in order to silence any remaining petty critics and fully cement Venom Prison as a major player in the modern death metal game.
From the opening seconds of “Matriphagy”, Samsara is a pillar of fire and wrath, with Larissa Stapur’s roar taking scalps like a vengeful spirit, and the guitars of Ash Gray and Ben Thomas wielded as flaming swords. Sounding for all the world like a group who have their chemistry locked, the lack of polish feels less like a deliberate decision and more like the physical inability of a studio to adequately contain this phosphor-bright fury. Venom Prison themselves have mentioned that this album was purposefully more aggressive, but it’s one thing to say that and quite another to back it up with an onslaught like this.
Hit play and be thrust into the heaviness that is “Asura’s Realm”.
While Venom Prison are ostensibly a death metal band, this does not confine them to the genre’s limitations - there are touchstones of other forms of extremity riddled throughout. Black metal discord abounds on “Sadistic Rituals”, closer “Naraka” and album highlight “Dukkha”, and though death metal is the dominant force, there’s straight up beatdowns on “Implementing The Metaphysics Of Morals” and rollicking swagger on “Self Inflicted Violence”.
Despite this diversity, the overriding sensation of Samsara is one of a militantly focused, cohesive unit totally uncaged. The drums brawl like a desperate lunatic, breathing freely instead of being gated into machinery. It’s supremely rough at the edges, not because Venom Prison can’t play, but because they’re giving it absolutely everything. It’s like the whole band is screaming bloody murder at once, and the production hasn’t boxed anything in, though again one would assume this is because it would be like trying to trap the ocean.
If you’ve professed a love for heavy music while simultaneously worrying that it’s become a bit safe in recent years, get this. Samsara will knock the teeth off you, and is as thrilling an experience as one could possibly wish. Excellent.
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