Review: Venom Prison – “Animus”

Hailing from South Wales, Venom Prison combine death metal brutality and hardcore aggression in a way that is both completely unlike ‘deathcore’ as we’ve come to know it, and completely fucking awesome. Their debut album ‘Animus’ was released in October of last year, but it’s never too late to recommend good music.  The sturdy death metal core of this band’s sound is complimented by a serious dose of hardcore punk, thus the result is perhaps comparable to what might occur if Power Trip played death metal instead of thrash. Rage permeates every layer of this record, but it’s a directed fury that knows its target. An earth-shaking statement of intent, the album art features a castrated rapist being force-fed his own genitals, and over the album’s half-hour runtime vocalist Larissa Stupar tackles religion, sexism, and humanity’s treatment of animals. Venom Prison invert death metal’s tropes, weaponising the gore and violence and turning them against oppressors.

There’s a decent amount of variety here as well. ‘Abysmal Agony’ is three minutes of pummelling aggression, downtuned riffs and Stupar’s ferocious vocals, while ‘Perpetrator Emasculation’ borders on grindcore in its utterly furious delivery of thrashy death metal riffs. ‘Devoid’ takes the former elements and balances them against blastbeats, melodic guitar leads and hardcore beatdowns. The death metal riffage on this album is always balanced against these countervailing punk influences, a potent mix that leads to results that are much greater than the sum of their parts. Closing track ‘Womb Forced Animus’ is perhaps the most compositionally complex and tonally varied on the record, with slower more melodic passages as well as some unbelievably heavy blastbeat sections with a frenzied guitar solo and Stupar’s distinctive howl.

The balancing act Venom Prison are engaged in is a delicate one: tip too far in one direction and the mixture might lose its potency, or risk simply becoming a bland deathcore act. But on Animus they have masterfully balanced these varied influences, playing them off against each other for a result that is utterly uncompromising in its fury against injustice. Animus is an excellent debut record, but there’s room to grow in the future. On the tracks where Venom Prison dial down the aggression slightly and adopt a more measured pace, the songs are granted more room to breathe, which allows other ideas to be developed and for the nuances of the music to filter through. Developing this approach further in the future would yield even greater results, though of course it wouldn’t be Venom Prison without the aggression and urgency of tracks like ‘Desecration of Human Privilege’ and ‘Perpetrator Emasculation’.

Animus is an album that demands to be heard. The visceral blend of death metal and hardcore punk sounds like a risky proposition on paper, but the results more than vindicate the effort. It’s a furious, unrelentingly heavy crusade against injustice in all its forms, and a powerful statement of intent from a band boiling with anger at a fucked up world. While there’s room to grow and develop in the future, Animus does exactly what a debut record needs to do, and more.

Animus is available now on digital, CD, and vinyl formats through Prosthetic Records.