Metal Moment - Venom Prison Returns with Watershed Album Erebos

 

4.5 out of 5 stars

With a new year upon us, trepidation and uneasiness are on the minds of seemingly everyone. However, one positive is that Venom Prison’s highly anticipated album, Erebos, has arrived.

In Greek mythology, Erebos was the son of Chaos, the father of Thanatos (death), and he predates Hades as he helped create the underworld. While the darkness of the underworld seems like the perfect breeding ground for a metal album, this effort was born within the bleakness and uncertainty of the last few years.

Venom Prison has spent most of their career creating organized chaos. Their 2016 debut Animus was a ferocious death metal attack. Immediately, I knew this band was here to stay. 

The band's 2019 album, Samsara, while equally intense, had much more musical variation that showed the band determined to become an extreme metal powerhouse.

During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw 2020’s Primeval. This was a reworking of their previous material from 2015, plus a few new tracks. Yet, it was different. It was focused and showed that the band had evolved, and they are ready for what is sure to come next.

Erebos opens with “Born from Chaos.” Ritualistic chanting bookends the record invoking the central concept and giving it a more cinematic feel. Immediately after that, I am thrown right into the fire with the lead single, “Judges of The Underworld”.

One trademark of the band is the banshee-like screeching of vocalist Larissa Stupar. “Are you the oppressor, or the oppressed?” she growls. It’s clear that Erebos displays the best version of Stupar I have heard yet.

Stupar has quickly become one of the most dominating vocalists in the genre, as well as a very insightful lyricist. Powerful statements are delivered with crushing strength, cutting through the density and heaviness provided by the rest of the band.

From the blood-churning line “this is your end” in “Nemesis”, to the melancholic moments in “Comfort Of Complicity” and the Judas Priest and Iron Maiden-ish choruses of “Castigated In Steel And Concrete”, it is very clear that this band is on top of their game.

Musically, the album progresses from their previous work, but with a more refined approach. Guitarists Ash Gray and Ben Thomas have succeeded in putting out their best work with Erebos while carrying the heaviness in the form of dissonant chugs, to the tastiest of riffs.

There isn’t a moment that could be seen as “boring” from a guitar perspective. The album is a breath of fresh air in a genre that can grow tiresome, with it’s mind-bending time changes, and finally, the heavy parts. Oh, the heavy parts.

My stand-out track is the crushing, stomach dropping “Gorgon Sisters”. The band wear their hardcore influence on their sleeves here with a breakneck tempo and a goliath of a breakdown. This song will keep chiropractors employed for years to come.

While there is a large helping of experimentation, we still get a good sense of death metal with this album. In particular, this is the case on a few of the previously mentioned tracks “Nemesis” and “Comfort of Complicity,” but also on tracks like “Golden Apples of Hesperides” as well.

This album is near perfect. There are very few lesser moments. The only complaint that I have, is one that I have with most death metal, is that it’s a slow burn. It takes a few listens to fully appreciate this album, and that’s not really a fault to the band but this style of music.

Personally, I feel that innovation/experimentation are vital in the progression of music. I don’t like hearing a band put out the same record year after year… think AC/DC.

While some people may be put off by “Pain of Oizys,” I find it to be a beautiful attempt at something new. It starts out with an alternative/post-rock feel with pianos and some electronics and then progresses into more of a heavier metal feeling sound. The band perfectly combined these new ideas with their already established sound, and it’s truly remarkable.

This isn’t an easy listen, and it’s not intended to be. Erebos is an unrelenting and uncompromising attack on the senses. Venom Prison has taken that next step. Drawing influence from over the last five decades of metal, even if the styles are unrelated or unfamiliar, they take full ownership of their music.

The band have cemented themselves at the top of their genre, and have done it with grace, confidence and maturity that has produced a near-perfect album.

Death metal as a genre is toxic. It has more neckbearded gatekeepers than any other genre, and yet a band like this exists. Female fronted, politically/socially motivated, and musically virtuosic… if this is the future of the genre, we are in for a devilish treat.

Remember this release as a watershed moment for Venom Prison.