VENOM PRISON - Primeval (Review)
Written by: Izzy
I’m noticing a bit of a trend in the world of metal music recently. Maybe I’m just oblivious and this has been happening for a while, but in the last two years especially, I’ve noticed what I’d dare say is an old-school deathcore revival.
In 2019 we had Knocked Loose, Fuming Mouth, Vatican, Serration, and Venom Prison (the lattermost being one of my favourite albums of that year), then just out of 2020 so far we've got Gulch, Xibalba, Year of The Knife, Umbra Vitae, and…Venom Prison again? Maybe 2020 isn’t so bad after all. At the very least, this will be a great opportunity to talk about one of my favourite and most underlooked styles in metal!
Now, seeing the list above may be exceptionally confusing for those unaware of deathcore’s history, so for the ignorant or uninitiated: deathcore did not start in the 2000s like you may have thought. long before Suicide Silence or Despised Icon there was H8000, a Belgian vegan edge metal scene that was born out of the early 90s. These bands were responsible for infusing very prominent death metal sounds into their primarily metalcore based music and creating the earliest forms of deathcore, as well as early melodic metalcore too, as far back as 1991. Nerds like me would refer to this style as old-school deathcore. Commonly with OSDC you’ll get either A. music firmly rooted in death metal but with breakdowns, more punklike riffs, and shouted metalcore vocals as opposed to growls; or B. metalcore or hardcore bands that mix in death metal riffs with their noticeably punky drumming and guitar grooves, sometimes opting to take vocal cues from death metal and use low growls in addition to shouted mids. Deformity and Congress are the more iconic bands to come from the H8000 scene, and serve as perfect examples of the two styles laid out.
Now that you’re caught up on your history, Venom Prison falls squarely into the A category, I’ve seen people call them “death metal with breakdowns,” that’s how important death metal is to their core sound. Their approach is reminiscent of the aforementioned and legendary Deformity; rhythmic and vicious death metal riffing coupled with tempo changes into savage and moshable metalcore grooves, all capped off with brutal breakdowns capable of instantly turning an entire pit of hardcore two-steppers and headbanging metalheads into crowd-killing maniacs.
But despite the somewhat meatheaded veneer of their music, they’re also one of the few deathcore/death metal bands where I’d highly recommend reading the lyrics. Beneath the unearthly growls and stinging rasp of frontwoman Larissa Stupar are some remarkably poetic and bitingly political concepts, making it feel as just as much thought and care was put into these stunning lyrics as into the album’s ferocious instrumentals.
In comparison to the band’s last offering, Samsara, released only around a year and a half apart, Primeval feels noticeably more refined and controlled. It leans even more heavily into a traditional death metal sound on many tracks, even exploring much more melodic and harmonious territory in a few spots. The almost grindcore-like unrestrained intensity of Samsara’s blasting drums and manic soloing switching on a dime into a merciless beatdown has been replaced with more mid-tempo and traditional death metal song structures, as well as a cleaner and less gritty mix. Logically speaking, this makes perfect sense. When releasing two albums so close together, having them take slightly different approaches to the same sound keeps things fresh and will draw in new fans who maybe didn’t enjoy what they did on Samsara, but may appreciate Primeval’s slightly tamer but no less demolishing approach. But, personally speaking, I think I prefer Primeval significantly less than Samsara for all the reasons I outlined, it’s an amazing album. Even after listening to their previous offering half a dozen times now at least, I still adore the sound of Samsara and the changes presented on Primeval just aren’t for me, so even though I do love this album I think I’ll be coming back to it less in the grand scheme.
Despite my nitpicks, Primeval is essential listening for any fan of either death metal or metalcore in 2020. Hell if you’re a metalhead, or corehead of any form, you’d be doing a disservice to yourself not listening to this album, it’s further proof Venom Prison are still the best in the business at what they do and continue leading a renaissance of a classic deathcore style.
And, if you love this, do yourself a favour and listen to their other two albums as well!
Venom Prison - Primeval was released Oct. 9th, 2020 from Prosthetic Records
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We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!