In a relatively short run, Welsh aggressors Venom Prison have cemented their position as one of extreme music's most promising modern flagbearers.
In 2020, during a dismal year made worse by a seemingly stalled creative pace, vocalist Larissa Stupar along with guitarist Ash Gray got to work with the added personnel of Ben Thomas, bassist Mike Jefferies and drummer Joe Bills on what would be one of the most lauded, and unexpected victories with the release of, Primeval.
Hailed as a shining example of the robust health of heavy music, the album's real appeal was that it consisted of songs revisited by the band from previously released EPs in 2016's Animus and 2019's Samsara. Less about rehashing the past, Primeval served well in reiterating the kind of shelf life that Venom Prison were able to assert with through competent songwriting. Completed with the addition of two new tracks in "Defiant To The Will Of God" and "Slayer Of Holofernes," Venom Prison established their continued evolution as musicians and asserted their command as an important band in the landscape of emerging heavy practitioners.
The band had generated the kind of momentum that kept fans on their toes for the entirety of 2021 as the band returned to work on what would be the heavily-anticipated follow-up album. Venom Prison would introduce Erebos with a barnburner of a single in "Judges of the Underworld" - a track that typified the band's metallic technicality and hardcore disposition.
The band demonstrated their range with the reveal of "Pain of Oizys" - a composition that managed to cover the spectrum from delicate to devastating in epic, almost cinematic fashion. Adding to the hype of the record, "Nemesis" delivered a caustic, confrontational assault in song that underscored just why the band's rank as metal's next up is more than deserved.
A dominant amalgam of grindcore, hardcore and metal, Venom Prison manage to resonate with heavy music's growing contingent that embrace the best of heavy music's subcategories to move the culture forward. The band's ability, in tandem with their authenticity, make for the kind of album that will affirm existing fans and convince new ones.
Already being received and assessed as one of the best of the year - all of a month into 2022 - Erebos from Venom Prison could very well be the pivotal work that not only delivers on the hype, but cements the bands spot in the hierarchy of heavy for years to come.
The band's guitarist Ash Gray brokedown the ethos of Erebos in a track-by-track exclusive for Knotfest.
Born From Chaos
Gray - Venom Prison have always introduced an album with an opener but with "Born From Chaos" we wanted it to start the theme for the record and make sure it becomes a full cycle, when you know, you know. It needed to have that stage breaker feeling, the chants building from whispers into a howling lead line.
Judges of the Underworld
Gray - "Judges Of The Underworld" was the first song written for Erebos. Weirdly, myself and Ben just got together at my place and just started passing the guitar back and forth, riff for riff until the song was written. It's heavy. Metal as fuck. Lyrically this song deals with the vicious cycle of violence that people who live in poverty often experience. Being cheated by the justice system, often on a path of imprisonment and re-offending is being laid for individuals in their life, where they experience violence in different ways making them victims, witnesses and offenders at the same time. Without real support, people who have completed their sentence are release into the same environment with now also have the additional burden of a conviction on their backs and often fall back into the same cycle.
Gray - The track explores experiencing narcissistic abuse, being sucked dry of life and emotion and left to pick up the pieces of your broken self and trying to put yourself back together. You will never be the same person again but you will have come out of it stronger, more aware but still broken on the inside. We knew we needed to keep that classic idea of a Venom Prison song which is aggressive and heavy but sticking to creating structure and catchiness, it's a big headbanger tune.
Comfort of Complicity
Gray - This one dives into European and American immigration systems and the way they break families apart and criminalize vulnerable people for simply wanting to give a better life for their families. Musically, this song goes through many sounds and emotions but making it as one piece is the challenge. We wanted this to sound like a journey, going through aggression to a more major key moment with some form of hope.
Pain of Oizys
Gray - We'd been experimenting with so many different instruments and sounds at this point we knew we'd want to tackle something different on this album but still keeping it as Venom Prison as possible. It has all the ticks but less gain on the guitars… lyrically this one is about coming to terms with your inner demons and accepting depression and PTSD as part of who I am - learning to live with it instead of not wanting to live at all.
Golden Apples of the Hesperides
Gray - Modern media and social media control our society and have a profound impact on our individual lives. Musically, this was just a super heavy and ignorant song, no messing about, straight to the crush. We wrote this song ages ago and it never made it to the pre-production tracklisting. Ben called me one day saying he'd been listening to the pre-production folder and said, "this song is way too heavy and groovy to leave out." We re-listened, reworked, and drop the tuning on THE ONLY ever VP song to date. Smash.
Castigated In Steel and Concrete
Gray - This song deals with solitary confinement and the damage it causes to your psyche. In terms of writing, I think we knew from the get-go the structure and feel that was going to be approached for this song. There are elements of Black metal then a huge metal twin lead moment at the end into a mosh part. The bridge section in this song with the string section and progressive elements were super cool to see come to life.
Gray - This song is about eugenics, reading the lyrics to this song and understanding the stance on this will become very apparent. This song, I'd consider more of a classic style VP song evolved with more aggression. As far as the writing process for this song, we wanted to experiment with electronics and synths to the max. We felt giving this layers and depth to dissect in the madness would just add to the initial idea we set out for.
Veil Of The Night
Gray - A few members in this process lost family and had some family members became ill. There was a lot going on outside of the band. This track dealt with the weight of that. The chorus on this song was the highlight. Whilst writing, we fully jumped into making what we feel right now is the biggest chorus this band has achieved to date. It's bold and very open. I think this showcases a lot of progression within the band. It was certainly a challenge writing and in the studio.
Technologies Of Death
Gray - Lyrically, I don't have to go too much into it but this is about death penalties. The lyrics will certainly help with building a better picture than my words. Musically, straight up aggressive with almost 2 songs into one. First half is the song, verse, chorus then once you get to the bridge it brings you to this huge outro and takes you through so many dynamics. When you finally get to the end, think about Track 1 then it all makes sense, once again - Born from chaos.
Erebos from Venom Prison arrives February 4th via Century Media Records. Order the album - HERE