Larissa Stupar of Venom Prison to discuss their upcoming album Erebos, their return to the stage, and drawing inspiration from Kanye West for “Judges of the Underworld”
While many bands spent the course of 2020 just trying to ride out the turbulence, emerging death metal unit Venom Prison continued to ascend in the space of extreme music.
Unveiling Primeval, the release allowed the band to revisit the material of their previously released EPs in Defy The Tyrant and The Primal Chaos, while flexing the staying power of their craft given the songs were nearly six years old. In addition to the repurposed music, the band also dropped two new tracks in “Defiant To The Will Of God” and “Slayer Of Holofernes”, arguably two of the most celebrate tracks of the year and a strong indicator of what was to come.
Harnessing that groundswell of energy from a stagnant 2020, the Welsh band set out to yet again deliver on the hype, this time retreating to the studio to record what will likely be their most complete presentation to date in Erebos. Set to arrive February 4th via Century Media Records, Venom Prison’s potent mesh of articulate, artistic violence manifests in powerful instrumentation and a commanding presence from vocalist Larissa Stupar – it is already one of the most anticipated albums of 2022.
On the verge of yet another breakthrough year, the frontwoman gave some insight to the kind of headspace she explores in his music and confides her intent in finding some glimmer of light in her exploration of such dark, weighty themes.
So you’ve just released the single “Judges Of The Underworld” and I love it! You guys did a great job! Can you talk a bit about the writing process for that track?
Yes, of course. Thank you for the kind words first of all. But, we had written the whole record during the lockdowns last year and it was a very different process in terms of writing for us. Usually, we meet up in someone’s little home studio and write and then once that part is finished, I go over and put some vocals over it and stuff like that. But I had to do everything on my own at home. So the guys would send me some files to record over and I would write some lyrics and just go and demo vocals in this same room I’m in right now! Haha! It was very, very weird because I love having everyone’s input. When I track things, I want to know if they think something is good or not. So I would have to record things, send it over to them, then they would give me feedback, then I would just go back and record again or improve things or maybe just change them because I didn’t like them myself anymore. So that’s how we wrote this one.
In terms of lyrics: we are very politically minded when it comes to our lyrics, but I also love to be a bit poetic about it. I don’t like when things are just straight on and you’re telling people what to think and what to believe. I like to dress everything up in metaphors and things like that. The inspiration to write this song basically came from all the unrest that was going on with Black Lives Matter and George Floyd’s death and everything that kicked off at that point. I was reading and educating myself a lot on the prison system in the US and in the UK and all over the world. That is often something that we disregard and forget because these people are there to be forgotten and not to be cared about. That’s why they are not part of society.
And I have noticed that people who are surrounded by poverty, who are born into poverty, often don’t have the chance to escape that cycle. So they relive a cycle of violence, constantly, over and over again. It might be child neglect, child abuse, that they are victims of, and they go on to maybe become a perpetrator themselves or to be an offender because they have no other choice and that’s the only thing they know. Obviously, that doesn’t apply to everyone, but a lot of people who go to prison, they get released into the same environment, so the cycle for them continues, it never stops. So they reoffend, they go back and they’re basically, completely fucked and forgotten so this is what Judges Of The Underworld is about.
It is wonderful that you’re using your platform to shine a light on those that are forgotten like that. And when they aren’t forgotten, all they’re remembered for is their past. Every sentence is a life sentence and it’s heartbreaking.
Absolutely and like you say, it’s heartbreaking. We don’t remember them for the good things that they have done. We don’t remember them for who they actually are as a person. We just judge them by where they come from and the mistakes that they’ve made in their lives. And we all make mistakes! And if we’re born into an environment where we don’t have any other path or where it’s very difficult to escape from that path then you’re just down.
And the video that you put with it, it’s both elegant and simple at the same time. Can you tell me about the production process and how you came up with the concepts that are included in the video?
Absolutely! We wanted to step away from the whole violent, bloody, gorey, heavy metal video for this one because the situation and the theme that this song describes is violent enough itself and we wanted to portray this from a completely different perspective. You could maybe compare it to our artworks. They don’t look very violent at first sight, but when you look further into it, you discover the brutality of the art that is on the album. This is what I imagined to do for this video. That’s why there is no blood or anything like that, but you see the desperation, the isolation, in the person that is the main individual in the video. And the fact that so much is happening around him, but he is also ignored and he is just stuck there on his own. That is what I really wanted to put forward with this video.
The visual inspiration, funnily enough, kind of came from Kanye West. Haha! It’s a weird one. I don’t think anyone’s really realized that. But when Kayne West was doing his listening parties on Apple Music and he was live streaming things, he was staying in this stadium where he was sleeping on a mattress and everything was really bleak and removed. When he was playing the songs back during the listening party, there was the same blank mattress and you could see the desperation in this. That inspired me, visually, to implement this in the video for Judges Of The Underworld.
Since you mentioned your lyrics a little bit ago, you are so well known for your lyrics. Has there been anything that has been particularly hard to write? Or is the process cathartic? Or is it both? Haha!
It’s both for me really. I always try to include some more personal songs on the albums. And on Erebos there are some songs that deal with my mental health, and my depression, where I try to come to terms with who I am and what I’m experiencing. Something that always comes back for me is the fact that I was sexually abused when I was younger and this is something that I don’t think you ever really let go of, but you try to. It’s easier if you can speak about it in a way and being able to put that anger out there or the disappointment or the pain, lyrically and verbally when I form these songs, it’s, like you said, cathartic. Even though it can hurt sometimes when you remember, you will always remember anyway.
That is a good point. You will always remember anyway. With your female fans especially, you’re letting them know they aren’t alone. That there are other people, and you can be okay after something so horrible has happened.
You just need to find the strength within yourself and you might never forget, but it also made us who we are. Without trying to romanticize it, we have to come to terms with it and we can’t let something that happens to us stop our lives from moving on. Knowing that you’re not alone is the main point where it means so much to so many people. That’s what I did for me as well. So, you find the strength within yourself when you realize that there are others.
On a little bit of a happier note, you have a new album coming in February, can you talk about it at all? What can fans expect to hear?
Well we released the title and the artwork and I think I can talk a little about the concept. Like we mentioned already, the prison system within our society is something that is heavily talked about in this album. The fact that we lose people: my grandmother died, Ash’s grandfather died and it’s really impacted us. At a time when so many others have lost family members due to COVID-19, I thought it was important to show that, again, you aren’t alone and we are also feeling this pain. It might be different because you had a different relationship with someone, but losing someone is always really hurtful. We’re always politically charged and criminal justice and immigration politics are also big factors on this one.
Erebos is the god of darkness in Greek mythology, we felt like this title works with it really well because this album and this music and these words were born from chaos and so was Erebos. The first god within Greek mythology, he just developed from total chaos and everything else just developed from there. So giving birth to this album and this music and the themes that we talk about is Erebos.
So this kind of leads into the next question: let’s talk about your image a little. There is so much extreme metal out there, but you have your own identity, clearly. How have you really defined who Venom Prison is?
I think it just happened for us. When we started the band we didn’t really think about: who did we want to be; what did we want to look like; what did we want people to associate Venom Prison with? It just happened. We just wanted to play music again after we left some of our old bands and we didn’t really expect to play very often or perform very much. We just wanted to play a show every so often because we missed it.
We do love having very distinctive imagery when it comes to our artwork. That’s why we went with Eliran Kantor for our first full-length and have been continuing to do so because we’ve developed a relationship with him. I consider him a friend. He is completely capable of visualizing what we feel our music is like.
We created our own branding. This is Venom Prison. This is what you associate Venom Prison with. Being able to continue that without repeating I think that’s the most important thing establishing something on a visual platform.
You mentioned getting back into live shows. How did it feel to play live again finally? Your first show back was Bloodstock, what a way to kick things off!
It was amazing! But we were pretty nervous. We hadn’t played for almost two years before that. Everything seems so stressful. You return to something you were so used to, but it feels so different because you haven’t done it for so long. It was really, really strange, but as soon as you step on that stage and you see everyone’s faces and you see people anticipating to just have fun; it feels really, really good.
Last question: What is your favorite dinosaur?
Oh my god, my favorite dinosaur!? It’s going to have to be the T-Rex. It’s probably a very cliche one to have. I just like that it has very short arms, but is so powerful. It managed to terrorize so many other dinosaurs. I just think it is very cool.
While pre-orders are not yet available for Erebos, keep your eyes on Venom Prison’s website for more information. Pre-orders will be available with the next single; it wont be long!