On Trivium’s most recent tour of the UK their fans were warmed up by the ferocity of Venom Prison, the fiery fun of Power Trip and the focus of Code Orange.
Venom Prison were stunning, performing those early evening slots with the confidence that their debut full-length album, Animus, had made them one of the bands people referred to when they talked about the resurgence of metal and heavy music in the UK.
It was an award-winning record and deservedly so. Its successor is even better.
Samsara crushes from the start and the beatdown riff in the middle of scorching opener ‘Matriphagy’ points to what lies ahead. ‘Megillus & Leana’ backs it up with thrashing that’s better than any thrash band will manage in 2019.
Track three is the album’s lead single and the moment it takes a breathtaking leap forward by comparison with Venom Prison’s debut. ‘Uterine Industrialisation’ is this year’s headbanging rager-in-chief, a riffstorm without equal.
It also packs a deadly weapon capable of capturing the attention of the metal mainstream: a ripping guitar solo that Gary Holt or Dave Mustaine would be proud to bring to the studio. ‘Self Inflicted Violence’ has one that’s very nearly as good.
‘Asura’s Realm’ briefly puts the brakes on, opting for sinister over frenzied until a couple of phenomenal riffs inject pace and groove back into proceedings to round off another incredible song.
A minute into the eighth song, ‘Implementing The Metaphysics Of Morals’, Venom Prison are still going strong, slapping the listener across the face with yet more beatdown mastery and a bigger stomp than a woolly mammoth.
Samsara ends with the punishing pairing of ‘Dukkha’ and ‘Naraka’. The former eschews ponderousness in favour of fury, though it’s laced with lead guitar work that lends it warmth and colour amid the darkness.
The latter, well, that’s the conclusion this unbelievable record deserves. The potent friction between thrashy riffing, pounding breakdowns and artistic guitar flair is positively Sepulturan in places, exposing once again this band’s handle on their influences.
Venom Prison have crafted a sound from countless sources. There’s death metal, black metal and hardcore. There’s thrash and groove, with screeching leads piercing the noise. And there are quieter flourishes that show off a spirit of musicality and experimentation.
Samsara is full of songs that combine breadth of scope with immediacy of delivery. It’s frantic and impatient, utterly demanding of attention but also expectant of those who give it. It is, in a word, intense.
The new Venom Prison record is an unstoppable exercise in all-out aggression and yet so much more. Animus made a dent in a burgeoning UK heavy music scene. Samsara is going to blow a fucking hole right through it.
Samsara will be released on March 15th on Prosthetic Records.