By and large, Venom Prison’s second album Samsara, released earlier this year, is their strongest album to date, but it is the impact their debut LP had that sees 2016’s Animus earn its place in this Albums Of The Decade series.
The band’s commanding live show is undoubtedly a major factor in their rapid rise to prominence in the metal scene. Capable of levelling any venue, be it Brixton Academy or a house in Cardiff, the band’s set boasts the energy of a hardcore show with the sheer brutality of OSDM, and as such it’s often the first thing on your mind whenever someone mentions their name. It’s important not to overlook the immense quality of the material fuelling those sets, though, and their 2016 breakthrough was frankly one of the strongest death metal debuts in recent memory.
Animus’ sound is one that’s true to the spirit of the genre, but whilst it wasn’t afraid to utilise its well-worn tropes, that doesn’t mean the band are content on maintaining the death metal status quo. The five-piece, particularly guitarist Ash Grey (interview here), mainly come from a hardcore background, and nowhere is this more evident than on Animus. The group managed to combine hardcore and death metal without straying anywhere near deathcore, adopting the best parts of the former – namely the anarchic anger – and melding them to the latter’s unashamedly raw and savage sound and imagery. Also apparent throughout is a post-’90s groove that almost certainly helped in the band’s growth, turning bloodthirsty slabs of death metal into something slightly more palatable without removing so much as a smidgen of the unbridled intensity.
More important than this, though, was the band’s unerring dedication to fighting rape culture in metal. In case the album cover wasn’t clear enough, Venom Prison’s main intent on album one was fighting the scene’s injustices from within, with the 93-second single ‘Perpetrator Emasculation’ turning its sights on rapists and those who are complicit in furthering the death metal scene’s rampant misogyny.
That’s a fight that’s far from over, but as long as Venom Prison are around, you can be sure there’ll always be at least one shit-hot death metal band standing up against the scene’s ills.
Words: George Parr