The human brain has appeared many times in the history of death metal. Occasionally, even while still inside its owner’s head. But for all this most extreme of scenes’ frequent musical intelligence and skill, it is a genre that proudly does most of its thinking with its fists; gleefully wallowing in horror, pain, gore, death, mutilation, unnecessary surgery, war, murder, disease, giblets, torture and, when the mood takes, faeces for its lyrical conversation. And this is fine: you would no sooner look to Cannibal Corpse’s Hammer Smashed Face for life counsel than you would use a chainsaw to stroke the cat. But still, when minds are actually engaged and all of this sound and fury is used to signify something, it can raise the form into an oddly powerful, emotive force.
Take Perpetrator Emasculation from Venom Prison’s 2016 album, Animus, in which singer Larissa Stupar sang about cutting off a rapist’s penis and force-feeding it to him until he choked to death on it. As a retort to the genre’s unfortunately long list of misogynistic songs, it was a succinct, violent riposte. But it also summed up just how, when so much of this stuff exists in the same blood-drenched fantasy world as horror movies, where a well-timed axe through the face can be all kinds of banter, Venom Prison are fighting in a much colder, more unpleasant place: one rooted in reality.
Thus it remains on Samsara. It is a furious, raging album; musical attrition that attacks with nuclear force and wind-tunnel velocity. In the face of how easily such brutal music can become mundane and clinical, moribund rather than morbid, the riffs of opener Matriphagy hammer like a heart that’s just run a marathon, exploding with raw energy and adrenaline. Ditto the primal
surge of Sadistic Rituals, or the naked aggression of Uterine Industrialisation – every moment leaves a bloody mark.