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Album Review: Venom Prison – Primeval

Welsh death metal supremos Venom Prison exhume old favourites and tease the new on savage Primeval compilation…

With last year’s second album Samsara brutally cementing their position atop the UK death metal hierarchy, 2020 should have been something of a victory-lap for Venom Prison. Rather than retreat into their shells when COVID stopped play on gigs, however, the Welsh/Russian quintet have opted to use the enforced downtime to revisit and reinvigorate their too-often overlooked early output. Re-recording and stacking together 2015 EPs Defy The Tyrant and The Primal Chaos, as well as topping-off with two brand new tracks, the aptly-titled Primeval makes for a concussively coherent retrospective.

In fairness, little re-imagination was required. In fact, presenting the EPs’ nine tracks in chronological order with no tweaks to the tracklisting feels like a vote of confidence in their serrated early vision. The urgency and invention of those kids locked into a bare-bones creative process is still evident in the gnashing Usurper Of The Throne and Life Suffer’s unhinged buzzsaw attack. The better-resourced production this time round comes into its own on the tortured atmospherics of Mortal Abomination, though, while Defy The Tyrant itself feels far more fully realised, not just in its cutting severity, but also an uber-relevant indictment of church complicity in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The Primal Chaos’ material feels marginally less evolved, perhaps because of an entirely-respectable original presentation. As its dynamics open up, however, with the Bolt Thrower-alike guitar tones and rapid-fire percussion of Daemon Vulgaris and the cataclysmic onslaught of the title-track, already cutting songwriting is taken right to the bleeding edge.

Seeing us out, the collection’s original compositions are testament to both Venom Prison’s unwavering commitment to the hard-edged extreme metal aesthetic, and their desire to push its dynamic boundaries as far as they’ll go. Defiant To The Will Of God starts off with pure gut-punching savagery but gradually shape-shifts through a full-throttle storm of blastbeats to encompass clean vocals and glimpses of airy ambience without losing an ounce of impact. Dropping curtain, Slayer Of Holofernes (referring to the Assyrian general of Old Testament infamy, seduced and beheaded by the Hebrew widow Judith) offers no quarter, unloading an overwhelming torrent of riffs, and a captivating chorus that sounds like it’s emanating from a lake of fire. Take this as confirmation, as if it were needed, that when play resumes, Venom Prison will be regrouped, reloaded and ready to continue their campaign of righteous terror.

Rating: 4/5

For Fans Of: Cannibal Corpse, Employed To Serve, Ingested

Primeval is released on October 9 via Prosthetic.

READ THIS: The 50 greatest death metal bands right now

Posted on October 8th 2020, 11:46a.m.
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