No matter how captivating and riveting the genre may be for the most part, the lyrical content featured within the realms of death metal stereotypically revolves around instances of sadistic violence and catastrophe, both fictional and historic. Whilst numerous bands have used their malevolent craft to address poignant issues within our culture, the popularity of poster bands such as Cannibal Corpse, Obituary and Morbid Angel at the turn of the century has led to the mainstream populace to believe that death metal is nothing more than playful slasher flicks in audio form.
One such band who has weaponised their art to take on sociopolitical issues within our culture are Venom Prison. Since their formation the act have used their brilliant and caustic take on the death metal genre to address misogyny, rape culture and other issues most acts don’t have the prowess or skills to approach. Following on the from the release of 2017’s Animus the act have returned with their sophomore record Samsara; a scathing yet brilliant slab of socially aware extreme metal that is certain to launch the group into the stratosphere.
As is to be expected, Samsara is as relentless as it is political. Titled after the Buddhist concept of being reborn into a perpetual cycle of endless suffering, Samsara amplifies everything that Animus explored and contained. Opening track ‘Matriphagy’ grips and suplexes you into the cavernous and nightmarish world that is Samsara. From the here there’s no escape from the violent and neck breaking velocity that is this record. It whips and lashes without hesitation nor consideration.
Whilst Animus may have served as a fantastic introduction to this extraordinary band, Samsara is a far more technical, dynamic and calculating beast all together. To pigeonhole this as a conventional death death metal record would be a cardinal sin, as Venom Prison take inspiration and explore all corners of the extreme metal spectrum within this record. This all becomes too evident with second track ‘Megillus & Leana’ with it’s blistering grindcore making way for moments of blackened stillness and melody. From here it’s impossible to predict what area of extreme music Samsara will probe next. ‘Uterine Industrialisation’, the first single from Samsara, ebbs from convulsing thrash into metallic hardcore sensibilities, ‘Asura’s Realm’ opens with a pensive and somber solo that sets the scene for a flurry of thrashing fretwork and the technical death metal fury of ‘Self Inflicted Violence’ stands as the foundation for bludgeoning hardcore orientated beatdowns.
Every metallic riff feels like claws ripping at the flesh, every breakdown feels like a knuckle dusted fist bludgeoning the bridge of your nose and every scream, roar and screech ignites an ancient, almost animalistic fear within you. There's never a moment that restricts the momentum and nor is there a second where Samsara relents. There comes a point when consuming this record where you begin to realise that this record is truly unparalleled by their peers in terms of dynamic fury and progression.
Upon the foundation of hatred and fury that Animus served as, Venom Prison have wrote a rallying cry to the women dealt great injustices that is bolstered with progressive dynamism, kinetic energy and authentic genuine hatred and anguish that’s fulled by the issues that frontwoman Larissa Stupar has experienced. It’s a documentation of forced surrogacy, misogyny, human trafficking, rape culture and human misery left in the wake of modern society. It’s uncomfortable, horrific, and bloodcurling and so it should be. For the majority, this record is the closest thing they get to experiencing audible hell before they leave this mortal coil. However, for others it’s the exploration of a type of hell they’ve already experienced or are currently witnessing. This is why Samsara lacerates so deeply, for it sits within the most horrific realm possible; reality.
In all, Samsara isn’t just the most impressive, staggering and blistering extreme metal of this decade, it’s also one of the most culturally important and significant extreme metal records to be ever released. It’s a demonstration of how powerful extreme music can be when utilized as a weapon against injustices. It's undoubtedly incredibly gruesome sonically, yet the true nightmarish truth within this record can only be found when you choose to dig deeper. Whilst they may be some stating that modern extreme metal and music is in decline, this record is concrete evidence that the genre and scene is in the best shape it's been in for years.
Samsara is released March 15th via Prosthetic Records