(Media of the Century)
01. Born of Chaos
02. Judges of Hell
04. The comfort of complicity
05. Pain of Oizys
06. Hesperides Golden Apples
07. Castigated in steel and concrete
08. Gorgon Sisters
09. Night Veil
10. Death Technologies
Thanks to two scabrous and impressive studio albums and, perhaps most importantly, the singer Larissa Stuparenlightened, progressive and relentlessly fierce conceptual vision, PRISON WITH VENOM find themselves in the enviable position of being an extreme metal band with broad metal media support and real mainstream crossover potential. Whether they like it or not, what comes with that is the kind of high expectations that have often ruined budding young bands in the past. “Erebos” is clearly the most publicized album that the Welsh quintet has produced to date. But where smaller bands would have seized on the commercial nettle and watered down their formula to appeal to a more mainstream audience, PRISON WITH VENOM conjured up a ruthlessly heavy and creative storm of highly evolved death metal. With curiosity, “Erebos” is more accessible than either “Samsara” (2019) or that of the group “Animus” debut (2016), but it is their increasingly nuanced and dynamic writing, and the continued development of stuparThe vocal and lyrical efforts of , which elevate this far beyond any previous achievement.
It was obvious on previous albums that PRISON WITH VENOM took a liberal approach to cross-pollination, with undertones of everything from old-school East Coast death metal to the bloated sludge of post-metal rearing its ugly head. “Erebos” is much more diverse than its predecessors, with more room for melody and atmosphere, but the essence of the band’s sound remains the same: a wild and willful blend of groove-heavy but incredibly unpredictable extreme metal tropes. And again, these are the best songs that PRISON WITH VENOM have written by some distance. “Judges of the Underworld” was launched as a statement of intent late last year, and if you need proof of how far this group has come in a relatively short period of time, here it is: five minutes of brutality that changes of form, with at least three significant hooks and an explosive and commanding vocal performance by stupar. It’s totally uncompromising but also grand, intricate and cleverly constructed. In the same way, “Nemesis” erupts with a flurry of shrill catchphrases and hellish riffs, before mutating multiple times over its wasteless four-minute runtime, and reaching a brilliantly rogue crescendo. “The comfort of complicity” draws from more traditional death metal source material, and PRISON WITH VENOMThe restless spirit of ensures that every smooth transition leads to an equally heavy and repulsive, yet often surprisingly unexpected place. The song’s bombastic coda weaves dark melodies and a sumptuous bloom of morbid theatre, with echoes of the vastness of the black metal night sky reinforcing a collage of already punishing riffs.
Probably the only moment on “Erebos” which could give a sturdy boost to the metal apple cart, “Pain of Oizys” elegantly combines hazy but dark post-rock atmospheres, a wonderfully bluesy lead break and a breathtaking other stupar vocal. It’s the boldest moment on the album and a real triumph.
Impressive, the second half of “Erebos” maintains the high standards of the first half. When a band makes an album that both refines and redefines what they do to that degree, and with such obvious passion for the creative process on display, it’s a dark joy to behold. Commendably free of cliches, consistently vicious, and imbued with supreme confidence and self-confidence, songs like “Chastened in Steel and Concrete” and breathtaking, happily grotesque album “Technologies of Death” showcase a group that earned a shot at bigger and better things and absolutely rose to the challenge. “Erebos” is smart, exciting, and full of new ways to shave this shit world off. Potential realized. World domination next, presumably.
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