Overall Score: 10/10 Themes: 9/10 Consistency: 9/10 Performances: 10/10 Pros: Devastatingly heavy | Beautifully poetic | Another benchmark record Cons: The experimentation here is great but some more of it on the follow-up wouldn't go a miss
Though it comes wrapped in a tapestry blanket of grand Greek mythology, Venom Prison’s Erebos quickly unveils its darkness whilst saving some of its greatest treasures for repeated listens. A large portion of its runtime is made up of the sheer force we’ve come to expect from one of the most exciting bands on the planet but where this record shines is in its depth. After navigating through these relentless waters, there is far more to explore beneath the surface as the band put together their most ambitious and dynamic collection of tracks to date.
There aren’t many bands in the pantheon of extreme music that can marry the worlds of heavy yet beautiful quite like Venom Prison. Make no mistake, despite the inclusion of more guitar melodies, some sparingly used clean vocals and electronics, if blistering anger is what you want then look no further. That won’t come as a surprise to anyone who is familiar with their previous records but it is worth noting the fury is very much intact. Once again they’re incredible conduits of that. What separates them from any other death metal band that cuts right through you is the poetry and patience on display.
Erebos’ Greek mythology-inspired theme that covers everything from the artwork to the song titles is a perfect representation. The theming is grandiose and artistic whilst maintaining that sinister and unsettling energy lurking just behind its disguise. In parts of the record, these roles are flipped where beneath the brutality is a gorgeous centre trying to see the light of day and the balance between the themes of grand mythology and creeping evil as they go against each other for dominance elevates the record to being something very special.
In this landscape, Larissa Stupar takes the form of Charon, son of Erebos and the ferryman who delivers the souls of the dead to Hades. The versatility of the whole band is right at the forefront, especially with Stupar as she transitions from friend to foe, from the voice behind the darkness to a hand that you want to hold through it all. The lyricism is a huge part of this as well as the layers of mythology shed themselves, allowing you to see their true self, real-world terrors like media manipulation and forced sterilisation.
Throughout, the drums act as an anchoring point and stay relatively consistent, giving the guitars the base they need to diversify their approach. The inclusion of more guitar melodies provides many huge moments where the record shows restraint before exploding into another riff. Along with undeniably great lyrics such as “I am the damaged one / You deserve all damage done” in Nemesis, the guitars provide many reasons to keep coming back to the well and take more away with you upon each visit to Erebos.
Then halfway through the record, you get Pain Of Oizys. The song explores so much new ground for Venom Prison. Between tracks that take unpredictable diversions and the more straight-up death metal songs that will light up a live audience like pyro, the track list is bulletproof. It proves that this band aren’t just a phenomenal metal band, they’re incredible songwriters full stop.
Everything about Erebos feeds off of the dynamic of grandiose yet unflinchingly dark. The way this band absolutely nails this on every front is sure to be one of the achievements of the year. The two are so entwined that just when you think you’ve cracked a song and it’s going to be crushing from here on out, in comes something to elevate it from the depths without sacrificing any of its impact. Erebos is both dwelling in the gloomy underground whilst uncovering its scars at the feet of Mount Olympus. It’s an incredible achievement that will take a herculean release schedule to stop it from remaining as one of the defining albums of 2022. The most frightening thing of all, this doesn’t even feel like their pinnacle.
Erebos is available now via Century Media.
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