Overall Score: 8.5/10 Consistency: 9/10 Variety: 8/10 Production: 9/10 Pros: Relentless energy | Excellent Production Cons: Unnecessary spoken word interludes
Considering how active they’ve been since their formation in 2018, and how quickly they’ve risen to the top of the crop of Britain’s latest wave of modern rock and metal, one may be surprised to learn that Wargasm only released their first EP in 2022. After an intensive year supporting the release of Explicit: The Mixxxtape, it’s now fallen on Sam Matlock and Milkie Way’s shoulders to justify the hype with their first full-length album, Venom.
Wargasm pride themselves on their high energy shows and brash punk influenced attitude, so it’s inevitable that a big challenge for their first album would be translating said energy into the studio. And from the opening moments of opening track “Venom” it’s pretty clear that they’ve managed that. The production work (handled by the band alongside Charlie Russell and Kieron Pepper) is top notch with crisp, crunching guitars, but allowing the electronic elements of the band to flourish as well, with neither the electronics or the guitars drowning each other out or fighting for attention. The vocal interplay and balance of electronic and metal influence is somewhat similar to the trade-offs between JP Anderson and Sum Grrrl of Seattle digital hardcore maestros Rabbit Junk albeit with more of a snotty nu metal swagger. Particularly with Milkie Way’s rapping style on tracks like “Minigun”, although her range is impressive in and of itself – while largely singing and rapping, she packs a mean scream when she wants – it’s used sparingly on Venom but it hits hard when it is utilised on industrial banger “Modern Love”.
The energy on Venom is unrelenting, even as they jump between nu metal, punk and EDM driven tracks – even though “Death Rattle” is more of a mid-paced track compared to other songs on the album. It still carries that intensity that Wargasm are becoming so well known for. Building from a more restrained first half, before realising it can’t contain Sam Matlock’s insanity for long, as he often bursts into the heavier moments of the album during the more Milkie Way-led tracks like “Death Rattle” and “Ride the Thunder”, as opposed to the more direct songs where the duo bounce of each other from the very start. It’s like they’re attempting to appear relatively restrained in order to allow their EDM influenced to shine through more, but Sam’s feral vocals are just more suited to the tracks where Wargasm can fully unleash their energy.
Even though Venom sees Wargasm shift between their chimerical combination of styles, everything feels cohesive, with earworms present throughout, notably with the chorus to “Feral” and the earwor guitar riffs that drive “Sonic Dog Tag” and stomper “Outrage”. The cameo from Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst on “Bang Ya Head” is a natural fit for the song – it’s clear that the Floridians are a major influence on the band so it makes sense that he would be able to join in so seamlessly.
One area where Wargasm do somewhat fall short is with the spoken work interludes, the conversation at the start of “Feral” doesn’t really add anything to the track while Milkie Way’s interjection at the end of “Sombre Goodbye” just feels contrived and borderline cringeworthy. It’s something they may improve on with time as those features become a more natural part of the recording process, but it feels like an attempt to capture their on-stage banter which falls flat without the crowd there to respond to it.
It’s a real challenge to be able to translate the sort of energy Wargam have on stage into studio recordings, though, and spoken word moments aside, they largely accomplish this with aplomb. The fact that even their “slower” songs on here are still full of attitude means there really is no time to rest on this album, even though such intensity doesn’t become tiring due to the band’s ability to shift style so fluidly. Sometimes it pays off to bide your time perfecting your craft before dropping your first album, and it’s certainly paid off for Wargasm on Venom, setting a high bar for their contemporaries to follow up.
Wargasm’s new album Venom is out now via Slowplay and Republic Records. Visit the band’s website for news, updates and to purchase the album.