Venom Prison sound like they’ve gone completely over the edge on their furious new record Samsara, out March 15 on Prosthetic Records. It’s the kind of unadulterated, beastly fury that could only emerge from a unity of purpose like guitarist Ash Gray describes the band maintained throughout the writing process. Venom Prison weren’t trying to hit some particular standard. Instead, he explains: “It’s just kind of like we write heavy, fast songs and just try and like almost make a theme out of it and build around it so all the songs have a relation to each other but aren’t the same, you know? I think with this new record, we just kind of went even more progressed and a little bit more diverse with it while still maintaining the speed and the power of it.”
Thanks to the band’s speed and power, there’s something special and ultimately inescapable about their work. They thrash the listener with a take on our human anger that leaves little to the imagination. Rather than some kind of monotone, formulaic descent into a very particular and maybe distant style of anger, you can feel Venom Prison’s rage and overall intensity in your bones.
They don’t leave much to the imagination — as exemplified even by their cover art. Their 2016 debut full-length album Animus featured a Renaissance-style painting of a man who’d had his genitals cut off and shoved in his mouth after using them for assault — there’s a song on the album called “Perpetrator Emasculation” laying this scenario out. This time around, the band’s album sports a disturbing depiction of societal dismissal of women as little more than “egg-bearers,'” with figures seemingly pressuring a woman to lay more literal eggs. The imagery fits in with the lyrical core of the album’s first single, “Uterine Industrialization.”
“I guess Venom Prison’s always been quite an angry band, musically and lyrically, so we were always just going to try and push that further and further and just try to get more aggressive and just make sure every time, it’s more of what we’re doing rather than just completely changing our sound,” Gray says.
The band’s work has something to say both about contexts of musical expressions of anger and those in which women and others who are pushed down have found themselves in, even in 2019. The two are connected, and there doesn’t have to be an effort to “purify” our expressions on either side to make them more palatable. We’re here, and for lack of a better term, we’re fucking pissed off — something it’s useful both for us to accept and for those to confront who we find ourselves opposed to. Samsara — which refers to an Eastern religious concept of the cycle of death and rebirth — can be liberating.
“I still sit down and listen to it now and I can’t really put my finger on it,” Gray says. “I can never really figure out what we’ve done, because someone speaking to me before was like, the overall sound is not completely unique but there’s just something quite refreshing about it. I was just kind of like, what do you mean by that? We were there for awhile, and we couldn’t really pinpoint it, and he was just like — it’s just fast and pissed off.”
“There’s just something about speed and velocity that just shows an angry side to it,” Gray notes. “You blend everything together and you kind of get this formula that’s a pissed off, angry band — and that’s pretty much all Venom Prison is.”
“We just kind of always wrote what we thought was cool,” he explains. “We never really aimed to sound like anything. We just thought — let’s try and do something that we would enjoy playing.”
Considering the band’s growing stature — people relate to their attachment to their metallic fury, and the band have been taken somewhat by surprise by the way their work has taken off, Gray explains. Just last year, as a symbol of how far they’ve shot up, they toured the U.K. with Trivium — hardly a nobody. In the months prior to that, they hit the U.S. for the apparent first time as part of the Devastation In The Nation tour, which had them out with Aborted, Psycroptic, and others. They’ll definitely be back in the U.S. when they can too, Gray says.
“We just thought we’ll do this for a bit of fun and then for some reason people started getting interested in it and we just kind of just went with it,” Gray says, explaining: “This was never expected. This wasn’t something where we thought, oh this was going to happen. This was just something where we did it because we thought oh what the hell, we don’t have anything to do. None of us were in bands at the time, so we were like let’s do something and were like, does anyone want to try metal out? And it was like yeah let’s try metal — and that’s how it happened.”
In other words, considering their rise — they strike a nerve, and no doubt will indefinitely.
On a base level, there’s something wonderfully freeing about not particularly caring about modern complications to music.
“We don’t go for that clinical stuff,” Gray asserts. “We’re not a clinical band. We’re just like — whatever you want to call us, a death metal band, a heavy metal band — we’re just a metal band. There’s no funny business.”
Photo via Jake Owens
Check out “Uterine Industrialization” below