We find ourselves in a time where numerous extreme acts are really baring their teeth and finally getting a spotlight and a legitimate voice. The Black Heart’s headliners tonight, Venom Prison, are in the very top tier of those hyped bands. Having won a Golden God at the Metal Hammer Awards and 2017’s “Breakthrough Band” at the first annual Heavy Music Awards, they’re certainly monopolising on their current popularity. This they’ve done from touring non-stop since the release of Animus in late 2016 with the likes of Deez Nuts, Gorguts and Aversion’s Crown in addition to appearing at Download and Bloodstock. This run of dates they’re currently on has been somewhat soured by pulling out of their support slot with Decapitated following the recent events around that band. However the Welsh death metallers are out to prove they can’t be stopped. This, they show in abundance tonight.
Opening up the bar’s upstairs function room is God Complex. While they’re the second support band, they still show a great deal of excitement to be playing their first sold-out show. Their sound is at a crossroads of hardcore punk, thrash and deathcore and the band weave effortlessly and knowingly between these styles. As far as musicianship goes, however, the spotlight is heavily on their drummer who keeps the rhythm section stiflingly tight. From turbo-charged thrashing to spacey beatdowns, they nail the songs bang on. Furthermore, they boast powerful (if wide-eyed at times) vocals that showcase some of the finest eviscerating live vocals in metal that parallel those of Larissa’s later on. “Hate Runs Through Me” is obviously the centrepiece of their set. Having premiered the video for the track on Metal Injection earlier last week, they show a lot of pride in the song and rightfully so. More of that please!
Coming on after God Complex, Corrupt Moral Altar turned up and blew the speakers with a much beefier, forceful production to suit the brawniness of their music. By this, I mean they took every aspect of conventional heavy music and ran with it as far as they could. The vocals were screechier, more strained and uncompromisingly relentless, the guitar tone was sludgier and grottier while the drumming was as fervent and earnest as could be, not to mention their ridiculous capability to transition between time change after time change. It all sounded like an already sufficiently heavy band had gone on a 72 hour amphetamine binge and hit the stage. Pretty fucking brutal, right?
By this point, people are beginning to fill the venue from the back as they shuffle up from the bar. While some people are clearly familiar with CMA’s unique blend of skull-bending hysteria, the sheer grinding nature of their sound met a fair few new pairs of ears. It’s at this point that vocalist Chris Reese loses his battle with sobriety, gradually emptying an assorted spirit down his already shredded throat. Usually this might put a downer on a performance (unless you’re Airbourne) though it weirdly suits the hopeless, apocalyptic noise the group concoct.
That however, would not be the nastiest noise we hear tonight. That of course, comes from headliners Venom Prison who take to the stage with the classic Kiss track “Strutter” clamouring in the background. Naturally, this gives way to Animus opener “Syllogism” and further, a set heavily weighing on that album. Now, I’ll come clean. I wasn’t massive on Animus when it came out and I seem to be the only one in these circles who wasn’t. I don’t dislike it by any means but something about it didn’t really translate and that seems to be purely on my part.
Having said that, hearing the likes of “Abysmal Agony” and “Corrode The Black Sun” in particular in the live setting floored me, and the wall of guitars that came from the stage was colossal. That, paired with the assault of riffs coming from Ben and Ash was a winner right from the start. This mastery of riffs in such a venue as The Black Heart harked back to the very origins of death metal and it felt great. I mentioned earlier in the year when I saw DragonForce play their album release show at the 150 capacity venue that the power coming from the band was incredible but having seen Venom Prison play the very same stage, that destroys the competition.
As the group tore through the show, it became apparent quite how much of a star vocalist Larissa Stupar is in the making. Prowling the stage with vigour and err… venom, we can’t take our eyes off her. It’s when the band hit the right groove with Larissa’s roars over it that they prove themselves to be all they’re made out to be; ruthlessly heavy, fantastically formed and unequivocally vital to the new extreme movement.
That’s not to say it was a perfect night. Despite all the buzz surrounding the band and seeing them cause quite a rabble at Bloodstock a few months back, the crowd reaction was quite underwhelming. This of course was no fault of Venom Prison, it just felt like it took a while to get going and when it did, I expected more. Then again, they can’t play every show as they do in the video for “Perpetrator Emasculation” (check it out below – it’s awesome).
In addition, they ended up only playing just north of a half hour! That’s all well and good when it’s a Nails or a Code Orange but when the band seemed to be firing on all cylinders all night, it felt like there was more in the bag. On the flip side, the 100+ in attendance wanted more as will everyone else at the following shows and those who couldn’t make it. Possibly a very sneaky classic showbiz tactic. Nevertheless, disregarding the crowd (of which some were “going ham”) and the sinfully short set, we left with bleeding ears.
Venom Prison did their job. What more could we ask for?
God Complex: facebook