The primal chaos and abrasive brilliance of Venom Prison. Interview with Ash pre-Download Australia 2020 gigs.

The primal chaos and abrasive brilliance of Venom Prison. Interview with Ash pre-Download Australia 2020 gigs.

Venom Prison is a hardcore influenced death metal band from South Wales, United Kingdom. Their second album Samsara was released on March 16, 2019. The band released their demo Defy the Tyrant and EP The Primal Chaos in 2015, releasing their debut full-length album Animus in 2016 through Prosthetic Records.

Animus was pure intent and perfection in hardcore influenced death metal with compelling and heartfelt topical lyrics. Both music and themes covered in this classic release were so well crafted with such skill that only comes with real-life experience; both personal and as musicians who have done the hard yards. The key to this album is it is so damn raw, yet perfectly produced. It is eardrum-shattering, but the rollercoaster song structures and gripping tone of the release are unparalleled for a debut album. On top of the sheer fierceness of the music is the caustic vocals of Larissa. Just listen to tracks like Devoid or Corrode the Black Sun and you will witness amazing music that is as heavy as Bolthrower, Napalm Death or Converge. And that’s no mean feat.

2019 saw the incredible release of Samsara. An album that in fact was more aggressive than the debut. Everything is heavier, the riff-wars are even more intense, the rhythm section sounds like the band is marching straight into war and vocally there is more variety, yet no dilution of the aggression. Samsara is definitely much more of a modern death metal release and it’s solidified with pure brutality and suffocating abrasive tone that echos back to classic crust bands like Amebix and Deviated Instinct. Lyrical themes are intense and are perfectly matched to the pummelling impact of the music. It addresses women’s rights, sexual violence and very personal issues including mental health. Should there be a separation between meaningful and necessary lyrical content and heavy music, absolutely not. For example topics such as racism, sexism and equality are current issues that demand coverage and I personally believe (as punk/hardcore has historically shown) that current agendas only assist and build the rage of the music. Also, many of this band’s lyrics have articulate inspiration or influence from philosophy and academia, how refreshing is that compared to the dull boredom of gore and horror movie aesthetics.  Samsara is a statement of pure aggression, but Venom Prison also has marvelous guitar work and crazed solos, sick and unpredictable song structure and vocal intelligentsia of the highest order. Songs like Asura’s Realm and Uterine Industrialisation are savage, hectic but pure genius. If you watch their live performances(either at a gig or even in a studio space) you experience the more definitive VP experience. Even more chaotic, crushing and cathartic than the nastiness of the albums.

Our esteemed comrades from Astral Noize Mag (one of the best music zines around!!)  ( described Venom Prison beautifully:

"Espousing levels of pitiless brutality, enough to compete with battle-scarred veterans or the gnarliest of their new-school peers, the band’s zeitgeist-capturing rage taps into the genre’s immortal, unearthly horror whilst embarking on a thoroughly modern, patriarchy-slaying journey beyond the generally inescapable underground circles reserved for extreme metal."

 Download Australia 2020 sees the live debut of this incredible band in Australia. I had the pleasure of chatting to Ash Gray of the band and it was a solid interview with the sheer passion and motivation that was as inspiring as their stunning recorded content. We chatted about: how music is such an important platform for delivering a message, the changes from the debut to Samsara, moving forward as a band and why variety is so key with band progression and much more!.

Venom Prison Interview with Ash Gray.

Thanks, so much Venom Prison for the opportunity to interview you.

1-It’s 2020 and the general population seem under more stress than ever from multilayered stressors including religious dogma/sexism/racism and other forms of oppression. Why is it critical that art and music have a voice in these times? Substance over imagery? And also, is it refreshing that metal bands can now voice these messages very clearly (although anarchist bands and the like have for ages). How important is lyrical content to this band? I believe VP serves as a strong empowering and inspiring band for so many people.

            Music/lyrics has always had a platform to express opinions and feelings in music but it’s whether the band use their platform to make changes or make people aware of current states. For Venom Prison it has always been important to use the platform and voice concerns it is what motivates and gives Venom Prison the life it has, the energy and aggression.

2-Samsara has critically surpassed the wondrous response that Animus received, what makes this such an important record? I also like to talk about the musical differences between the two albums as well; because everything from vocals, riffs, and the drums are much heavier and savage.

            Animus introduced Venom Prison, Samsara refined us. Everything in Samsara was a step to the next level which is really what Venom Prison will always aim to do, each record we want to excel and progress as a band and musicians. Same for the next record we want to introduce new elements, experiment and make sure we don’t write the same record again and again. For us as a band doing the same record over and over would be unsatisfying so making sure Venom Prison is always sharp and introducing new elements is a must each record, so now to progress more than Samsara.

3- Venom Prison has very solid hardcore foundations, how does this serve as a solid base for the band? not just the sound which is very much hardcore influenced death metal. (Because your band seems very grounded and bands like Dragged into Sunlight etc., all clearly say their days from playing small hardcore shows, etc. gave them the confidence and ethos to face almost anything.)

            Each member from Venom Prison came from a hardcore background and playing in hardcore bands so that was always going to be one of the natural Venom Prison would acquire. This band started playing in small clubs, house shows, etc when we started then as soon as the opportunity arose we started touring and have done ever since, but that background we all have keeps us grounded and remember what we have and where we came from and I think a lot of people from the outside can see that and admire it. We didn’t start this band with 100000£ like some…

          4-On the latest album from album title to song titles/lyrics there are references to Buddhism/ eastern philosophy, where does this fit into the mandates of this band? The band's lyrics certainly have always seemed to have influence from philosophy and literature.

            Larissa defiantly takes a massive interest in philosophy and crafts it into her lyrical writing and I understand why, having concepts so blatant takes the art away from the music. Having that riddle or underlining message is what keeps people's attention and needs to dig deeper into themes and subjects. When we started the band we always agreed we wanted to be consistent in our ways and ensure every element to Venom Prison was crafted well.

5-The intersection of art and music is a significant one when this is on point it really incredible; VP achieves this greatly from the album artwork, curation of the music videos to outstanding merch; thoughts?

            Same again, being the complete package and making the effort to ensure everything aspect of the band is well thought through is important. Anyone can put a shirt together, anyone can put an album cover together but it’s impressive and important when every single detail to the band links into each other and we’ve always been aware of that and tried to make it to the best standard we can from day one.

6-You are finally coming to Australia to play the incredible Download festival, your fanbase here is very strong and I personally are overjoyed as a long-term fan, any musings about Australia and any favorite bands from here?

            We’ve been itching to come over to Australia for some time now so to finally get the chance is incredible, I previously toured Oz with the last band I was in BWP, which we toured with Warbrain and Thorns, more of a hardcore package but I’ve always been aware of OZ band even years ago with 50 Lions, Carpathain, Parkway obviously who we will be touring with soon which is great and last year we did a few shows with Thy Art Is Murder. Oh plus I really want to go to Wet n Wild again when we hit Oz.

7-The band have both grown immensely musically and personally like most bands, but also the VP train has been accelerating rapidly with endless gigs and an American tour as well has it been hard to stand back and reflect on this success? You must be immensely proud of your achievements so given the band has only really existed for 5 years and it seems you are only just warming up.

            I agree on we are only just warming up there is a lot left to Venom Prison and we are continuing to grind and make something of this. Reflecting isn’t something I really do nor anyone in this band, to be honest, once something is done we move onto the next and try and push and achieve everything we can. We have all done bands in the past that have broken up or member left etc so Venom Prison was a chance for all of to push something as far as we could and do something different. 5 years… time flies doesn’t it.

8-How did band members originally get into hardcore/heavy music? And why is it such a sustaining (although challenging at times!!) and rewarding genre?

           We all played in hardcore or punk bands previously, for myself, I was very lucky to grow up by a lot of cool venues that had amazing shows all the time, I had a lot of friends in hardcore growing up mostly older so it was cool for them to introduce me to bands, lend me CDs, DVDs etc and it’s how I met everyone in Venom Prison so if it wasn’t for that then this band would not exist.

9-What are some of the highlights and on the flip side some of the struggles of the band’s career so far? I also heard Craig Charles of Red Dwarf/Robot Wars fame watched you play, that’s a complete mindfuck, and awesome!

            Craig Charles! That was such a surreal moment, I couldn’t believe it. Everyone in this band has things going on outside whether it’s their work or life at home etc but we’ve always maintained Venom Prison and ensured it gets all the attention it needs from us. Highlights for me personally are so many like the day we got an email to tour with Trivium and Power Trip on some of the biggest venues we’ve ever played on but then struggles would be the commitment and sacrifice we all make to make this band work but I don’t regret it in the slightest.

10-The next album, how far are you into its birth so far?

          We are always writing so yeah it’s happening.

11-For someone that hasn’t heard Venom Prison, how would you describe the band and what makes VP venom prison?

         Extreme pissed off metal with groove, not your standard shit.

12-Is Venom Prison a cathartic vessel for its members, the skin shedding playing and rawness live certainly seem to indicate this? Songs like self-inflicted violence also reflect this very clearly imho. 

           Venom Prison definitely does channel a lot from us since this band has started so many personal things have happened to each member and it is a vessel for us to get everything off our chests. The music speaks for itself really.

13-How the hell do you come up with these ridiculously heavy riffs and rollercoaster song structures?

            Pre productions, I have a home studio, I write as much as physically possible, sit down and look at what I have always need to make sure that it keeps my attention if it loses my attention then it goes… that’s not a Venom Prison song. I like energy in songs, odd structures, time signatures, etc it keeps you thinking and listening. If Venom Prison didn’t do that then it would sound weird.

14-Will your Australian setlist has some Animus tracks as well as Samsara?

             Possibly! Still working on it at the moment. I’m going to say yes though.

15-Any final messages and words of wisdom for your sea of fans down under?

           Keep grinding at whatever you're doing and spread the word about Venom Prison, see you soon. 

(Photo Credit: Sabrina Ramdoyal Photography U.K.)

So now you have all the facts, do not piss about getting the chance to witness this pulverizing band hit Australia next month for both Download Australia dates plus one sideshow in Brisbane.

All the Venom Prison updates and news live here:

Here's a snippet of their live expertise:
and I love this set immensely:

Download Australia 2020 is just around the corner, so grab those tickets and embrace the heaviness of this music we love.

Grab those tickets here for heavy greatness: