“A second declension amidst imitable disassociation.”
Tonic immobility is a behavior in which some animals become apparently temporarily paralyzed and unresponsive to external stimuli. In most cases, this occurs in response to an extreme threat such as being captured by a (perceived) predator. In human beings this is usually due to two main factors: Consumption of certain strains of marijuana, and listening to the thrilling new age of death metal where bands aren’t afraid to fail when reaching for innovative takes on ‘old’ musical expression. Venenum themselves come from a history of failed old school experimentation and their first demo/album release appeared to be a progression beyond the simplistic and ham-fisted group Excoriate. Other members dabbled in faceless retro nonsense bands like Division Speed and Hellish Crossfire that never went anywhere. To hear this first full-length from Venenum, and that it came from Germany of all places was surprising and unsettling.
These sort of experimental death metal records make retro-death metal albums sound brutish and repetitive without the punkish Swedish drum patterns and tremolo-chugging riffs that bore folks to death these days. Instead groups like the very comparable Stench and albums such as Tribulation‘s ‘The Formulas of Death’ appear to lean into the atmospheric core attack of death and black metal while siphoning the aesthetics through watered down classic progressive rock structures. They aren’t making heavy death metal records and the result is sometimes too obviously laced together, I don’t think prog-rock and death metal mix incredibly well until the influences from both are crossed so heavily that it isn’t so obvious. Venenum seem to have focused on creating a sound and approach and on this album they’ve almost got it perfectly right.
Up until “Cold Threat” you’ll basically get songs you’d expect to hear on an old Necrophobic album, with some breaks that hint at the aformentioned Tribulation’s second record without going full rock-balls. Then all of the sudden we’ve got a Candlemass riff, some unusual time signatures and Venenum’s focus shifts almost entirely to a rhythmic intensity that rises and falls among washes of tremolo picking and a suddenly more-awake vocalist. I don’t think it is totally fair to compare the style of this album to the trend of psychedelic/progressive death metal but it doesn’t fit anywhere else and I think fans of bands like Morbus Chron, and especially the modern classic Necrovation, will love this part of the record even more than the first couple of tracks. What you end up with is a truly progressive death metal record that eeks its own path through modern and relevant permutations of death metal while focusing almost entirely on ‘runs’ rather than ‘riffs’ not unlike Slægt, but leaning towards a post-death metal sound rather than black metal.
The three “Trance of Death” tracks at the end take some interesting risks, including a five minute interlude that doesn’t entirely work, and end up adding a ton of extra interest to the B-side of the release but I don’t think thats where the hype for “Trance of Death” belongs. For a debut full-length this band has provided an interesting musical personality and style without an impressive substance. I’m glad this band has been well received by people because the potential for improvement is palpable here.