VENEFIXION – A Sigh From Below (2021)REVIEW

Pouring from their own deeply carved channels to the underworld, the ear-blurring maze of smoke and sulfur emanating from Breton ‘old school’ death metal quintet Venefixion proves itself a hundred percent full-length ready via their debut ‘A Sigh From Below‘. Modern proficiency and classicist hindsight benefit the French outfit a great deal as they navigate these twisted n’ thrashing warps between ancient death metal, death/thrash, and mind-altering vexation. Beyond the adrenaline cranked riffs and turn-on-a-dime rhythmic finesse which define the experience, Venefixion manage to transcend the usual sub-genre exercise by way of pure death metal mystification, a ~36 minute thread meant to tie the mind in high-tension knots as is presses the psyche ever forward into the abyss.

Assumedly formed by K. Desecrator in 2013 and soon to feature co-conspirators from France’s best underground metal bands (Sépulcre, Cadaveric Fumes, Hexecutor) the goal was fairly clear from the start in terms of Venefixion‘s major focus: Thrashing old school death metal. The original trio would release their first demo (‘Defixio‘, 2015) to much acclaim, noting a broad spectrum of late 80’s extreme metal influence while generally sticking to ‘Leprosy’-era death metal techniques, a sound decidedly rooted in late 80’s extremism and speed metal which is less reliant on double-bass drum excess and emphasizes kicking grooves. This of course prompted some comparison to Nihilist and Repugnant to some degree early on but even in their earliest incarnation Venefixion weren’t all about creating superficial ‘retro’ style, instead focusing on riffcraft and classicist songwriting. ‘Armorican Deathrites‘ (2016) added J. Obscene (Hexecutor) on guitars and featured an upgrade to their sound, something more free-wheeling and death/thrashing, particularly on “An Ankou”.

A few years later a split with Possession (‘Necrophagous Abandon‘, 2019) made it clear much had changed within Venefixion‘s core line-up thanks to the addition of R. Cadaver of Cadaveric Fumes on vocals, Max Abomination of Nuclear Abomination on bass, while replacing original guitarist W.C. with Reiðō Zweit Eveno (Hexen Holocaust). I wouldn’t normally be so specific with these details but after the addition of these folks and a couple year hiatus between releases this was notably where we first hear an “album ready” band on the attack and a clear definition of the Venefixion sound, capping off the showcase of “Necrophagous Abandon” with a cover of Grotesque‘s “Ripped From the Cross”. They’d found their own sound yet in approach of a ~35 minute full-length there was admittedly some trepidation on my part as to whether Venefixion could carry a full block of time or not, especially considering we’d only gotten short three song bursts from the band in the past; Similar bands like Excoriate, Vorum, and Obscure Burial all seem to have been most potent in shorter 15-20 minute bursts. In the case of ‘A Sigh From Below’ we can consider the full-length experience closer to that of Ensnared or Necrovation, classic thrashing death metal influenced bands who’ve found a way to make a surreal journey of their elite riffcraft rather than a mashed-up and force-fed salad.

While many of the best extreme metal albums today provide a sense of time and resonant setting to bask within Venefixion have instead created a sense of continuous movement that scours a bleak yet impressive landscape with fire-flinging abandon. This sensation speaks to the most primal urges of early extreme metal while the skill level in hand provides a memorably spiraling, poisonous example which is not so mired in the past; Though the basic forms presented should recall the post-‘Altars of Madness’ sphere of influence to some degree (see: “Of Wolves and Ghosts”) these folks aren’t such linear thinkers, infusing some seriously accomplished rhythmic feats amongst the myriad ‘old school’ death-thrashing havoc available for much of the album. For the best example we’ll have to start at the end of ‘A Sigh From Below’ where closer “As Light Goes Astray” suggests this is a band who’ve got plenty more ideas in the tank and even more of an unexpected oeuvre to explore down the road as theatric clean vocals and intensely physical rhythms punctuate the album’s greater value at a point where most death metal records are just going through the motions. Not only are we taken to multiple worlds within the engrossing length of this album but Venefixion retain their riff-obssessed precision and rabid enthusiasm throughout the full listen. In plain English? Consistency without rote predictability — Rhythms with purpose, riffs impress, the album goes places while making good use of a dynamic ‘classic’ death and speed metal influenced sound.

Though I’d argue that the full album is blemish free and flows along a perfectly irregular path, the transition into Side B acts as the apex of ‘A Sigh From Below’, reaching its fever-blistered peak with the thrashing diabolism of “Summoned and Defiled” before providing deep, deeper and deepest cuts within the last three songs on the album. If you’d decided to rip through Venefixion‘s discography prior to this album’s release you’ll note the strong reprisal of “Aghori’s Ashes of the Dead” from the ‘Defixio’ demo, simultaneously showcasing how far they’ve come since 2015 but also how true to the original ideal they’ve held. Of course I’ve been impressed from the first listen of ‘A Sigh From Below’ but not without some challenge, finding the flow of the album consistent but the full listen a bit of a fever dream achieved within a worming motion wherein no singular idea solidifies and the mood of the album itself hangs thick in the air. It wasn’t until I’d become more engaged and familiar with the guitar work itself that the bigger picture presented came into view as an abstraction of classic forms rather than worship. It is the sort of death metal record I could happily return to a hundred times and still find a new angle to approach its wily reap. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:A Sight From Below
LABEL(S):Iron Bonehead Productions
RELEASE DATE:October 1st, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Death Metal

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