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This Is How Venom Prison Developed A Deeper Connection With What The Band Represents With ‘Erebos’

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers 10 February 2022 at 16.39

"We wanted it to be memorable because these words mean something."

Venom Prison
have recently put out their new album 'Erebos' via Century Media, and it is an absolute behemoth. But in ways that not even the band could have predicted it being at the start of the process. 

Still delivering a whirlwind of death metal intensity and hardcore brute force, but adding so many more layers of crushing heaviness to the mix, both musically and emotionally, the result is one of the finest metal albums of this year, and any other year. Utilising the time, space and frustration of the past couple of years and crafting songs that belong on the sorts of stages the band had only previously dreamed of, it is an absolute triumph and one that feels as defiant as it does devastating. 

To discover exactly how it came to be, we sat down with vocalist Larissa Stupar and guitarist Ash Gray...

When you first started Venom Prison, did you ever envision that you would make an album that looks and feels and sounds like this?
Larissa: "Definitely not, for me. Honestly, we started Venom Prison to play shows now and then because we had left our hardcore bands and missed making music and hitting the road. It just progressed from there, and now we have found ourselves here."

Ash: "Absolutely, we were missing what we had been doing in the past. When you’ve done something for so long, eliminating that element from your life completely feels weird. At that moment, when we were like, ‘Let’s do something that is fun and allows us to play a few shows’, you’re still aware that this new creative outlet exists. That’s very much what the purpose of it was really, for us always to have a creative outlet there for when we needed it. So when we look at where we are now, things just started happening, and we went with it. We’ve done a lot of good stuff, and it’s started to take us to new places, so let’s give it the attention that it deserves. The more we kept working, the more it kept growing. It was never a planted idea or people behind us chucking money in for us to be massive. What makes Venom Prison so special in my eyes is that this has always been just us. We haven’t taken shortcuts. We haven’t had a silver spoon. This is a passion for us."

And as you have grown as people, the band has grown as well. And the things that you have wanted to put out into the world have shifted and changed along with that. So what was it this time around that you focused on expressing musically and emotionally?
Larissa: "It was vital for me to bring everything we are all going through into this record. When we started writing this album, it was 2019. By the time we got to the lockdown stage of the pandemic, we had decided to keep on working through it. For me, I was soul-searching for what was the right thing to focus on, and it was the fact that we were all going through such a chaotic and dark time that we had never been through before. We’re going through isolation. We couldn’t see our families or friends. Our lives had changed entirely. We couldn’t go on tour; we were supposed to be playing arenas with Parkway Drive and Hatebreed, which was a huge dream for us. Then there were so many things happening around us at the time. The Black Lives Matter protests, immigration and refugee politics, so many injustices. We wanted to try and understand those perspectives and do what we could to be allies and be present. Ash and I have also lost grandparents during this time. There was so much darkness in the world, and I wanted to bring that into ‘Erebos’. Alongside that, we also wanted to make sure we were making something new that represented who we were and what we wanted to be. It felt like the birth of chaos around us, which made ‘Erebos’ such a perfect title. We existed in absolute chaos, and we were staring into the darkness and writing about what just felt like the right place for us to be."

And when it comes to bringing those emotions into the music, you must want to make sure that they can breathe and blossom in the way they deserve to…
Larissa: "Exactly, and we didn’t want to create another death metal album. We wanted to make something special by bringing in everyone’s influences and showing off precisely who we are."

Ash: "When you go back to our other records, ‘Animus’ was hateful and the same with ‘Samsara’. But ‘Erebos’ is a lot more compassionate. It’s still angry, but it’s not pure hatred. It’s compassion facing towards something that we see as wrong in our eyes. And to be able to achieve that was to write differently. When we started the record and reflected on what we had done previously, the first thing to come up with was the desire just to write songs and make sure that every song could be a single. That’s the beauty of when we consider what to pick as singles. Everybody was picking different songs. That’s always a good sign. In my head, we had already achieved what we were going for in that.

"Then when we considered the vocal process, we made sure that they were the focus of the songs. If there was a really good hook, but the music cut out a bit early, we would extend it to make it fit. It was about creating choruses and verses, and structures. And that’s how the lyrics have been allowed more space to shine. We were going back and looking over writing processes like, ‘This isn’t what we usually do’, and that started to happen more and more as we went into the studio. But having that time to reflect on what you have done before and use it in a way to iron out the creases was such an important thing for this band. We know people like what we do, we have habits, but how do we progress and evolve? It was such a different mindset than what we have had before, so it needed more care and more time. Lockdown helped with that."

It’s changes and moments of growth that aren’t anything to be anxious about. It’s something to feel excited about and driven by. It must have felt pretty incredible when you saw what you had at the end of the process…
Ash: "Absolutely. I don’t think this band has ever been through anything quite like this process. It was stressful in the sense that we wanted it to be the best version of ourselves, and achieving that ended up being stressful. I was guilty of suffering from that, but it was only because my feelings of caring were so deep. We all had moments like that, and perhaps that shows that we were a little too comfortable with ‘Animus’ and ‘Samsara’."

​Larissa: "The fact that we were able to work with Scott Atkins helped bring those feelings forward. Usually, we book ten days in the studio to record and get in and out. This was stretched over five weeks, which meant we could leave and come back to different parts as and when we wanted to. We needed to get used to someone else’s opinion on what we created, but everything he suggested made sense and helped. Another big difference was putting so much more time into my singing and recording because we wanted every word to be as important as the last. We wanted them to be out there in a way that people could understand compared to your standard death metal production. We wanted it to be memorable because these words mean something. There were a few mental breakdowns and some tears, but that’s just what happens when you’re pushing in such away."

It’s so interesting when you realise how even extreme music can have such a comfort zone. And even this far in, there are still so many things to uncover about the band and yourselves, and this is still the tip of the iceberg…
Larissa: "I think this applies to all of us, but the way we see and feel the band has changed so much. Before, it was all about going on tour and playing constantly and enjoying a life that isn’t considered normal. But with this record, I was able to dive in properly and use the band as a true creative outlet when I needed it. I was going through something that I didn’t have any words for, so investing time and anxieties into something that we, and everyone who hears it, can benefit from is something so special. Developing this deeper connection with your music and nurturing that, that’s something to be so proud of."

Ash: "There’s no backstepping in this record. It’s only forwards. Touring and recording and touring again is something that bands have had drilled into them for years and years. But you have to consider what creative qualities you are putting out and overall longevity. You can destroy your band in one year if you want to. But now we know that everything we do can be an additional layer and a step forward while still maintaining the core ideals and sound that Venom Prison was formed on."

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