Every year there is an album that kind of comes out of left field and grabs people by the balls, and I’m going to go ahead and say right now that Trance of Death is going to be it. Those who already know Venenum know that they put out a pretty fantastic EP back in 2011, but I’d venture to guess there aren’t too many who do know this, and that those same folks will be pleasantly surprised once they hear a taste of their long awaited full length effort. What will be interesting to see is how those familiar with the bands self-titled EP respond to the evolution that’s taken place over the last six years, as Trance of Death certainly brings more to the table in terms of stylistic choices and overall sound.
That said, I think you’d be crazy not to dig what Venenum have put together here. While these guys displayed tons of Death Metal charisma and talent on their debut EP, they’ve taken their formula and spruced it up quite a bit with an underlying prog influence throughout Trance of Death that further expands the scope of said talent, giving their songs yet more layers of complexity and depth and a greater feeling of atmosphere as well. The intro track, “Entrance,” reels you in with eerie strings and keys that, while calm in nature, display a great sense of foreboding of what’s to come over the course of the next 48 minutes.
The first thing you’ll notice when “Merging Nebular Drapes” begins is that the production values have been taken to new heights, as everything about the instrumentation and overall mix comes across extremely clear, vibrant, and grandiose sounding in nature. Magnificent riffing and atmospherics abound from the start in the form of tasteful, well-placed keys and acoustics amidst crisp, crushing bass and vocal lines that are given plenty of room to breathe when necessary, as Venenum clearly set out to do more than just pulverize with this effort.
Indeed, what we have here is a recording that is every bit as enchanting and shrouded in mystique as it is chock full of Death Metal might, and that’s something that never wears out its welcome with me. With amazing lead work coursing throughout its run time, you’ll be hard pressed not to find yourself grinning and head banging on tracks like “The Nature of the Ground” and “Cold Threat,” as Venenum lay down gnarly verse after gnarly verse of ripping rhythms, crushing breaks, and well-placed, carefully constructed solos that dance across the mind’s eye with a luminescence that by and large gives this effort a great deal of the mystique previously mentioned.
But make no mistake, this album is the total package. Each piece has its function and that couldn’t be any clearer than on the absolutely brilliant self-titled mid album trilogy that is broken up into the sections “Reflections,” “Metanola Journey,” and “There are Other Worlds…”. Enough cannot be said about how well put together, cohesive, and dynamic these works are, as Part I (Reflections) sets the bar high with 7 minutes of badass riffery that twists and juts its way in every which direction with euphoric splendor before seamlessly flowing into Part II (Metanola Journey).
Instrumental in nature and lined with incredibly vivid notation and theatrics, Part II brings so much to the table in terms of taste. With bass and guitar chords jumping off the page and hitting lots of classic notes amidst the sounds of organs and other atmospheric cues, I’m almost reminded of something you might hear from a band like The Devils Blood in the way Venenum are able to conjure a kind of rock ‘n roll ritual on this track. Simply put, however you want to describe it, this song is cool as hell and a real game changer in the course of Trance of Death, yet it couldn’t fit more perfectly.
And it’s with that you’re left with the monstrous closing track, Part III (There are Other Worlds…). Spanning 14 minutes in length, this is a beast of a song that honestly made my jaw drop the first time I heard it. Very much a synthesis (and then some) of the styles employed on the first two parts of the mid album trilogy, Part III goes that extra mile in just how impressive its arrangements are – as a song with this kind of running time in Death Metal has to be – and its really something that Venenum was able to meet that challenge in the manner they do on Trance of Death. With the riffing as gripping as anything else featured, and the flow of ideas as seamless as ever, you’re treated to truly illuminating sequences of epic riffs and leads around the 7:15 mark onward. Eye-openingly sharp in their delivery, the clear, rich tonality of the instruments really shows, as it must be said that everything about the instrumentation simply just sounds great.
How fast this 14 minute juggernaut goes by is impressive, as Venenum never really meander into anything doomed out or particularly slow for too long, giving this climatic effort the short spaces of breathing room it needs to gather itself and rush back into flurry after flurry of Death Metal dynamism that I expect will turn many heads as word gets around of its high level of craftsmanship and absolutely dynamite delivery. I don’t do this often, but you all heard it here first: this is the Death Metal album to beat as of now in 2017. You’re basically looking at this years version of Blood Incantation in terms of impact, except, dare I say, even better. Venenum has just raised the bar once again for modern Death Metal and I’m grateful to have been exposed to the brilliance that is Trance of Death. Buy or die, folks, buy or fucking die.