Review: Venomized “Death Row”

Review: Venomized “Death Row”

- in Reviews
Score 84%
for what's mostly a one-man project it's pretty killer
84 %
User Rating : 0 (0 votes)

While one-man bands are a dime a dozen in the bedroom black metal space, and similarly strewn about freely in stoner doom metal, for the longest time they had been something of a rarer sight in the more traditional realms of death metal. Venomized almost provides a case for why there should be more of them, but while Kevin Kross and Alex Wolf provide excellent guitar and bass performances, there’s more than one area where the production is lacking enough to cut into the rest of the band’s sound, and, more importantly, the songwriting falls back on a few tropes often enough that they completely lose impact.

What does work is the riffing, which Venomized rips right into from the opening moment of “Suffocated” and pretty much never lets off of. Most of them accentuate the bassy downtuned tone excellently, especially the winding, intricate, almost Nile-like sequences that dot the midpoints of most tracks, and even external to those they get into a pretty consistent, heavy groove that they’re able to keep in lock-step with for large chunks of the record. There are a few lengthy pinch-harmonic solos with enough squealing to satiate a couple Black Label Society songs, and Alex kicks up some gnarly tremolo picked sections throughout that are reminiscent of blackened death metal at its best. There’s just a lot of ideas packed into the package, here, and most of them roll by fairly quickly or just carry such heavy riffs that for a lot of Death Row, Venomized nearly has me completely in the fold, and, indeed, from time to time, like “Excessive Torture” and “Kill The Living”, what I was hearing really had me hooked and sold on the potential these guys have as musicians, including the bits of atmosphere to go around that integrate with the bass and guitar lines on large chunks (including the aforementioned “Kill the Living”)!

But, again, there are two big issues that undermine all of that. The first is the drum production, which is especially grating considering how much of this album relies on barrage after barrage after barrage of blast beats beneath lightning-speed winding fingers followed by metal and deathcore breakdowns where the snare sound is vitally important; it’s flat, passive, bleeding into the cymbal sound and turning what would be rolling, galloping rhythms into irritating piles of clangs. Sometimes, especially during the most elaborate lickfests or tremolo picking black metal sections, it’ll come into lockstep with Kevin’s bass and the band becomes an absolute sonic menace, these moments being by far the most compelling stretches of Death Row by a country mile or four, which makes it all the more frustrating when they settle back into the status quo that’s just not punchy enough to support the rest of the sound.

Aside from the irritatingly uneven performance of the rhythm section, the only other major knock against the band that stands out from the material on Death Row is with the vocal performance. Kevin’s growls are serviceable the majority of the time, but they sprinkle in hints of double-layered vocals and more interesting mixtures of his vocal performance into the guitar tone without really leaning into them throughout the majority of the music, which hints yet again at the potential left on the table after the first two Deicide albums, potential I’ve yet to see fulfilled— if Kevin has the pipes in him to do it and the studio time to perform some Bentonesque magic, I think it would be the spice to turn Venomized from an intriguing but unsatisfying one-man project to a really fascinating player in the modern death metal space. Watch these two carefully, both for further material from Venomized or from either one in other bands or projects; there’s clearly talent here, but it needs some more refinement and perhaps some more time in the mixing, mastering, and other production stages to really bring the best out.

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