Now that I’ve been able to sit down with it for a bit, I’ve been struggling to find words for this one. I know a bunch of people were expecting a sequel to the debut MLP that shook the Death Metal scene way back in 2011 (yes, that was awhile ago) but that’s not at all what this is. And I knew that full well. I had no expectations other than giving the band a chance to do whatever they wanted to do. I wasn’t disappointed. Not at all. In fact this has grown on me even more than the original MLP did. Part De Mysteriis and part Swedish Death, Venenum’s debut album, Trance of Death is a cryptic and dangerous journey netherwards through twisting tunnels and gateways beyond a red horizon. What’s presented here is surely an unhealthy mixture of rock ‘n’ roll, extreme metal, and psychedelia. The two singles that were released to promote the album were definitely polarizing songs among Death Metal fans. I’d even heard comparisons to Tribulation and Necrovation at one point, but I don’t think Venenum’s change in sound here was necessarily that extreme.
The opening track is an intro and is titled in such a way, (“Entrance”). It’s structured around cello and piano playing. Already an interesting choice when the band is planning on careening straight off the tracks and headlong into one of the heavier tracks on the album, “Merging Nebular Drapes.” This one is probably the most traditional sounding Death Metal track on the record. I like it, quite a bit, actually. The riffs are hard hitting and the vocalization is on point. It does close with another foreboding instrumental during the last two minutes or so. “Nature of the Ground” picks up immediately. There’s already an emerging pattern which sees these atmospheric and experimental soundscapes coming in waves. An intro, ripping Death Metal, an ambient break, and then right back into what most people are probably looking for. While entirely predictable, I didn’t feel like any of it was forced for the sake of “doing something different.” It all works in a way that feels natural. “Cold Threat” is pretty much the mid-point of the record. It’s another one of the more metal sounding tracks on the album. An even higher point for me was the vocals on this one. There’s a menacing hook towards the middle song that I always have to go back and play again. While all of these tracks thus far have maintained a sound reminiscent of early-mid era Swedish Death Metal and atmospheric, it’s these last three songs that are likely to kill off the strictly metal-based listeners. The title track is broken down into three separate parts; “Reflections,” “Metanola Journey,” and “There Are Other Worlds…”
“Reflections” has a spacey intro that builds into the opening riffs but still maintains the pattern established before. That’s not bad, but it makes the five minute instrumental that serves as a break between it and the legendary fourteen minute closer more of an introspective trip than the first half of the album did. So essentially what you have is a blistering first half that throws you headlong into the abyss, with the last half being a deeply atmospheric and at times even psychedelic set of riffs and instrumentals that are perfectly illustrated by Timo Ketola’s artwork. Seriously, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a cover painting compliment the music so well. The front cover that’s been floating around is definitely not all there is to it. The gatefold/digipak folds out to reveal a panoramic shot of a tunnel leading into a red sea. The inside panel is the other side of said gateway. It was like each part of the album was illustrated in a way as to coincide with a different aspect of the cover. This is Death Metal as art. Venenum knocked this one out of the park.