Stench: Venture

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Stench: Venture
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Stench: Venture
Black Metal, Death Metal
Agonia Records
September 26th, 2014
Release length: 39:24

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In the roughly seven years Stench has existed, the three-piece from Sweden hasn’t issued much in the line of new material. 2009 saw the release of the Reborn in Morbidity EP, followed by their debut full-length In Putrescence about a year later through Agonia Records. 2014 saw a self-titled seven-inch EP surface, a precursor to the long awaited follow-up album Venture. With the same line-up consisting of drummer Johannes Andersson (Sars), guitarist Jonathan Hulten (Tribulation), and Mikael Pettersson on vocals on the same label, is it safe to assume Venture will be the same given the cast has not been altered, or is this a major disappointment overall?

While the band sticks with the somewhat rawer brand of sound, Venture actually seems a bit thin, even a little simpler and a bit cliché. “Archways” has a hint of Black Metal at work that is complimented by the sharpened buzz of the guitars, but the bass guitar provides little backbone to the mix, nor do the drums that seem to stick to the same mid-tempo pattern that only alters to change what part of the kit is keeping that unimpressive beat, or make the bass kicks sound a bit more bouncy. On top of that, the whole song sounds a bit run down. The only energy felt through the whole performance is in the vocals that mix some rougher screams with solid growls, as well as the explosion effect just past the two-and-a-half minute mark. If the goal was to create some kind of ritualistic environment, it fails miserably with how weak and uninspiring it all sounds.

“Road” finds those robotic simpler drums at work once more, though thankfully they don’t stick with the same pattern the whole way. There’s a good number of times there’s additional speed to them to compliment the faster guitars that also introduce a little more technicality to the mix to feel as energized as the vocals. Sadly, such as around the three minute mark, things do drop to slower material that relies on the leads chords. These higher pitched hooks don’t quite set up as grim a tone as you would hope, but it does have a bit of a gothic Cradle of Filth aura to them that does still manage to add something a little extra, unlike the sudden stereotypical Napalm Death-esque Grindcore riffs and blasting. Thankfully there’s a surprising amount of variety throughout, often having a blackened touch with eerie melodies from time to time, slower areas that can be truly burdening, not to mention a fair amount of intense sections that feel genuinely chaotic.

“The Vast” does have its share of simpler material as well, though it lies more in the mildly catchy Black Metal groove that shows up in the riffs, especially at the very start. The drumming here has a great deal more complexity all around that often heads into faster blast beat territory, though it and the riffs jump from an abrasive aggression to a lighter atmosphere that has some shades of the Gwar classic “Sick of You.” That is until that introductory passage returns with more upbeat material that is suddenly met with slower, crushing riffs and church bells that end up having no real effect after feeling the urge to jump up, jump up, and get down.

But of all the songs, it’s the just over nine minute “Celebration” that stands out the most. While much of Venture seems to head into minimalistic Death Metal territory, this track ends up just a slab of frostbitten early second wave Black Metal the way it was meant to sound. The rawer traits that held back “Archways” end up working with the slower groove. The bass guitar also ends up a little more dominant, filling the gaps and making the thin riffs sound a lot richer. The vocals are a bit restrained too, but perfectly suit the slower, much colder nature of the track, as do the drums that don’t stick to one consistent path or rely ly on blast beats. While as original as some of the Grindcore elements on “Road,” this one is done incredibly well to allow every part of the band to stand out and create an engrossing Black Metal performance that goes from mythical prowess to abrasive glory, all of which impossible to not bang your head along to obediently as it slowly merges into “Way,” a creepy instrumental piece that eventually becomes more like an extended guitar solo that feels like a natural expansion of the previous track.

Stench is one of those Death Metal bands that have the potential to really stand out in the Metal underground. Venture, however, doesn’t exactly prove that statement to be all too true. The first half has its fair share of blackened foundations sprawled across standard or minimalist Death Metal performances, the latter of which starting things off in the most painfully robotic and boring manner possible. But then you hit “Celebration” you will wonder why you ever doubted the band. With the amount of variety on display, Venture seems to show the band heading in more of a Progressive realm, something the title track only seems to cement. But, sadly, that still doesn’t make this that great an album. The audio quality is often too thin, making some songs sound exhausted and even generic, while others seem to try to work in random ideas that either work or fall flat miles before reaching where they need to be to work. Venture is an aptly titled album, as this second studio full-length from Stench definitely is a journey through confusing choices and bad decisions with only two tracks having any real staying power, a sad departure from the powerhouse that was the band’s previous album.


01. Archways – 3:58
02. The Vast – 3:51
03. Road – 5:16
04. Small Death – 6:27
05. Celebration – 8:58
06. Way – 3:59
07. Venture – 6:20
Initial Pressing Score: 4/10

Stench
Stench

Digital review copy of this release provided by Agonia Records via Catharsis PR.