Venom Prison, a death metal five-piece from Wales, UK, have had a whirlwind couple of years. After forming less than three years earlier, in 2017 the band released their debut full-length album, Animus and were swiftly voted Best New Band by Metal Hammer magazine. They also played a blistering set at the huge Download Festival and are currently touring as openers for Trivium on their The Sin And The Sentence tour, alongside Code Orange and Power Trip.
Venom Prison is fronted by formidable vocalist Larissa Stupar, whose jagged, earthy roar is a commanding presence in the overall sound of the band and it’s certainly refreshing to see her making a mark in a scene that’s been male-dominated for way too long. Growing up in Russia, Stupar moved to Germany at age ten with her family where she went on to protest local neo-Nazis and marching for animal rights before meeting Venom Prison guitarist Ash Gray and moving to his hometown of Cardiff and forming the band. Her desire to protest injustice very much remains in the lyrics to Venom Prison’s songs. For proof, you just need to listen to “Perpetrator Emasculation,” a 93-second blast of metallic fury as quick and deadly as a classic hardcore tune, on which she roars “You rape, beat and degrade. The time to pay has come. No escape, no escape!”
On May 26th, Venom Prison will play Montreal for the first time as part of the Devastation On The Nation tour that also includes Aborted, Psycroptic, INGESTED and DISENTOMB. We caught up with Larissa, the self-described vegan straight-edge anarchist, on the tour bus before their Manchester show with Trivium to find out how she’s feeling ahead of their Canadian debut.
What was the mission statement for Venom Prison when you first started the band?
Because we played in hardcore bands before, we just wanted to be more metallic. Ash and I left our old bands and we wanted to start a new band so we could play shows again, but we never planned on being busy with it. And then it just happened.
Did you become disillusioned with the hardcore scene or did your tastes change?
My tastes changed a little bit. I always listened to metal but I grew up in hardcore and I’d been in hardcore bands for so long and I felt like I couldn’t live up to my potential there so I wanted to start a metal band. We all love metal and we all just wanted to do something that we love.
Was this just friends getting together and playing at that point?
To begin with, it was just Ash and me. We lived together in Germany at the time and we recorded a demo in the living room and in the practice rooms, and then we moved to Wales. I knew Ben & Jeff cos we toured with them before. We said “do you wanna do this?” and they said yes, and that was how it all started.
What kind of music were you listening to back then that maybe inspired Venom Prison?
It was probably Obituary a little bit, Dying Fetus definitely, Death… There weren’t many new bands. We always loved those classic bands and when we were writing the album I think we were more inspired by Carcass cos they are a band that we all love to bits.
Things have happened pretty fast for the band. Can you remember a moment where you realised that this could be something bigger than you expected?
I think after we released the album and were offered tours and the press was interested in us. Metal Hammer wrote about us a lot, and Kerrang!, and that was weird cos it hadn’t happened to us before. People were becoming aware of us and bands like Black Dahlia Murder were posting and tweeting about us, and we were just like “Ok, this is strange”, and then we were offered to play Download and that was cool as fuck! Download was one of my favourite shows we’ve played so far. I just know it was hazy, our lights were really crazy and I loved it. There were lots of people which I never expected cos we were clashing with Prophets Of Rage.
As a woman, do you feel your position in the band has helped the band reach a larger audience faster or do you wish the fact that you’re female would be a non-story?
I hope it’s not because I’m a woman but I do think that it’s still quite a novelty. Maybe people catch on to it a bit more than when it’s a guy singing. But I have so many people, even on this tour, who come up to me and say “I didn’t know women could do this” and I’m just “Hell, why not?!”
Unfortunately, it is still unusual to see women playing extreme music, but on this tour, you also have Code Orange, with Reba on guitar. Do you think that people like you are inspiring girls and making them realise that they do can something similar and not have to do it any differently than the guys?
Yeah, and I think that’s really cool. And I remember when I was first interested in being in a band and I didn’t really have any female inspiration. I was just inspired by any other dude in a metal band. I didn’t see that there was a difference but there kinda is, simply because there still aren’t that many women, but there are more and more women coming, playing guitar, drums or whatever and I do think it’s inspirational for other girls who get to see that it’s not just for the boys.
So this is your first North American tour so definitely your first Montreal show. Are there any Montreal bands that you’re a fan of?
I’m really bad with knowing where bands are from. When I was little I thought all bands were from America but as I grew up I realised they were actually from the UK or somewhere. I do love Cryptopsy. Our artwork was kinda inspired by theirs as well. Not what is pictured on the artwork but just like the style. They have the head on a plate and we have this person who doesn’t look like its bleeding but it is.
What are you guys listening to whilst your on tour? I assume you don’t listen to death metal all the time.
We haven’t been listening to music all together that much but, on this tour we’ve been listening to a lot of country music cos Power Trip are from Texas and they’re big country music fans. When I’m in my bunk I don’t listen to heavy music cos I’m just surrounded by it all the time and I just wanna chill. I’ve been listening a lot to Banks who I would describe as like a female version of The Weeknd. I listen to a lot of playlists that I find cos I’ll put music on and then just fall asleep right away. US Girls I’ve been listening to. Their new album is really cool. That’s a band that Riley from Power Trip showed me and I was really into it. The vocals remind me a lot of early Madonna.
Are there any new bands you’re excited about that you think our readers should check out?
Higher Power from the UK are really cool. They’re like a groovy hardcore band. I would say they’re probably inspired by bands like Leeway. I really like Corrupt Moral Altar. That’s John from Napalm Death, he plays guitar and they are really cool. They have a new album that just came out as well. I wasn’t that big a fan of Code Orange before but just seeing them live on this tour is really cool so I’m enjoying them at the moment. It’s great to see so much movement on stage, you don’t really know where to look and it’s just exciting. I haven’t been listening to that many new bands at the moment but that’s something I would like to change cos I’m tired of listening to the same music all the time.
So what lies ahead for Venom Prison after this American tour?
After this tour, we’re gonna be recording our new album. End of July. And then we’re going to be doing a headline tour at the end of the year.
Can people expect much difference with the new material, compared to Animus?
Yeah, it’s definitely more technical. It’s faster and it’s heavier. Lyrically I feel it’s more brutal and it’s more intelligent at the same time.
Sounds good to us! And with that we wrap up our chat and start looking forward to seeing Venom Prison at L’Astral on May 26th. GET TICKETS HERE.
Thanks to Larissa for taking the time to chat. The future of death metal is in good hands.
Interview and Larissa photo – Steve Gerrard
Band photo – Jake Owens