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Chalice full of riffs - 80%

JetMeestard, August 1st, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Independent

Israel's Venomous Skeleton, following their 2016 demo Arcane Chants of Death have released their debut full-length, Drowining In Circles, an album that through its songwriting and playing manages to evoke an atmosphere of clandestine rituals held in abandoned sepulchres with the intent of contacting beings far beyond our world.

Following a short introductory track that gives us a small taste of what's to come we're thrown into the first proper track of the album, "Divine Realm of Existence", a vicious track that showcases a lot of the band's strengths, such as Nil Doliner's low raspy growl, which while not too deep and unintelligible maintains a commanding presence throughout the album's runtime, with the occasional help of backing vocals at times, which help reinforce the ritualistic atmosphere the album is going for.

The midsection of the album houses two of the best tracks, those being "Alevas San Tatianas Aleli" and "Taste the Celestial Blood",with the former being a song that blasts and stomps all over the listener thanks to expert changes in pace and rhythm. "Taste the Celestial Blood" on the other hand is a faster song that feels a bit like a more typical death metal song, with fast tremolo picking and some nice lead work, as well as a fantastic section that starts around the 2:28 mark with an absolutely monstrous mid paced riff that's worth rewinding the song so that one can hear it again.

The album's final two tracks, "Hallucinogenic Sulphuric Mantra" and the title track are two tracks that are nearly polar opposites in execution. The former of the two is an all-out attack on the listener, giving them little room to breathe, barring a small drum roll around the halfway point, while the latter is much slower as well as being the longest track on the album, clocking in at almost 7 minutes, and is focused primarily on creating an oppressive atmosphere through slow riffs that border on death/doom territory. Thankfully none of the riffs are lacking, nor do they overstay their welcome, despite how long the song itself is, thanks to the band knowing when to move from one section to the next, thus avoiding repetition.

Special mention has to go out to Davidov, who simply dominates the drum kit from start to finish, through the execution of some great fills and a lot of cymbal changes (especially noticeable in "Taste the Celestial Blood"), which help make the album's admittedly simple riffs much more exciting and give them a new coat of paint.

The production though is for me the album's one weakness, because while the instruments are well mixed for the most part (especially the drums), with the guitars, synths and vocals having room in the mix, the bass has been neglected to an extent, especially in the faster moments that occur throughout the album, which is a shame because it sounds great whenever it has some room to breathe ("Curse of the Moon", the title track). The way the bass was handled is also rather confusing because on the 2016 demo it had a much larger presence,which helped the atmosphere greatly, making it far more suffocating than anything found here.

All in all, Drowning in Circles is a great debut, with a lot of great ideas that were realised quite nicely, but are sadly marred by some questionable production choices, which we can only hope the band will improve on if we ever get a sophomore release in the future.

Highlights: Divine Realm of Existence, Alevas San Tatianas Aleli, Taste the Celestial Blood, Drowning in Circles