Venomous Concept – The Good Ship Lollipop

As far as supergroup side-projects go, Venomous Concept read like a who’s who of grindcore and death metal from the early 90s. Shane Embury (Napalm Death) handles bass; Kevin Sharp (Brutal Truth) provides vocals; and ex-Cancer sticksman, Carl Stokes, deputises on the drum stool. The likes of Buzz Osborne (Melvins), Danny Lilker (ex-Anthrax/ Brutal Truth/ Nuclear Assault) and Danny Herrera (Napalm Death) have passed through their ranks since forming in 2004. If you’re new to their music, you might be expecting an extreme metal Easter egg. But one listen to The Good Ship Lollipop will disabuse you of this notion. Venomous Concept are an industrial punk band with a myriad of influences across the hardcore and hard rock spectrum.

Perhaps the biggest surprise about this music is the cigarette-in-mouth posture of its creators. Listen to the punk-rock attitude and industrial beats of the opening title track. Is this not the type of industrial punk Al Jourgensen and Jello Biafra envisaged when they formed Lard at the tail end of the 1980s? Embury’s distorted bass feeds off the sleazy up-tempo drums and provides the perfect rumble for the guitars to approach the first verse with a cautious toggle effect. Here, Sharp projects his voice like a more animated Glenn Danzig expelling the blues from his register. It rocks, it riots, it reaches for the dancefloor with the alacrity of an agent provocateur.

You can thank Napalm Death and Anaal Nathrakh live musician, John Cooke, for the extravagant guitar work on this record. His punk rock syncopation and rapid pentatonic rotations in ‘Timeline’ and ‘Slackjaw’ could grace any of the fin de millennium Therapy? albums. You might even hear Guns ‘N’ Roses in his classic rock soloing on the former. Er… Did this band not form in 2004 to honour their shared love of Black Flag and Poison Idea?

Only track eight (‘So Sick’) would pass for a pure hardcore number, but that weakens nothing of the listening experience. If anything, the rock & roll swagger and grungy guitar tones of ‘Humble Crow’ and ‘Life’s Winter’ will take you back to the heyday of the alternative rock of Big Black and The Jesus Lizard. The energy levels are infectious; the greasy punk-rock delivery will leave you in the air guitar posture as if enjoying a Jane’s Addiction record.

Straightforward and predictable this is not. Yes, the formulas gravitate towards choruses as the focal point of the songs, but the way they reach them is a pleasure to analyse. ‘Clinical’ inserts a Mick Ronson/David Bowie guitar lick into the filthy hard rock assault; ‘Fractured’ takes a detour through the controversial goth era of Killing Joke’s Brighter Than a Thousand Suns album for its melancholy sustenance in the verse sections. You can hear the visceral bark of Jaz Coleman in some of Sharp’s higher vocal inflections. No wonder Buzz Osborne used to play in this band. His brand of sludgy punk rock that inspired Nirvana and Mudhoney is all over this album if you look beyond the influence of Ministry.

Not everything registers as a triumph. The age of the band members means the ignorant from generation Z (whatever the fuck that means) might mistake some of these songs as boomers indulging their wildest punk fantasies from their youth. ‘Flowers Bloom’ could pass for a dad rock number. The upbeat melodies and recycled ‘Teenage Kicks’ riff will do nothing to win them new fans, nor will ‘Everything is Endlessness’ persuade punks – past or present – to spin it more than once.

Venomous Concept started as a project among friends to celebrate the music of their youth. The fact that album number five sounds so energetic is a testament to their success as musicians and custodians of a glorious era. The Good Ship Lollipop will leave you with a gurn on your face and an imaginary Molotov cocktail in your hand.



Release Date: 24/02/2023

Record Label: Extrinsic Records

Standout tracks: The Good Ship Lollipop, Slack Jaw, Fractured

Suggested Further Listening: Lard – The Last Temptation of Reid (1990), Therapy? – Shameless (2001), Killing Joke – Absolute Descent (2010)