So the first question that comes to mind when I look at this absurd and kind of awesome cover art is: Is this a gigantic cobra… or a very smol man?
The second question, of course, is: Is the metal contained herein – and it’s undoubtedly some kind of retro metal here; this artwork proclaims that as loudly and proudly as if it were titled “Thrashback” – as strong as this six-pack-ripped, knife-wielding, cobra-slaying Mr. Clean must hope to be if he doesn’t want to end up as snake food?
And thankfully, for the most part, the answer is: Yes, it is. Is the music on Fatal Venin original? Oh, hell, no – that’s very much not the point; it’s a backwards glance to the long-ago. But does it hit hard enough to slay the beast? Sure.
Survival Instinct has released two full-lengths prior to this EP – one of which was released twice, under two different titles due to a copyright claim. I haven’t heard either version of that first one, but I have spun 2018’s I Am The Night (which, coincidentally, is out of order on streaming services, appearing to have been loaded alphabetically instead of numerically). Fatal Venin is the continuation of the trajectory laid out on that earlier record, raw and raucous black-tinted thrashing, and truthfully, it benefits a bit from the lessened running-time of the EP format vs. a full 40 minutes. Get in, thrash hard, get out, take a breather, repeat when ready.
Vocalist / guitarist Martin Paquet (also of Outre-Tombe) sticks mostly to a lower throaty growl, punctuated frequently with falsetto screams a la Schmier or vintage Araya. He and guitarist Gabriel “Gabrihell” Dufour rip through speed-soaked riffs and groovier ones with equal ease, riding the rollicking rhythm section of bassist William Verreault and drummer Joel Simard. (Both Simard and Dufour are making their Survival Instinct recording debut here.) With scant few exceptions (a breakdown here, an intro there), everything is fast or faster, three minutes blasts of adrenaline like “Poser Killer,” which is gleefully ridiculous, and the blistering “Slow Death,” which is death, but is definitely not slow.
These types of throwback tributes are always a bit tricky to rate qualitatively – when the entire objective is homage, the only real question to ask is: Does Fatal Venin capture the spirit and spark of those bygone days that inspired us all? Yes, that it does. Well-done thrash is always welcome in these ears, original or not, and Survival Instinct can certainly thrash.
Just watch out for giant cobras. Or little dudes with knives.