The Lazarus Pit: The Great Deceiver’s ‘A Venom Well Designed’

Welcome back to The Lazarus Pit, a look back at should-be classic records that don’t get nearly enough love. Today, we’re going to remember The Great Deceiver‘s 2002 debut album, the excellent A Venom Well Designed.

Seriously, for the love of god, why are we not talking about this band more? Or, ever? The Great Deceiver is one of the most underrated bands in extreme music, period. This album is like noise rock meets post-punk meets Swedish death metal. It’s got slight industrial urban clang but manages to not get bogged down in any genre cliches or trappings, still has tons of energy, and is actually fun to listen to.

The mind-blowing thing is, you’ve probably forgotten about this band, led by At the Gates screamer Tomas Lindberg, because I know I tend to forget about them for extended periods of time. Then it all comes back and I think, “I will never forget about this band for an extended period of time again!” Then I see some new d-beat/grind/crust album cover and I’m just lost for another three years. So, before that happens, let’s dive into this great album.

I absolutely love the clatter of opening track “Pierced,” which combines industrial jack-hammering with a shoegazey guitar approach (really, much of the album can be summed up by that description). I also love the incredible, Godflesh-on-the-dance floor vibe of album highlight “The Living End.”

It’s a bit dodgy at times, sure: “Enter the Martyrs” is “Roots Bloody Roots” but just a bit better, which still ain’t that good, and a bit too cloying. But “Arsenic Dreams” redeems, the song’s relentless forward march hypnotic and destructive, the aforementioned elements of both mechanized industrial momentum and dreamy, effects-laden guitar work combining with Lindberg’s screams making for a truly unique, and very moving, listening experience, something, really, without much reference point in extreme music. And, seriously, how often can you actually say that? That song’s build and climax shows songwriting smarts as well.

“Strychnine” is a late-album gem, the combination of great songwriting, catchy vocal hooks, and, again, this sort of mechanized yet ethereal clanging of the instruments creating a sound that is totally engaging and very rich and rewarding. The album closer, “Destroy/Adore,” brings a bit of speed and aggression to things, but this band works best when they operate in mid-tempo, which they do for much of A Venom Well Designed.

I’m not going to say it’s better than all of At the Gates’ albums, but, man, it’s better than some of At the Gates’ albums, and A Venom Well Designed delivers more shades and hues than any album by Lindberg’s day job.

Not that we’re here to compare this band to At the Gates, because that’s, really, totally, not the point. The point is that The Great Deceiver were their own beast, a band (barely) remembered as being Tompa’s “other band,” when they were crafting music but a band that deserved so much more than that, as this album proves. May it never be forgotten.