Vocalist Tomas Lindberg was practically everywhere in 2002. Notorious for his dry-lunged rasp and dark, literary lyrics while fronting Swedish godfathers At the Gates, Lindberg lent his vocals to no less than three releases during the first half of that year: Lock Up's grindcore exercise Hate Breeds Suffering, the Crown's speed-thrashing Crowned in Terror, and the most compelling and experimental of the bunch, A Venom Well Designed, the Great Deceiver's debut full-length. Indeed, A Venom Well Designed boasts an unexpected departure from its predecessor EP, Jet Black Art, which seemed rooted in crust and hardcore; here, the outfit blends German-flavored thrash with heavy, detuned grooves and shimmering, melodic guitar work that brings to mind My Bloody Valentine and the Cure more than any typical metal influences. Cuts "The Living End" and "Arsenic Dreams" build upon mid-tempo grooves and floating, psychedelic passages -- with Lindberg alternating between his harsh vocal-cord abuse and a relatively passive spoken voice -- while "Destroy -- Adore" and "After the Flood" mix thudding Korn-style aggression and rhythms with breakneck, double-time thrash. While artistic ambition runs high throughout A Venom Well Designed -- and the album does thankfully stands out among the legion of melodic Swedish death metal and "necro" black metal acts clogging arteries in the 2002 underground metal scene -- the band often utilizes similar arrangements and mood dynamics throughout the 11 songs offered here, to the point where you want guitarists Kristian Wahlin and Johan Osterberg to stop leaning so heavily on the effects pedals. And while the heavy-wristed-verse, bottom-drops-out-of-the-melodic-chorus songwriting approach works well on early tracks "Poisoned Chalice" and "Enter the Martyrs," it does get tiresome by album's end. However, it's Lindberg's typically professional performance that keeps the listener riveted; his vocal style is truly unique amongst death metal Cookie Monster microphone-swallowers and phlegmy black metal screechers, with Lindberg managing to squeeze a deranged, tightly wound sense of pain and passion into his delivery that's captivating no matter what type of noise his backing band is generating. Despite its shortcomings, A Venom Well Designed stands tall on its own artistic merit, with the Great Deceiver sounding like a confident outfit who generates their own creative credibility without necessarily relying on Lindberg's daunting, much-admired talent to keep it afloat.
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AllMusic Review by John Serba