Formed in 2022 by James “Munky” Shaffer and Chris Hunt, Venera’s self-titled debut album is perhaps best described as sounding like a soundtrack to a fantastical sci-fi/horror movie. This should come as no surprise given the pair’s pedigree, with Hunt an established composer and filmmaker, and Shaffer having pursued his own dark musical pathways in KoRn. Across the album’s nine tracks, the listener is plunged into an immersive and occasionally cacophonous milieu of swirling, wispy, melancholic ambience, with unpredictable and often indecipherable rhythms that on tracks like “Disintegration” and “Erosion” are reminiscent of mid ‘90s IDM, both of which feature Mars Volta drummer Deantoni Parks. Those expecting to hear the de-tuned groan and growl of Shaffer’s guitar will probably be dismayed to hear him opting for a more textural approach, creating resonant and distorted atmospheres and sparse but discernible melodies that, although dissonant, don’t so much squeal as they do shimmer like the intrusive alien zone in Annihilation. Chord and bass progressions do appear rather sparsely amid long passages of cloudy and cavernous sound, often coalescing after periods of tense buildup, but the presence of some guest vocalists necessitate a more structured approach for some tracks – VOWWS’ voice and piano accompaniment on “Hologram” allows for a somewhat accessible, almost grip-hop vibrance to take hold, while Alain Johannes’ emotive and gravelly tone yields some lovely harmonies in “Triangle,” resulting in a powerful chorus. HEALTH’s Jacob Duzsik appears on “Ochre,” insinuating himself though the ominous and shrill drones, making for one of the record’s most arresting tracks. The word cinematic is often used to excess, and this writer admits to being guilty of this, but it is certainly appropriate, and it is refreshing to hear these musicians utilizing their skills in such a context. Though not an oppressive album, Venera is certainly disquieting and perhaps not the most inviting aural experience, but there is a terrible beauty to be found in the maelstrom if your ears and your mind are up to the task.