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Seriously. Marc Biedermann. What is this? I get it, “The Sane Asylum” was a long time ago, maybe metal isn’t your thing anymore. But what, then, possessed you to make this a Blind Illusion album? I get it, it’s your project, you’re the only member to have stayed for a significant period of time, and the band changed styles a few times. But goddammit, it changed from heavy metal to thrash metal. And it’s former members include people like David Godfrey of Heathen and Les Claypool and Larry LaLonde of Primus. So what would possess you to release a hippie rock jam album under this name?
Aside from money. That’s right. I’m accusing you of selling out. It’s incredibly rare that I do this. But the way I see it, even if Blind Illusion isn’t well known, a new release would cause a stir with a certain underground thrash fan base, whereas, who the hell would care about “hey, some ex-thrash metal guy made a hippie rock album”? No one. Cause no one gives a shit about hippie rock except hippies and ex-hippies. Plus it’s got the connection that if you’re a Primus fan, at some point you’ll probably stumble onto information about “The Sane Asylum.”
And while “The Sane Asylum” wasn’t always beautiful poetry, the lyrics on this album, holy shit. Someone already mentioned “I may be a vegetarian, but tonight I’m gonna eat meat.” But Jesus, “Lopsy loodle like a jellyfish noodle, driven from a Cajun fang.” What the hell does that even mean?!
So is there any good in this album? Well, “Merger” has a reasonably dark atmosphere for this sort of progressive hippie rock, but unfortunately this ship cannot sail on atmosphere alone. Marc’s voice hasn’t changed much, and I can’t deny he’s a talented guitarist. It’s just a shame he took this project in this direction. “Mahakala” at least adds some speed and some OK riffs. Definitely a highlight. Before slipping back into mediocrity of “Heaven’s Devils.” But then comes “Demon Master,” and I won’t lie, this is actually a pretty sick song, even if the vocals sound mixed all wrong and the lyrics suck. It starts off slower and very atmosphereic, and builds up to pretty good hippie rock song. I guess at this point this will be the best thing Blind Illusion does to an ‘epic’ song. I guess maybe besides Death noise? Anyway, I just really like this one. “Midnight in China” isn’t awful, but not great either. But it’s hard to be picky when the release altogether is pretty poor.
“Merger,” “Heaven’s Devils,” “Gargantuan,” and “Cajun Fang” are all unnecessary. “Storm Cloud” is sort of an anomaly to me. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I hate it. I feel the same way about some Pink Floyd songs. If Pink Floyd gets me in the right mood, I love it, but if a Pink Floyd song gets me at the wrong time, it’s getting turned off. This one does sound Pink Floyd-ian at some points and at others just like straight up hard rock. I’m indecisive. But I could probably live without it.
There was really no point in releasing this as a Blind Illusion album. It certainly doesn’t feel like one, fans of metal probably won’t relate much, and you could probably find a psychedelic hippie audience much easier without a band name that has a history involving songs like “Blood Shower.” It’s not metal, it’s certainly not thrash, and even in the realm of psychedelic rock, it’s not special. If you feel the need to listen to anything off this album, go for “Mahakala” or “Demon Master.” Then stop checking them out, grow a pair and listen to The goddamn “Sane Asylum.” “Or “Trilogy of Terror.” Or that demo with “Arc the Iron” and “Blind Sun.” It’s such a shame cause until this album even this band’s demos were solid.
The way I see it, this album was about 44 minutes, and I was ok with 12 of those minutes. So that’s 27%, plus a little bonus for some songs I don’t hate. I’ll give it a 30% because I feel giving today.
...And I guess “I am the eye in the eye of the storm!” is kind of a cool line.
Maybe Blind Illusion haven’t made history as the Big Four or Testament or Overkill, but, still, their Sane Asylum is an undisputed Bay Area classic, a true embodiment of technicality, harmony and, what’s more important, THRASH. Beautiful prog thrash, that kept the listener in a pure eargasm for 40 minutes.
I remember reading the news that they are going to reform and, hell, I was happy. At that time, Forbidden and Heathen reunited, there were same rumours about Vio-lence. What more can a thrash fan desire?
But came the day, when I saw this album leaked. Of course, I’ve rushed on to download it, and expected a demonstration of thrash, like in the 80’s, a proof that this subgenre of metal isn’t dead yet, that the veterans are still alive.
Sure, 22 years is a lifetime for some people. A lot of things and ideas change, during all this period, but did anyone expect such a turn in their direction? After listening to it for the first time, I swear I thought it was a fake. I’ve googled the album (to me, google=Metal-Archives). That was a hell of a surprise to see the same tracklist and cover art.
Change of ideas is not always a bad thing. But if I am Blind Illusion and I know what I am famous for, what’s the point of reuniting and releasing something, that is pure blasphemy for a thrash fan? Wasn’t it easier to have a different name for my band? Moreover, there is only a single member left of those, who made history.
So, what is this album? It’s nowhere near progressive thrash, it can hardly be called a metal album. It will make St. Anger sound metal, compared to Master of Puppets. Clear and good production, everything is heard, instruments don’t get in the way of each other. But what sense? Biedermann’s voice sounds like Staind, here and there one can hear attempts of prog, but not more. So-called “riffs” are present, as the solos, but hey, Slipknot also have “riffs” and “solos”. Even the double bass can be heard here, but, again, Slipknot also have double bass drums.
Besides the failed prog attempts, sometimes the album slows down and it sounds like something between Crowbar/Eyehategod and Black Sabbath. Sometimes it’s a “let’s-all-be-happy” stuff, that is done by ZZ Top.
Lyrics? They aren’t on the archives and for me, being a non-native English speaker and not speaking it as a native speaker, it’s quite difficult to figure them out, but still:
[i]The lion you’re always flying
Is almost covered in heat
And even thought I’m a vegetarian
Tonight I’m gonna eat meat[/i] or something like that
Are you fucking serious about it?
Overall, what can be said about this piece?
As a metal album, it fails hardly. As for meeting the expectations of the fans, it fails miserably and endlessly hard. If its idea was to create “something in the vein of prog meets Crowbar/Eyehategod+Sabbath meets ZZ Top”, it still fails, because we’ve heard it all before.
It would sound hard as hell for MTV, fans of Nickelback will have a hard time understaning the “aesthethic” and “heaviness” of a “metal” album, like Demon Master. Those who expect thrash, avoid it, not even bother downloading.
Let's be blunt: if you've been around thrash metal, or underground metal in general, you hear the words Blind Illusion and instantly think of Les Claypool and Larry Lalonde, two former members of this band that went on to Primus, a bigger and better (to some) thing. It's just the way we're all wired, but it doesn't take away the fact that Blind Illusion was (and to an extent, still is) host to another major talent, singer/guitarist Marc Biedermann, the core of the group that has held the idea together since the late 70s. Yeah, this band has been around for over 30 years by this point, with dozens of members passing through the ranks, including many cross-pollinated from other California thrash acts.
The music itself had already gone through a myriad of changes, but the peak of the sound was of course the 1988 debut album The Sane Asylum on Combat Records, which was a worthy slice of progressive thrash that sounded little like anything else in its day. Not only for the obvious presence of its Possessed and Primus luminaries, but for the subtle note selections and the quirky delivery which was uncommon among the Bay Area bands exploding in the 80s. There could really be no question that any further Blind Illusion output would be a change in style, as it seemed that the axis about which the idea spun was one of an open, adventurous mind. Alas, the band's sophomore The Medicine Show never came to full fruition, and the project was shelved for a decades before Biedermann had the itch to kick it up again a few years back. In 2010, a new album, Demon Master, has finally come to be.
Each and every fan of The Sane Asylum probably suffered no delusions that Marc Biedermann was going to put out the same album as he had in the 80s. However, what manifests through Demon Master is such a long shot that I was stunned when finally hearing it. Gone is the metal in general, gone are the aggressive vocals and guitars, and gone are the hopes of the unswerving fan base. This is not really Blind Illusion as we knew them, and as many have no doubt already stated, a name change might have been the proper course when the style has shifted to such a degree. Demon Master is essentially a stoner, psychedelic rock jam record with loosely structured writing, a new rhythm section, and a wide range of influences that include funk, blues, country, and progressive rock from the 70s.
Indeed, this is a strange turn of events, but all that we can do is judge Demon Master for what it is, an oddity that is unfortunately lacking in direction for the 43 minutes it weaves through its wailing, emotional vocal outbursts, brimming bass work, organic, jamming drums and hapless funky undertones. One need only listen to "Cajun Fang" and the spaced out, minimalism of "Storm Cloud" to feel out the polar identity crisis of the album: the former a bristling funk rock jam, the latter something more subdued and psychedelic going beyond 9 minutes. Then you've got the slow, burning dirt rock blues of "Merger" which works up a few Sabbath styled heavier riffs before its funky onslaught at 1:30 (the track reminds me of what might happen if Monster Magnet were doing an improv jam and recording it). "Midnight China" and "Gargantuan" both explore the jamming even further, the latter recalling a little Hendrix or Cream. At nearly 10 minutes, "Precurser/Demon Master" is probably the album's most dense, intense piece, morphing through creepy stoner rock passages ala late Sleep with a little psychotropic chugging to herald the final, burning lead.
Demon Master is presented very much in the buff, more like a live studio improv than a bigger budget album, and this actually does not do a disservice to the material as far as creating an atmosphere. I'm not sure the band would ever desire to play these songs the same way twice, but if so, they'll sound nearly identical in a live setting. Biedermann is a bluesy beast on the guitar still to this day, and his rhythm section is tight enough to match him, so there's no dearth of talent in the rank. The material is schizoid, jamming and often frenetic, but never really goes that far that it becomes inaccessible.
The real issues with this album are that 1) most fans are simply not going to accept this direction; and 2) regardless of the distinct difference in style, the music is nothing more than a passing fancy of free form ideas, never really seeding themselves in your brain before moving along to the next gallant notion. If I was tripping my scrotum off at a Burning Man festival evening revelry, after having my brain scarred by the rays of an unforgiving desert sun, this could make a passable soundtrack to the ensuing dementia. But only as a background buzz. There is simply nothing that interesting to return for. It goes nowhere, especially not into the memory banks, with the possible exception of several moments in the title track. As for the first point above, this is Marc Biedermann's baby and he can do whatever the hell he wants with it. If Blind Illusion is to be a stoner funk band today, a dub step band tomorrow, and a gospel band next Friday, that is his to determine. This time, though, the reward did not outweigh the risk. In fact, the risk rolled the reward up like a ball of tinfoil and deposited in the nearest empty oil drum fire.