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One could accuse the crop of younger thrash metal acts of the past 10 years or so of lacking any originality or ingenuity, but one would be thus relegated to that growing group of people known as wrong. Having gathered to itself a sizable collection of new bands from across the globe, the thrash revival has been a force to contend with since about the mid 2000s, and while it had an ardent adherent in Belgium's Sanity's Rage going back to about that time, it wasn't until 2012 that their neck-snapping potential was realize with their debut LP You Are What You Swallow. With the title comes all the obvious trappings of the more serious side of the thrash metal equation of socio-politically oriented lyrics, from issues of war and peace to broader philosophical sentiments regarding daily life, all told through a rigorously agitated and raging sound that manages to be modern, yet also an obvious nod to the glory days of the past.
While the stylistic influences present on here are fairly eclectic, the overall presentation definitely points towards a post-1990s character, featuring a production that is time appropriate for the band's time of formation in the early 2000s and also their fairly close proximity to the birthplace of Teutonic thrash metal. The powerful punch of the guitars, the thunderous glory of the drums, the crisp yet largely supportive character of the bass, and the present day Schmier meets early day Petrozza shout and snarl vocals all point to something along the lines of the 2001 Destruction classic The Anticrhist, with a slightly more technical edge to it that's not too far off from the recent outings by Testament and Exodus. It's a formula that allows for maximum aggression, but also a bit more of a virtuoso edge that's in keeping with the noodling character of a number of early 90s Bay Area albums, particularly insofar as the guitar soloing is concerned, which has a healthy dose of precision and methodical charm in spite of largely being relegated to short and chaotic bursts.
In contrast to a number of older school sounding bands, Sanity's Rage doesn't shy away from tapping into a number of late 80s through early 90s quirks, making for a varied and complex listening experience, though they still maintain an affinity for tradition when push comes to shove. The better examples of this multifaceted songwriting approach can be found in longer songs such as "The Wheels Keep Grinding" and "Aberration Mandatory" where extended instrumental sections with a mid-tempo drive include some sampled sounds of politically charged speeches and civil unrest, the former employing a subdued clean section that's fairly reminiscent of something that Megadeth dabbled in extensively on Countdown To Extinction. Even the short intro song "The Madness Continues" features a creepy clean guitar passage that could have passed for any number of intros off Testament's The New Order. Nevertheless, the true meat and potatoes of this album's power is found in shorter, more speed infused numbers such as "Kisses With Fangs" and "Taste Of Decay" where the band's Bay Area meets Teutonic duality is at its most intense and inviting.
Contrary to what a number of 90s groove metal bands might demonstrate, having a modern sound does not necessarily involve dumbing down a working formula, and Sanity's Rage stand as something of a representative of the opposite side of modern thrash metal, perhaps even more so than the recent works of Destruction and Sodom. You Are What You Swallow perfectly captures the growing interest in technical and expansive songwriting that became prominent in thrash metal in the early 90s while giving it a nice injection of speed and aggression that was somewhat falling by the wayside come 1991. It is definitely geared towards those who love what's been coming out of the older guard in Germany, but it would also definitely have a healthy appeal to the newer offerings out of Heathen, Exodus, Testament, and the mishmash of young and old that is Zetro's recent brainchild Hatriot. Fire up the metal grinder and prepare to see some massive sparks fly.
Originally submitted to (The Metal Observer) on December 11, 2014.
The debut full-length from Belgium thrashers Sanity’s Rage, “You Are What You Swallow,” comes across like a genuinely and wholly enjoyable take on the Bay Area thrash scene even if the lack of originality does hurt them somewhat.
Yet another strong band in the current craze of retro thrash metal, this is a band which generates a lot of good marks in this particular style. One of the more important methods displayed in that typical Bay Area-sounding crunch that employs slight elements from speed metal when it develops into tight chugs but far more often employs a distinct and incredibly enjoyment riff-pattern that evokes energy and thrashing aggression quite well. It sounds incredibly close to that Bay Area attack in many places, but there’s thankfully a clear-cut difference in the way it introduces some highly melodic lead-work along the solos and main rhythms as the memorable and finely tuned melodies serve several fine purposes here. Not only do that allow for a fine sense of dynamics due to including melody amid the intense thrash energies, but there’s a strong feeling the way they’re weaved throughout this that makes them sound even more harmonious due to the constant manner they’re a part of the bands’ sound. When it goes through the thrashing energies, there’s a rather ingenious blend of technicality present as well that helps to bring out those melodies far more than just the typical thrashing patterns, so the music does whip through some rather impressive moments throughout which is just all the more that it takes for this to generate that same excitement of the old-school guard. Pounding away beneath the rip-roaring thrash, the drums tend to balance out the music quite nicely with a nice set of simple patterns that keep the pace flowing quite well by offering up energetic paces and tempos with the occasional double-bass blast to accent the more furious rhythms and further the energy quite well, even going as far as helping the melody quite well by easing off the throttle and accenting the softer flow quite well. While not the central point at all, the thumping bass-lines here give off the rousing spirit and energy associated with the style for a rather generous helping of thrash that plays well with the different styles and structures at play in this one.
While this is pretty evenly split for the two halves of the record, on the whole there is a small, distinct change that sets itself up within. The biggest part of this is the fact that the first half to this one tends to focus a lot more on generating a more technical bent to the riffing than would otherwise be the case as the majority of these tracks do wind up being buoyed by more complex and complicated rhythms than would be found in the riffs and patterns on the second half. Even with these being somewhat close in spirit and flow and never once feels like the material from a wholly different band on display, the fact that there’s more technically-complex riffing in these tracks tends to make them feel a lot more energy and rousing focus by incorporating the technicality into the tight crunch from the old-school patterns and thereby giving this a central focus. As hard as it tries to get these faster tracks going, the second half tracks are just a tad short when put up against the cream of the first half tracks and there’s no real honest answer for that. Whether it’s due to the extended song lengths on the first half or just a lessening of the technical riff-works in favor of more streamlined, simplified patterns but the more melodic offerings do come forth in the second part to this. It’s not without its blazing, brutal tracks either, for it puts out one of the better ones on the album but it’s still the fact that this one contains more melodic leanings is something to take into account. Beyond this one strange factor, the one main thing to take away from the album is its’ adamant and wholesale influence taken from the old-school Bay Area scene that comes through on here. The production is unmistakable from that scene with a guitar-heavy crunch that propels through the songs, dynamic drumming and a rumbling bass-tone that never really sticks out and simply accompanies the tracks nicely while it’s all wrapped with a voice that throws melodic tones far more often that acidic lines, furthering the melody nicely enough. Even the structures are based off that particular genre, ripe with the instrumental intro kicking into the full-throttle thrashers to open the album which contain all sorts of full-speed efforts while maintaining the sense of melody and epic arrangements that those types of bands readily and often-times employed to grand effect. While some might see this as a seeming rip from that hallowed ground of music, to be so emphatic in their borrowing from those pages in music history could be grounds for an automatic dismissal of this band for that fact of lacking any originality in their style and approach in the first place and might seem outrageous to assume any other action towards the band, that is a severe step to take with the band being so enjoyable in this presentation that it overcomes the obvious borrowing and ripping off from those bands. The technicality makes it enjoyable, the melodies make it listenable and the energy is infectious, so it does win out in the end even though there’s still the unmistakable fact of not really doing anything new or different and that cannot be discounted or overlooked but merely and simply drags this down slightly from where it should’ve been.
For a debut album, there aren’t a lot of bad tracks here in the first half. After instrumental intro ‘The Madness Continues’ goes through with its lilting melodic leads and strong electrical crunch to set the mood perfectly, things pick up considerably on the title track, where the band unleashes strong, far more energetic thrash rhythms in dynamic patterns through incredibly energetic paces with absolutely crushing patterns before a whirlwind series of riffs and soloing in the finale, generating a lot of good points throughout. The utterly crushing ‘Aberration Mandatory’ continues this brutality with some utterly energetic patterns and a fine mid-tempo pace that brings in dexterous double-bass patterns and melodic leads amid the tight crunch, leading to back-to-back highlights. ‘Product of Calamity’ brings in some nice technically-proficient and dynamic riff-work into the fray that merges nicely against the traditional thrash crunch and melodic lines that stays more in-line with the mid-tempo pace than anything else, keeping this as a serviceable effort overall. The fun and blasting ‘Kisses with Fangs’ brings back the technicality into the rhythms while tending to flow through more up-tempo and furious tempos without really focusing on the melodies that much, though it tends to stick out as a more traditional thrasher by doing so but still manages to feel like a furious track all-told. Closing out the first half nicely, ‘Shackles and Shades’ drops the speed for a marching mid-tempo pace that fully blends the technical riffing patterns and pummeling double-bass flurries for a sharp, precise jab of crunchy thrash and soaring melody that’s one of the better efforts here.
The second half, being more of a melody driven affair, does tend to get rather enjoyable regardless. The thrashing epic ‘The Wheels Keep Grinding’ offers tight, frantic blasts of technical thrash patterns and rumbling full-throttle paces to further the furious rhythms and melodic interludes as it shifts between the two styles throughout, offering a lot of exceptionally-performed moments and getting a lot to like within. Raging along nicely, ‘Trinity of Sorrow’ blazes through some rather melodic mid-tempo marching but doesn’t really stick out against the more involving and devastating tracks elsewhere on here that utilize these thrashing rhythms and comes off serviceable but not spectacular. ‘Taste of Decay’ is one of the more brutal tracks on display here with an amazing amount of tight patterns, furious rhythms and technically complex riffs all swept into a firestorm of a track that blazes along eliminating all-comers, definitely making this an album highlight. The mighty melodies from ‘Once You Cross’ allows this to serve as the most melodic and downbeat effort on the album with more soaring leads and less thrash crunch, offering up a rather nice offering that really doesn’t do much beyond the norm, giving this a rather nice and laid-back feel compared to the raging tracks elsewhere. Finale ‘Thumbs Up for the End of the World’ brings things full-circle with mid-tempo thrashing patterns and tight crunching riffs that rattles off well-enough that leaves this one a high note.
Overall, this is a solid, dependable and wholly enjoyable blast of old-school thrash that readily adapts from the Bay Area influence more often than not, which can be a little problematic at times but really offers up some good, solid moments. For those that can’t look past the overt ripping from the movement, this might not make a solid believer out of most but does offer forth enough to really make this a worthwhile score for fans of erstwhile thrash regardless of scene influence of severity of borrowing.
I remember when thrash was young and certain bands came along that added new dimensions to the genre. Once the 90s came, thrash bands seem to adopt more of a groove metal sound or they just went into other directions. But real thrash seem to fade away. Fast forward to 2012 and it seems that thrash is making a comeback. Sanity's Rage from Belgium have actually taken classic thrash and put a modern spin on it. They actually have been around since 2002 and their debut EP was released in 2006 and was rather well received by those who heard it. Their debut full length, You Are What You Swallow, sees a band really set into a formula that works well making for an enjoyable listen.
This band wears their influences on their sleeve as they can seem to, at any given time, remind me of several different thrash bands from yesteryear but still sound like themselves. The production is meaty and clean and is modern sounding but it seems to fit with the band's music. This band plays riff laden thrash that is just crushing. The opener, "The Madness Continues" opens up the album with some acoustics that seem to touch on Annihilator's "Crystal Ann." The title track kicks in and so do the riffs that are just monstrous while being able to keep melody in their music. The soloing on this album ranges from great to godly so if you like your thrash with good, well constructed solos then this is your band. The vocals are a bit on the Mille Petrozza side of thrash on some songs but with enough of his own sound to not be. The true stars of this album is the riffing. "Aberration Mandatory" is just an example of how well this band can write fast paced songs with relentless riffing and incredible soloing. If this is the future of thrash, I'm fucking sold!
Keeping in the true thrash fashion, the lyrics on this album are mostly political and angry but not in a way that seems like they were trying to hard. They are believable. How can you not love a band that titles one of their songs "Thumbs up for the End of the World?" They also add just the right amount of groove to some of their songs to keep you interest and mix things up a bit on the album. "Product of Calamity" reminds me Kreator in the beginning and of Wratchchild America in the middle section as it grooves as well as crushes. But when they thrash they take no prisoners as their sound will remind you of German thrash while they throw in some Bay Area sounding stuff in there as well. The song lengths vary as some are in the three minute range but a few are over five minutes and one is as long as six minutes but they all seem to fit well together as the longer songs keep your attention while the shorter songs whip your ass quickly leaving you dazed and wondering what the fuck hit you! "The Wheels Keep Grinding" is that six minute song and is the example of how this band can be thrash but epic as well. This song is full of riffs as well as some complex time changes that it keeps you interested so they also do technical trash very well.
So here you have a thrash band that takes everything we ever loved about classic thrash and adds just a bit of a modern component to make this band interesting. I'm hoping that this band gets the recognition they deserve because I would like to hear more from this band.