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Believer > Sanity Obscure > Reviews
Believer - Sanity Obscure

The Wrath of God, and the Miracles It Births - 96%

bayern, August 5th, 2022

The more I listen to this album, the more I try to close my ears for the two small defects that have been detected from the first moment it graced my household. And that’s the reason why I’ll put it aside for a while, I listen to it every other week, and will forget about its existence; I know it pretty much by heart… I simply don't want it to go away with the perfect score that I’ve been pondering on granting it for quite some time. I know fans who would give it said score based on those two defects alone, but I’m not one of those. I’ve always been an enthusiastic albeit moderate advocate for artistic audacity, but when this audacity starts contaminating the kitchens from where I most regularly satiate my music hunger, I catch myself becoming agitated, and sometimes plain resentful. Sometimes.

But we’ll get back to these defects later, although those who are familiar with the band’s repertoire and with this album in particular already know what I allude to. The other moment that’s always pained me, just a bit mind you, is that I was a very late passenger on this train. I found the guys’ first three efforts in the late-90’s, when they were already a foregone conclusion, but I listened to them religiously for a number of weeks, being absolutely certain that I’d been graced by the greatest lesser known thrash metal act. Later on I came across other (in)sane obscurities, from other walks of metal as well, but the time spent with this godly tryptich back then remains one of the most memorable moments in my career as a metaller.

And for a damn god… sorry, good reason, the debut already on a very lofty pedestal, a somewhat raw but utterly compelling slice of old school tech-thrash, the band determined on taking no prisoners from the get-go despite their openly Christian lyrical stance. Whether the album reviewed here could be viewed a reflection of said stance and of the guys’ more merciful predilections, may forever remain debatable, but there’s no denying the fact that they came out with all they had on it, and consequently produced one of the sheer milestones in the genre.

Setting the lathe inordinately high with the supreme title-track, an anomalous shape-shifter tossing both creepy chugs and furious skirmishes all around, not to mention the several technical riff-knots that will make one’s head spin in not very regular circles from here to the cathedral downtown and back. Hats down to the band for providing the inordinate complexity witnessed on this odyssey in a more compact, digested format on “Wisdom's Call”, a non-fussy technicaller which rages stylishly around until it reaches a “Nonpoint”, another arresting complex saga with meandering disorienting arrangements and unheralded fever-ish tempo shifts. “Idols of Ignorance” is a headbanger’s check-in station, near-5-min of vehement thrashing the latter innocently intercepted by a couple of more academic march-like walkabouts, the riff-madness unleashed stopped by “Stop the Madness”, to an extent only mind you, as this number is a cradle of intricate razor-sharp crescendos and subversive mid-tempo currents, the guitarists weaving spell-binding passages of visionary complexity before venting out more madness at the end with the closing speedy tractate.

And that was it, game over. Ha ha, not so fast, cause we’re tumbling into “Dies Irae (Day of Wrath)”, the first defect these ears detected some 25 years ago, including on the very first listen when this operatic folk-ish etude produced a huge surprise, with the female vocals and the soothing violin tunes, the fast-paced thrashy inclusion inserted later binding it to an extent with the preceding material. As I’d also been listening to Therion’s “TheIi” and “Vovin” (especially) at that time, hearing those motifs wasn’t a shock per se, but this reference to another genre sounded a bit awkward, thrown amidst a most sizzling thrashing melee. It was later that I appraised it accordingly, largely due to the fact that this pioneering manifestation was created much earlier, an admirable early attempt at breaking boundaries and defying canons.

So that first defect can be exonerated somehow, but how about the second one? The closer “Like a Song”, a U2 cover from the Irish rockers’ 1983 opus “War”… sped up a bit and turned into an energizing power metal hymn with again some operatic support. With even Bachman taking a fall here, sacrificing his venomous hellish shouts for a much more measured, more attached near-singing delivery… sanity has stepped aside for a change, giving way to aberrations which again sound more acceptable with each listen. But is this how it should be, though? Getting used to tunes which caused frustration once upon a time… a change of heart also caused by the experience of myriad stylistic transformations through the years, with acts turning into parodies of their old selves, willingly or not… under those inglorious circumstances, what sense does it make for one to keep moaning over a frivolous U2 cover spilt at the end as an afterthought?

Yeah, quite true that, no time to cry over spilt milk… sorry, music; and kudos to the guys for not playing the two deviants back-to-back but splitting them with “Dust to Dust”, another standout vigorous technicaller with steel sharp riffs pouring over the listener like the wrath of god indeed, the band moshing with not much moderation and entangled fussing, laying the ground or digging a hole, depending on the taste, for the oncoming cover. Nope, I’m going to take this album as it is, as a most smattering display of technical thrash wizardry, for the most part, and as a courageous step into a more experimental direction with two compositions, those two gradually being stripped away from their long-term defect status, big help in this direction also provided by the follow-up “Dimensions”, which elaborated on the experimental spirit displayed here, the operatic optimism from “Dies Irae”, above all, by granting it a whole trilogy (“Trilogy of Knowledge”) status. Again, the presence of this package doesn’t ruin the thrashing carnage served before it, the band proving themselves immaculate blenders, keeping a wider fanbase entertained without ever compromising their ironclad credo. And it’s on the album here that they showed how this could be done in the finest possible way. Kudos.

The reformation stint so far has been a very fluctuating ride, some of those fluctuations better left unmentioned; Bachman and Daub still flagging around a more experimental flair, one that’s been moving them further away from their thrash roots, by not giving them much gravity and lustre to hold onto. Still, what was done in the past was done, and it more than suffices to keep us, the fans, listening in awe… we prefer our favourite music immersed in obscurity and sanity, in intransient retro values, with drops of devious creativity making it even more attractive and alluring, and much less vulnerable to non-definable stylistic travesties.

Hyper thrashing display of power! - 95%

ThrashCommander, April 23rd, 2016
Written based on this version: 2007, CD, Metal Mind Productions (Digipak, Remastered, Limited edition)

Thrash metal, as a whole subgenre, can be perfectly divided into other classes, because there's an abyss between the mid 80's works and the early 90's. There is, in one hand, typical thrash albums like Bonded by Blood, Zombie Attack, Feel the Fire or Reign in Blood, which established parameters that were followed by tons of bands in the following years, and in the other hand there are the bands that evolved the genre through technical, brutal and fast paths. That is exactly what Believer's Sanity Obscure can be defined.

Talking about this album is talking about evolution. Believer's first LP was a nice demonstration of power, speed, aggressiveness and technique, but it was overpassed by this one. Sanity Obscure is full of amazing guitar riffs in a drop D tuning supported by a powerful and scratching distortion, very unique. One of the special features of the guitar work is the ultra-fast-one-note palm mute riffing style, which provides an incredible amount of energy to the songs while being combined with the fast thrashing beats. Speed has a primordial role and it never makes the album sound boring or repetitive because of the addictive design of the riffs, and there are tons of them. Guitars also do an excellent work with melodies on intros and bridges.

Besides, even though the bass lines are not the highlights they do its job very well because of the power injection in all the songs. The drums must be one my favorite parts because Joey Daub performs an incredible fast and furious execution, full of technique and precision. The double bass sounds like an unstoppable metal machine and it fits perfectly with the bass lines. The fast thrash beats sound incredibly aggressive because of the tight snare and the blasting style can be heard across the entire album. It is pure hyper thrashing! On the vocal work Kurt Bachman doesn't get behind. He performs a singular badass style of screaming and growling and his voice sounds a bit different from the first album, but still fits perfectly in the genre.

And for the last, the best: it is very well known the orchestral elements incorporated in every Believer album, but the obtained result in Dies Irae is just amazing. Almost every classical composer has made a version of Dies Irae (Réquiem), so Believer made its own version with female vocals, in which they added a technical, classy, and overwhelming thrash section mixed with orchestral strings. It is perfect. All of this together creates an undeniable thrash metal masterpiece, far away from the works of bands of the same era.

Despite of all the musical perfection I give 95% to the album just because of the totally unnecessary U2 cover and the Christian/morality lyrics, which I find ridiculous. You must listen the whole album, but if you want to go right to the highlights then try "Idols of Ignorance", "Stop the Madness", "Dust to Dust" and the orchestral "Dies Irae".

Get it immediately!

It would seem Heaven had its own mosh pit - 87%

autothrall, January 23rd, 2013

Not only was Sanity Obscure a pretty dramatic improvement over the technical thrashing Believer debut Extraction from Mortality, but it also brought the band to the attention of a larger audience through a deal with Roadrunner Records, which had been exploding for years with a number of masterful albums in numerous sub-genres, and had a higher visibility than the band's Christian label R.E.X. Music (home also to bands like Sacrament, Detritus and Living Sacrifice). Interestingly, this is not such a massive change in terms of its song- and soundscaping: the riffs are just that much better, and there's a more immediate sense of chaos and tension manifest through the guitars and vocals. Those angry and incendiary Christian lyrics from the debut remain, but only on about half the songs; the rest are quite thrash-friendly and topical to events that were (and still are) a big deal to an audience whose unrest and political ideas were often embodied in the music that inspired them; for instance, "Nonpoint" and its environmental theme borne straight out of the 80s, but relevant even today.

It helps a great deal that the sophomore opens with what are, in my estimation, the best two Believer cuts in their entire catalog. "Sanity Obscure" opens with freakish tones of disjointed nursery rhymes, almost like it were being played at you through the loudspeaker of some psychotic ice cream truck; and then comes a dissonant build into a simplistic thrash break, and then the Pennsylvanians unleash a heavenly host of cinders and ash through their taut, precision riffing. "Wisdom's Call" is Christened with a groovy beat before its own meaty guitars erupt into a splendorous, surgical display of palm muted harmonies. There remains that dense, industrial grade soullessness to the guitar tone, but I feel like the lows and highs of the strings are better captured, and thus the muscle of each progression really hits the listener in the gut. I'd compare it to the Teutonic gods Destruction, but I'd be thinking more of their 2000 and beyond reunion era, albums like All Hell Breaks Loose or The Antichrist. Though furious enough to satisfy the audience of West Coast thrash like Dark Angel or Exodus, I'd actually go one further and say that the way Kurt Bachman and Dave Baddorf formulated the riffs on this thing are clashing, compact and chaotic enough that they might satisfy fans of adventurous Floridian death/thrash outfits like Atheist, Cynic, Hellwitch or later Death. I even prefer it to much of those bands' output (I'd take it over Piece of Time, for example), even if it's not so dextrous, jazzy or technically profound.

Bass is still an issue, but even if it's not as compelling as, say, a Roger Patterson or Tony Choy, it buzzes and burps along here with more of an intensity and distinction than on the debut. Additionally, the drums feel more fleshed out, with a nice snap to the snare, and some more flexible double bass and near blast work, though like most thrash acts the beats were influenced more through rock and punk music. While they don't abandon that hacking, angry inflection they possessed on the debut, Bachman's vocals also seem better rounded. You can make out more of that tortured decay in the longer syllables, and he definitely feels like he's crawling along the Emergency Room floor with a burst appendix or some other tangible, unshakable form of physical pain wracking his entire person. They continue to play around with the idea of orchestral ingredients, this time largely through the incorporation of the female operatic vocals and symphony in "Dies Irae (Day of Wrath") which persist through the nearly six minutes of the track; for sure one of the earliest examples of an extreme metal band implementing such strings and sound design alongside the heavier fare. A less seamless fit than you'd hear on, say, Into the Pandemonium, but quite fitting to the manic intensity of Believer's metal riffing.

Really, any 2-3 of the originals on this album would provide me with more replay value and choice riffage than the entirety of Extraction from Mortality, but Sanity Obscure is also about 6-7 songs deep in terms of consistent quality and coherent variation. Not until the cover of U2's "Like a Song" do I feel an urge to skip a track, and in their defense, they at least inject that with some punky/thrash enthusiasm while attempting to maintain The Edge's sense for atmospheric playing. The CD reissue contains an instrumental bonus track called "I.Y.F." which is a more harmonious use of the two guitars, but this also has rougher production values as it hails from their 1987 demo The Return. Ultimately, this has proven the sturdiest of their full-lengths to date, sounding just as fresh and pulverizing as it was the first time I laid my hears on it, and with great haste I would recommend this to the connoisseur of technical thrash or death/thrash metal, provided he or she doesn't mind sharing a seat with Jesus for just the one bus ride. A refined, evolutionary stopgap between the Bay Area and Teutonic thrash tones of the late 80s, and the emergent fusion of progressive Florida death.


Clear Insanity - 80%

Kalelfromkrypton, October 8th, 2009

Up to this day Believer is one of the few thrash bands I really like. Their albums play randomly in my cd player and I enjoy very much their unique approach to thrash metal, brutality and weird song-writing.

The main thing about this album is that the band began to incorporate a lot of progressive influences and ultra technical aspects such as drumming and some other arrangements. Lots of tempo changes and speed changes are added to the mix. I agree with the other guy on the guitar department where the riffs seem very similar all of them and in complete disorder. I still think they did not know how to work on those (like Annihilator let’s say whose Jeff Waters’ riffing style is amazing) but as far as the drumming it is very enjoyable because it is far more technical than Lombardo or Nick Menza. Now the soloing is one thing they certainly lack, mainly because they are all very simple and rhythmic. I would’ve expected cooler solos since thrash metal around 1990 already had enough melodic sense and technical prowess to create really good solos (Take Seventh Angel, Sodom, Heathen, Helstar, etc etc for examples)

Now on the mixing department: they improved a lot comparing to Extraction from Mortality, but the guitars lack the power and the distortion, although really sharpy is backgrounded due to the main focus on the drums and voice. The bass can hardly being heard (same problem on ‘’…And Justice for all’ guys, c’mon, this was 2 years later after Metallica’s terrible mistake).

The album can be split in two parts. The first part goes with the fastest songs and more brutal. Second part, starting with ‘Stop the madness’ which is the first melodic more rhythm-grooved-based, besides having the Dies Irae ‘’opera’’, second half has a U2 cover and Dust to Dust (part fast and part rhythm based), which are all highly melodic.

The vocal department has a lot of influences whereas his high screaming I really hate up to this day. When the guy sings in his lowest tones almost growled vocals I can tolerate since they remind me a little of Mile Petrossa or even Destruction’s vocal approach but I’d rather like the most the voice used on Extraction from Mortality with the Tom Araya-esque screaming and NOT this experimental.

On to the songs now: Sanity Obscure is a fast piece with slaying drumming and aggressive vocals, which is followed by ‘Wisdom’s Call’ and ‘Nonpoint’. They, smartly enough, don’t just share pure brutality just because, but they break the songs with groovy and rhythm passages so you can actually enjoy the songs and not headbang to get a neck break. ‘Idols of Ignorance’ doesn’t give you a second to breathe since from the very beginning rips with fast paced tempo. The riffing here reminds me of Dark Angel’s ‘Darkness Descends’ but NOT that tight and thick, and it even has death metal drums ala Cannibal Corpse. This one now has cool riffs in the rhythm part. Dies Irae is by far a simple composition, for today’s standards. It has only some cellos, violin, keyboards and soprano vocals. The fun part begins when it is combined with the groove rhythm parts which at that time was RARE, and even more on thrash metal but it fits quite good since it builds up into a crescendo that I particularly love since this would be later developed to awesome greater things, both by them and a lot of the power and symphonic metal in the middle 90’s and specially on Europe.

In all a very enjoyable album except for the flaws mentioned above but again, a high improvement on some things comparing it to the debut. It is still regarded as a very solid album within Christian circles but it is definitely the middle ground between the brutality of the debut and the more experimental and melodic sense from the third ‘Dimensions’ album.

Shards of brilliance lost in fillertown - 45%

ElectricEye, March 9th, 2007

This is something as impossible as a thrash album that sucks. Well, it sort of sucks, and it's sort of thrash. Allow me to elaborate...

You know the old saying about giving a number of monkeys a number of typewriters, and eventually they'll write all the works of Shakespeare?

Basically, "Sanity obscure" is the sound of said monkeys given random kitchen utensils. Well, they didn't exactly produce all the works of Beethoven, or even Kiss - "Animalize", but some brief stretches here come together as actual musical compositions.

The mixing is quite impressive, with great clarity and a full sound, and there's also a fair amount of energy throughout. Unfortunately, the band doesn't seem to know how to make use of these graces, because all the music all sounds same.

See, there's hardly an actual riff on the entire disc. The guitarwork is nothing but a collection of notes running into each other without distinction, sounding absolutely identical in every single song. Likewise, the solos are just clone upon clone, and everything is played at the exact same speed, song after song after song.

Enough is enough? No, the whole thing is also accompanied by a man who sounds like he needs to be put out of his misery already. Apparently, this is a Christian band. You wouldn't know from the singing, because it's impossible to decipher two words in the same sentence. This guy is not quite John Tardy-excruciating, but pretty damn close. Painful stuff!

As for something positive, there is "Dies irae", the obvious high point of the album. This could actually be the first "opera metal" song ever, although it doesn't exactly fuse the opera with the metal. The twain only meet for a brief period in the middle of the song.

The first half is some sort of wicked aria, and you wonder: "What the hell's up with this? Ah, well, they already tried thrash and failed...". Then, when you don't expect anything else to happen, out of the blue this VIOLIN MEGA RIFF enters the song alongside some DECENT GUITARS, and the whole thing is suddenly killing ass! Awesome, though it sounds like nothing else on the album.

Elsewhere, we get "Stop the madness", which is actually a very good thrash piece, accidently finding a nice flow. "Nonpoint" is also halfway there. And that's it. Every other song is bloody awful. "Dust to dust" has a kick-butt intro, but quickly deteriorates into the same riffless hyena monodrone, and "Like a song" is a U2 cover, of all things - as if they didn't have enough problems already.

Really, this being listed as melodic and/or progressive thrash is a fuckin' joke. "Dies irae" is the only hint of either melody or progress on this album. Everything else is far too primitive and chaotic (i.e. "technical") to warrant either esteemed label. I have no idea why they didn't explore that idea further, because right there was the potential to make this album something truly original and ahead of its time. As late as 1990, they must have been aware that their parody of thrash was inferior to pretty much everything else on the market.

In the end, we get two great songs and one decent. Without these, this album would be something like 20%, and have no purpose to exist at all.

So, check out "Dies irae", maybe also "Stop the madness", and forget about the rest.

Better Than Their First, But A Step Down - 96%

Desiple_of_The_Ice25, November 18th, 2005

Sanity Obscure is definitely one of the best Believer albums EVER. Extraction From Mortality was great and included some of the best songs Believer EVER made such as Vile Hypocrisy, Shadow Of Death, And Extraction From Mortality, but it still had it's downs. In a way, it was left a little bit on a dull level, because of the song Stress, and a few other throw-aways.

Sanity Obscure however also has some of the best songs Believer ever made, like Nonpoint, Stop The Madness, Dies Irae, and Dust To Dust. A real big improvement that this album has are Kurt Bachman's vocals. The first track is Sanity Obscure - An interesting introduction, but this song makes you think that it was in a way, rushed for the reason that it's a simpler song, with simpler riffing, and it's not as melodic as it could/should have been. Still, it's not bad. 7/10

Wisdom's Call - It's kind of a cool track. It is creative and melodic, but, not their best work. Not by a long shot. Hey, it's better than Sanity Obscure. 7/10

Nonpoint- Melodic, and peaceful accoustic introduction. Also not to mention, when it gets heavy, it's fast. One of the better songs on this album. 9.5/10

Idols Of Ignorance - Pretty crazy track. Kind of wierd though, all because of the annoying intro. The double kickers make up for it though. 8/10

Stop The Madness - Like I said earlier, it's one of the better songs of the album. It starts out with two people doing cocaine in the backround. VERY catchy and heavy. It's one of my favorite songs on this CD. 9.5/10

Dies Irae - Now here's a song that I would say is the BEST song on this CD. Many people know it all because it was played on CKY2k or whatever it's called. It starts out with wind blowing in the backround and a beautiful soprano opera singer. The violen's music is emotional and beautiful. THEN It gets heavy, and it is VERY catchy. It makes you want to head bang and go nuts, yet it sets an atmosphere to it as well. The only disappointment is that the actual metal part of the song doesn't last as long as it could/should have. Still, a PERFECT 10/10

Dust To Dust - I'll keep this one short. One of the best; a real Thrashing headbanger. 10/10

Like A Song - a cover of the U2 song. It's nice, and we get to hear Kurt sing and thrash, and what's REALLY cool is that he has more than one vocal track. Includes many harmonizes. 9/10

OVERALL - Better, but not as melodic as Extraction From Mortality. A solid 9.5/10. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED