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Believer > Sanity Obscure > Reviews > bayern
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.