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Most Underrated Progressive Thrash Ever! - 100%

ThrashFanatic, January 24th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, World in Sound (Reissue, Digipak, Remastered)

As many of you may already know, the Bay area was home to many classic thrash bands in the 80's. Testament, Exodus, Heathen, Forbidden, and Vio-lence were already becoming big names within the thrash metal genre. At that time though, there was one unique band that was looked over and ignored. This band had ex-Possessed and Blizzard guitarist Larry LaLonde, Blizzard drummer Mike Miner, lead vocalist/guitarist Mark Biedermann, and bass virtuoso Les Claypool. This band was Blind Illusion. Blind Illusion had this one of a kind sound, they were like a mix of King Crimson, Possessed, Exodus, and Metallica. They released the classic "The Sane Asylum" on Combat Records in 1988, which I'll be reviewing here...

The title track opens the album, it's quite short though, and it serves as an intro rather than an actual song. "Blood Shower" is a classic thrasher with incredible riffs and some great vocals courtesy of Biedermann. Biedermann has a very aggressive edge to his vocals. He goes from yells to deep growling vocals (not like death metal, more like a low voice). He does a excellent job here. "Vengeance Is Mine" is about the war on oil which was going on during this particular time period. This is the thrashiest song on the album, with some awesome lyrics to go along with it...

"Blood is thicker than water,
Land is worth more than gold,
Oil leads man to the slaughter,
Greed will eat at your soul!"

This is overall another killer track! Next up is the album's epic 7 minute "Death Noise" which is the main highlight. Larry LaLonde's best work of his career is right here. Larry has always fit Blind Illusion better than Possessed in my opinion. The first 3 minutes could be a song all by itself! The solos are amazing. This is followed by feedback, and then the main riff comes in, and it is awesome! This is the track that I recommend!

"Metamorphosis Of A Monster" is the most progressive on this album, with this song clocking in over the 6 minute mark. An organ and even a children choir make an appearance! The spoken lines at the very end of the song are pure poetry!

"One day the whales will walk the Earth,
The hunter will become the hunted,
Mammoth will unearth itself from the tomb of hibernation,
He will sprout wings and fly.

Man will be consumed by fire then condemned to the sea,
Burning eternally with salty water in the lung,
Reborn, reformed, the humble will adorn a new way,
Without treachery or scorn..."

That is just pure art at it's finest! What a way to close out this forgotten masterpiece! This album is the most unique in all of thrash, it is a mix of many genres in one. There is elements of prog rock, psychedelic, and even funk (which is especially present in Claypool's bass playing). This album is in my top 20 favorite thrash albums ever, it is just so awesome. Despite the less than perfect production and the reverb of the vocals, this album is a cult classic and it will leave you wanting more. So go on ahead, let Biedermann and crew welcome you to THE SANE ASYLUM!

Highlights: EVERYTHING!!!

A moment’s reflection...what imperfection? - 100%

Evil_Carrot, January 17th, 2013

What really constitutes a 100% album? Obviously no album is truly perfect, perfect is a vague concept based entirely on opinion and preference. There’s no way for me to say this album is perfect. And it’s clearly not. The production isn’t so great, Marc Biedermann is a pretty poor vocalist, and there are certainly flaws.

But I feel the need to issue this my first 100% based solely on the concept that this is one of few albums that, not only I can listen to repeatedly and never get tired of, but also based on the fact that there isn’t a thing I would change about this album, which is a pretty rare thing for me to say. I can look through my album collection right now and probably give you a handful of things I would change about any given album, even ones I love. Even ones I listen to significantly more than this. Whether there’s a song that’s too long, one riff I don’t like, a song that I’d delete, whether I’d change the production quality, change the volume of one of an instrument. And of course there’s always the case where I’d change the album by setting it on fire so that it can never again harm my ears with its awful. Bottom line: there’s usually at least one thing I can say I don’t like about an album.

There is nothing I can say I don’t like about The Sane Asylum. From the strange jazzy opening seconds of the intro track, before the guitar picks up its distortion and shreds into the beauty as Biedermann welcomes you to the Sane Asylum, until the final moments, as I’m not sure, but I almost think he ends the album by yelling… “BITCH!” (For the love of god, does anyone know what the last wordo n the album is, I hear “bitch.”)

As some background, I feel it’s only right to inform you that I am, in fact, a Primus fan, and I did, in fact, find this album through looking Les Claypool’s discography. However, I wouldn’t call myself a Les Claypool fanboy, as I really am only a big fan of the first handful of Primus albums. I’m lost a little by the Brown Album (although there is some good stuff after, I’m not big on any full albums), and I like songs he did in other projects, but not really any full albums. So, while I think maybe it’s unfair to not let it be known that I am a fan of Claypool/LaLonde, but I also don’t want anyone to think this is being blindly praised because they’re on it.

It can be said that this is a progressive thrash album. The thrash is definitely very prominent, and is probably the biggest influence, and the progressive label comes partially from the many outside influences. I’ve already mentioned the jazzy moment in the opening track, and considering bassist Les Claypool is now very well known for his work in Primus, the funk factor in has bass playing should be expected, and it certainly is present, especially at some moments on Smash the Crystal. Still, there are many clearly progressive moments on the album. Many tracks have sound effects somewhat buried in the mix, there’s a children’s choir and synthesizer on Metamorphosis of a Monster, and Death Noise. Just Death Noise. Kamakazi also features some wonderful melodic parts, and although this isn’t exactly new in thrash, as this was post-Master of Puppets at least, which features some of the most useless melodic pieces in thrash, but this executes them perfectly. The melodic sections never compromise the dark atmosphere of the album, and they never feel forced, and most importantly, they sound great. The whole album works very well, and unlike on some progressive albums, where a prt sounds awkward or out of place, this whole album just flows.

Now, there’s some argument that this album’s shortcomings hold it back, such as the production, how low some of these interesting little additions are in the mix, and Marc Biedermann’s vocals. But I’ve always felt that the production was perfect for this release. It keeps it dark and gritty, just as I’d want an album with songs like Blood Shower and Death Noise to sound. And the sound quality certainly isn’t bad. Just somewhat gritty. The little ‘extras’ being low in the mix keeps the focus where it should be: on the metal. This isn’t a progressive album that loses focus on the music because it’s too ambitious with its progressiveness. This is a thrash metal album full of the musical equivalent of Easter eggs for the frequent listener. I’ve already said that marc isn’t a good vocalist; however, he’s a vocalist that fits the sound. Tom Araya and Dave Mustaine are both bad vocalists, but could you ever imagine someone else singing for Slayer or Megadeth? And just as no one wants to hear Bruce Dickinson singing Raining Blood, I can’t imagine who would take over for Biedermann. I love David Godfrey, both in Heathen, and on the Blind Illusion demos, but I don’t know if he’d fit a song like Blood Shower.

Another possible shortcoming on the album might be the lyrics. I know some people really care about deep or powerful lyrics of some kind, and there’s not a whole lot of that. In fact, some of the lyrics are rather goofy, although still strangely topical. For example “The middle east will ride the beast /They're preparing now, for the feast /We watch them as we sleep /Their menu is prepared, it's you they want to eat /The main course/For their holy war.” And the way the album ends: One day the whales will walk the earth /The hunter will become the hunted /Mammoth will unearth itself from the tomb of hibernation /He will sprout wings and fly / Man will be consumed by fire then condemned to the sea/ Burning eternally with salty water in the lung / Reborn, Reformed/The humble will adorn a new way / Without treachery or scorn.”

Clearly the band has something to day, but the execution is goofy and strange. I don’t see this is a negative point though. I see it as silly and campy, in an intentional way. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think the band sat around for hours fine tuning the lyrics. I think they found a silly way to get a point across. No, it’s not silly in the same way Anthrax writing about Judge Dredd is, but it’s also not taking its message as seriously as …And Justice For All. Even if I am wrong, than at the very least it’s a case of ‘so bad its good,’ much like the movies of old where you can see the zipper on the monster or the strings on the spaceships. It’s silly and awkward and still entertaining and good in its own silly way. And I wouldn’t change a line on it.

So, a little about the actual performances: All of the band members play solidly, and there’s really nothing as far as the main band hiding in the mix. Biedermann has a voice that’s sometimes reminiscent of Dave Mustaine, or so I feel, he usually sings with a growl or with a strained sounding yell, although sometimes in softer spots, such as the previously mentioned Kamikazi, he sings clean. Again, it isn’t great, but he works with what he has. He also, along with LaLonde, handles guitar duties. Biedermann handles most of the soloing duties, but both prove to be very competent, as Larry is given about four or five. As should be expected, the bass has a funk edge to it, but still fits right in with the style of thrash this band is doing. Mike Miner rounds out the group as a great drummer, and the whole band shows they have some pretty damn good technical capabilities.

In short, this is 40 minutes of imperfect perfection. There isn’t a damn thing that I would change about this album. It’s a little short, but I can’t even say I wish it was longer, because who knows if they would have added filler, of which it wound up with none. In the end, this only leaves you wanting more, which is usually a positive remark, except that Blind Illusion left us wanting more for 22 years. And once we got it, we collectively asked if we could give it back. But this is a beautiful thrash album, with silly, yet topical lyrics, truly inspired by insanity, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And I can only hope and pray to the Gods of metal that Biedermann gets off this hippie rock shit long enough to, at the very least, get that final version of The Medicine Show he was talking about a few years back, and maybe remaster/rerecord some of those sick demos he had. I’d love to hear quality version of Banshee. Either way, we still always have the Sane Asylum. And I’m willing to be committed here for a long, long time.

Not classic, but damn good. - 81%

cjwbball51, December 2nd, 2007

Describing or reviewing an album like Blind Illusion’s The Sane Asylum is almost useless. Whether or not you disregard it for a thrash-prog experiment gone wrong or just the album that featured the two guys from Primus (Les Claypool and Larry LaLonde) before forming that band, it won’t really matter. Blind Illusion, and their only release, 1988’s The Sane Asylum, has become an underground favorite in the truest sense of the word: their small but rabid fanbase praises this album as the best metal album ever--not since Black Sabbath’s debut or Metallica’s Master of Puppets or whatever, but as the best ***ing metal album EVER. Of course, if you break it down, it’s not. What it is, though, is an unfortunately forgotten work of technical thrash metal that isn’t afraid to delve into prog, psychedelic, or funk territories whenever it feels like it.

Instrumentally, The Sane Asylum is top-notch. To be quite honest, The Sane Asylum may be the best instrumental showcase for a band since Rush’s noodle-y 2112. Longtime band member and songwriter Marc Biedermann and soon-to-be Primus guitarist Larry LaLonde repeatedly delve into classic guitar duels, the best of which is found on the progressive “Death Noise”. The song begins heavily enough, with crunchy and speedy riffs before spontaneously adding random blast beats and high-pitched soloing. Bassist Les Claypool adds a funky touch underneath all the heaviness of the solos, and his complicated rhythms are as technical as the soloing guitarists. After the intense sugar rush of solos and basslines, the song disintegrates into almost un-listenable noise and feedback, before the noise and feedback starts to gather itself into a rhythm, and then the guitars start taking shape again. Finally, the drums kick in, the riffs formulate, and the vocals start.

The vocals are definitely the drawback of The Sane Asylum. Biedermann also is the vocalist on top of being the lead guitarist, and it’s almost immediately apparent that Biedermann spends more time honing his guitar talent than he does honing his singing. His vocals are rasp and usually spit out in a quick and uncompromising fashion, but instead of having the menace and evilness of contemporaries Conrad Lant or Tom Araya. It doesn’t even measure up to James Hetfield. Biedermann has almost no range whatsoever, and his growls are repulsive and weak. They might even be unbearable if it wasn’t for the production, or lack thereof. The Sane Asylum is horribly produced, and has a hollow, echoing sound; almost like it was recorded in a sewer. The guitar sound is cheap and minimal, the drums lack all sounds associated with thrash and aggression and whatever’s associated with them, and the bass is really only audible when Claypool lays down a solo or a complicated rhythm. However, the production begins to seem almost natural, and helps toward the minimalist and technical sound, resulting in a tasty oxymoron.

Oxymorons. This album almost revels in them, and constantly throws two different sounds and goals into a stove and lets them boil and meld together. The guitars are technically perfect, but sound as thin as what you would find on a Linkin Park album. The drums are never the main focus of The Sane Asylum, and wander aimlessly under all the guitars and basslines. But drummer Mike Miner adds superb fills and rolls in places you would never expect them to be, like in “Kamakazi”, where Miner solos spontaneously and progressively under pianos and guitars. Yes, The Sane Asylum is progressive, as most clearly shown again in “Kamakazi”, which transitions from a solemn “November Rain” intro into pure speed/thrash bliss, and, halfway into the song, guitars turn acoustic and Claypool solos beautifully underneath. But almost every song progresses in this way, and after a while, the typical song structures become the opposite of progressive and forward-thinking and instead become typical and rudimentary. Hell, there’s even effects and other instruments used to add some experimentation and flair to The Sane Asylum, such as the organ in the purely heavy “Metamorphosis of a Monster” or the click-click feedback of “Vengeance is Mine”. The problem is that the production is so bare-bones that you can barely even make out these effects underneath the sludge of guitars and bass.

So far, it seems like I’m completely bashing a near-cult classic, doesn’t it? I’ve bitched about the dreadful vocals and the production ruining some effects that may have really made the album. But The Sane Asylum isn’t a bad album. In fact, it’s an excellent one. Why? Easy: it’s just so damn fun. The overabundance of solos and the tongue-in-cheek lyrics show that The Sane Asylum isn’t meant to be taken too seriously. When Biedermann barks in “Blood Shower”, “YOU. ME. KILL.”, it almost immediately brings up a laugh. Maybe Biedermann’s actually serious in his faux-nihilism and hilariously cheesy violent imagery. But I didn’t interpret it that way, and for that reason, I really enjoyed The Sane Asylum. You need to have an open mind if you want to approach this flawed work of art.

Why do you need to have an open mind? Because The Sane Asylum isn’t for everybody. It’s isn’t like a Deicide or Cannibal Corpse album, which aren’t for everyone because of their uncompromising heaviness. This isn’t for everyone because some people want more refined and more pleasant vocals; some people want a deeper, more textured guitar sound; some people don’t want an album that basically defines oxymoron, from its sound to its title. But if you can see through the sludge and the grime, you’ll find an excellent, if very underproduced, album. And those of us that can enjoy this album? Bitch, you know we be rockin’ this all night.

Originally posted by me on

It's like no other - 97%

BarkievonSchnauser, June 30th, 2007

There is really no album quite like The Sane Asylum. It's thrash, like many bay area bands at the it came out. It's also very good thrash. But it also has a progressive edge, something like Dream Theater mixed with bay area thrash metal. There are some downsides to it(namely that it is impossible to find) but otherwise it's one of the best albums I have ever heard.

After getting my copy of Sane Asylum from ebay, I popped it right in and right what I had heard about the album was true. The lineup is flawless, it is the perfect blend of musicians. Marc Biedermann blows guys like Kirk Hammett, Gary Holt, Eric Meyer(except maybe on Time Does Not Heal), Marty Friedman, Chris Poland, Jeff Hanneman and others clear away. This guy is truly a guitar virtuoso, who like others(namely Mike Davis of Nocturnus), deserves way more credit then he actually gets. His solos are fast and powerful, and he plays many of them(I believe every song has at least two). They are also rather complex and technical, yet can be very melodic at times. His guitar work, with a little help from future Primus guitarist Larry Lalonde cement The Sane Asylum as one of the best albums I've heard ever guitar wise. There are few guys who come as close as being meant to play with each other like Biedermann and Lalonde, and these guys exploit that instrumental chemistry with the tightest perfection every seen.

Drumming isn't horrible either. Few people know the name Mike Miner, but this guy is a truly great drummer. Yeah he's no Gene Hoglan, George Kollias, Tomas Haake, but he's fast, he's melodic and he's technical. He's better then guys like Lars Ulrich, Gar Samuelson, even Charlie Benante at times. His drumming has a very progressive edge to it as well, as he isn't always about hitting his snare and cymbals like crazy and then doing really fast double bass drum rolls(which he does quite a few of), he actually can be very creative with the use of his drums, especially his double bass pedals. He'll often use them for some funky yet definitely metal beats to go along with the bass. He is the perfect drummer for the band.

Finally, there is Les Claypool. To bad he's in Primus, because anything he ever put out with them looks small compared to what he does on The Sane Asylum. This is the band that him and Larry, and would form Primus later on from. His bass is amazing. There is just no equivalent. It makes James Hetfield feel sorry for not taking him into Metallica, because this guy makes Cliff Burton look like a bass rookie(and the guy is pretty damn overrated). His funky beats provide a nice progressive edge to the band, and give it a truly unique edge, giving them almost a fusion element to them. Coupled with Biedermann and Lalonde's guitar work, and Miner's drumming he's also perfect for the band.

Sure the production isn't the best, but it's better then most black metal demos I have picked up. Biedermann's vocals aren't the best either. Often he tries to hold out notes, and he ends sounding like a screamo vocalist. The songs at times can be kind of slow, but that's just the progressive edge coming into play. Those are the only problems I have with the album.

In turn, if you have the money, and know where to get it, get The Sane Asylum. You will not be sorry.

Welcome To The Sane Asylum! - 91%

Human666, April 21st, 2007

'The Sane Asylum' is a different thrash album, because it isn't only a thrash album. There are a lot of prog rock influences here and some other vibes here and there which makes this album sounds different, not like a typical riff monster thrash album which concentrating on mind blowing riffs at 250BPM. It has a unique sound also, it sounds a bit fuzzy and occult sometimes and creates a special atmosphere.

The albums begins with a short track which is also the title track. It starts pretty calmly with clean and pleasent guitar and then bang! The distorted guitars comes in swiftly with some powerful power chords and so the vocals comes in. 'Mark Biedermann' has a bit limited vocal range but he doesn't hold this album back. He sounds raw and dirty, he doesn't changes his approach for the whole album but he sounds pretty good. There are also some echos on his voice which gives him a muffled shade. Overall he isn't an outstanding vocalist but he is a pretty decent one and fits this album perfectly. 'Blood Shower' is my favorite track here! It begins with a fast riffage with middle eastern vibe and changes all the time and develops pretty good. The vocals are angrier than ever, especially at the brutal chorus. It's an awesome track with topnotched riffs and amazing leading guitars. 'Kamkazi' is the ballad of the album. It's a wonderful track with emotional solos and sweeping vocals. It keeps on a calmly mood in the verses and becomes piercing at the chorus like a buzz saw. 'Smash The Crystal' has an interesting dialogue between the guitars and the intensive bass in the beginning. It also has a pretty catchy chorus and straightforward riffing.

It's a shame that this album is such overlooked because this is one of the most original and uniques albums that were written in the thrash scene. This is one of the more creative albums I've heard and I've never heard something which sounds even a bit similar to the unique atmosphere and ideas in this album. Highly recommended for anyone who fonds qualitative music!

Perfect? No. Brilliant? ..... - 100%

erickg13, February 25th, 2007

“The Sane Asylum” is a very special album, to put it plainly. It grabs you from the first note, and has total control of your mind till it lets up (sometimes, this isn’t when the album ends). But don’t let that fool you. This isn’t a perfect album, it has flaws, as do most albums. But there’s a quality that makes you enjoy those flaws, as if those flaws add more character to the album. But there is a lot more than just that behind this album.

At the time Blind Illusion released “The Sane Asylum”, they had been active in some form for about 10 years, quite an oddity for a band to release their debut album 10 years into their career. But in the case of “The Sane Asylum” it may be to its advantage. Being that Blind Illusion was a Bay Area band it is easy to understand the overwhelming thrash sound, but some of these songs date back to 1979, which creates quite a contrast to the songs written in 1988. Despite the bands thrash base, there is also a very prevalent prog rock element.

But “The Sane Asylum” never falls into the cliché trappings of thrash metal, maybe due to the fact that they sometimes sound much more comfortable playing the more experimental material.

And as said before, the production is bad, though that would be an understatement. But even on this front, the album manages to possess a great sound. What exactly does this mean? Well, this lack of production shows off the skill of the musicians, and not the prowess of the producer on the board. The only thing that really lacks is the vocals, provided by Mark Biederman. They sound very thin, and often times seem as though they are stretching to reach a note, but just can’t, and turn into a whine.

Of course, looking back on this album, there’s always the looming presence of Les Claypool and Larry Lalonde, who would, of course, go on to form the alt-rock group Primus. Though at that point of their respected careers each already had a very solid track record, with Claypool being told he couldn’t join Metallica because he was “too good”, and Lalonde was known as the guitarist of the death metal pioneers Possessed.

Each song is very much important to the whole album, and while there are standouts (“Death Noise”, “Metamorphosis of a Monster”), but each songs works with each other to create a greater whole. There are no weak songs, on this album. Each song has its own distinct qualities that make each individually great, and that individual strength

Overall, Blind Illusions sole album “The Sane Asylum” is a study of a puzzle inside a riddle. It’s one of the most interesting listens you’ll ever encounter. Find it. Buy it. And enjoy this masterpiece.

Oxymorons. And a fragment of perfection. - 100%

Napero, February 16th, 2006

I believe this is the best metal album ever released. I know many people say such things lightly, and change their opinions and albums to worship within a week, or a year or two at best. I don't, but you have nothing but my word to guarantee I'm serious. So, for all you know, I might be just another whimsical fanboy in the middle of my latest craze, ready to switch to Limbkin Parxit or a black metal band called Vomit Sodomy before next saturday. I'm not, but you don't know that for sure. Right?

I can only calm you down by saying that so far, in my two decades of metal, I haven't heard another album worth 100%, or even 99%, for that matter. This has been my favourite album for over fourteen years. The Sane Asylum is in a class of its own, and has set a standard that can -and should- be approached and strived for, but so far even the best bands attempting have ended as asymptotic curves, never really having a chance to reach the level of perfection on this beautifully flawed masterpiece, no matter how much they improve.

A long time ago I promised myself to find the dozen or so best albums of the late 80's on original CDs. Having dumped my tapes and few vinyls in a move sometime in the early 90's, I was lacking a few essentials, and finally two years ago I committed myself on the remaining short list to correct the situation. Into the Pandemonium by Celtic Frost was the first and easiest to find, and Speed Metal Symphony didn't take long, either. The re-release of the Rigor Mortis S/T eased the task further, but their Freaks EP proved a bit more expensive. Finally, on the new year's eve of 2005-06, I got The Sane Asylum, as a japanese version, for a price of 85 US dollars. It was worth every dollar, and completed my list after 14 years of more or less active searching.

The price was so steep that it's highly improbable that I will ever again pay such money for a CD. A delusional shrink might find some interesting reasons for my exceptional one-album spending spree, but the real reason lies in a list of such improbable contrasts that they sound like three oxymorons. The Sane Asylum is fundamentally great because it set next to each other elements that should reject each other, and succeeds in blending them into colours that have rarely, or more likely never, been seen elsewhere.

First and foremost, there is Flawed Perfection. It's impossible not to hear the low standard of the production. Most of the album sounds hollow and echoes abound, as if it was recorded in an empty 53 ft. standard cargo container. The guitar sound is somehow cheap and minimal, the drums lack all the sounds usually associated with thrashy aggression, and the bass is mostly audible when pounded with passion. The worst part, for most people, are Biedermeyer's vocals. He doesn't sound good, or even very credible, and his voice is simply repulsing with its narrow scale and tendency to break into a coarse shout-growl in louder parts. And still, everything in the whole is perfect, almost as if it had been intentionally fine-tuned to the right level of lousiness, just to rise so very high above the sum of the components. The guitars, with their WalMart effects and humble minimalism, attack with surprisingly vicious stings every now and then, mostly just executing their complex duties with fearsome ease. The drums wander all over the background of the sound, never outright surprising, but retaining with minimal tricks the essential knowledge of their own will, refusing to settle just for providing the beat. Everything has a purpose, and despite all the flaws the sound becomes a balanced, well-oiled machine from a dark steampunk movie, puffing and labouring, but doing its job with a surprising reliability and alien aesthetics. It truly is the android of Metropolis, at the same time a monster and a temptress.

There is the element of Uncompromising Mellowness. Aggression has never been so innocent on the surface, and so merciless underneath it. The best example of it can be found in the song "Death Noise". The intro, a whole song in itself, lasts well over three minutes, and is mid-paced, progressive and, in a strange fashion, very soft. At the same time it charges up the atmosphere, painting ominous images in the mind, perversely becoming progressively softer and softer, all the while building up a tension that could burst a vein in one's head. When the almost subliminal heartbeat can finally be heard, more with the subconscious than the ears, for exactly twelve beats, the stage is set. But for what? A thrash song, nothing more, almost an anti-climax. But a perfect anti-climax, shorter than the intro, a compact payload to be delivered with pinpoint precision, a dumb warhead to devastate what the earlier stages had targeted. "Kamakazi" has a more complete and thorough combination of the two. All through the song the sound stays ominously mellow, but the feelings it awakens are nothing close to calming or soothing. Soft delivery is intertwined with a controlled, steel-eyed fury, with a deadly, dedicated determination and the delicate beauty of a cherry blossom. At no point during the album does the mellowness become a compromise, never does the band allow a real breathing space. They do what they want, uncaringly dealing out the constricting emotion that, disguised as mellow laziness, resembles a bad feeling before a certain accident. Imagine sitting behind the steering wheel of a car that inevitably slides on top of smooth black ice towards the rear of the last car to hit the mile-long pile-up on the highway. There's nothing you can do but to stare and listen while the time slows down, all senses sharpening, gripping the wheel with white knuckles, and feeling the weighty block of frozen lead on the bottom of your belly.

Third, the Invisible Brilliance! While the album may be below many other works in production and sound, the workings of the separate instruments are magnificient. They aren't in a zoo cage to be stared at by half-interested passers-by. You must take the time to seek for them, listen for Claypool's odd bass lines, hunt the strange jazzy backbeats in the drum work, actively stalk the intriguing effect sounds and the child-choir. Yes, there is a child-choir, hidden like a religious artefact of a long-lost tribe, but audible if you only know where to look for it. Just like in a complex surreal painting, there are thousands of tiny details to be discovered and enjoyed, and just using a different stereo set and toying with the equalizer can provide stunning moments of illumination. This is a Victorian house designed by an insane genius, with secret passages and Lovecraftian murals, endless intricate reliefs with stories to tell and a surrounding overgrown garden that hides much. The musicians were the geniuses, and even if we lost some of them to Primus and the others have scattered, their metallic legacy remains in the 40 minutes of The Sane Asylum. It is a beautiful tombstone, a fragment of perfection.

I lack the technical understanding and the verbal skills to describe the album well enough for you to see what makes it so special, so precious, and so worthy of your time. So go and find it, on cassette or vinyl if necessary, and let it guide you. Give it several chances, study it with patience, and let it reveal its inner workings. It is a Lemarchand's box worth working on. It may even turn out to be a one-of-kind Lament Configuration, and have such sights to show you... All you need to do is to trigger its fascinating mechanism in your mind and let yourself go. I'll see you on the other side.

No illusions - 90%

Vim_Fuego, August 8th, 2004

Most people will be familiar with the twisted little ditties at the beginning and end of each episode of South Park, courtesy of Primus. However, most people would be unaware of the link to the Bay Area thrash scene of that band. Guitarist Larry LaLonde was a member of the highly influential San Fran thrashers Possessed, and Larry and bass maestro Les Claypool were also band mates in this little outfit, Blind Illusion.

Despite the creative output of the Primus pair, they were little more than hired guns here. Main man Marc Biedermann wrote almost everything on the album. Released in 1988, some of the songs were already 10 years old, and it was really a slightly off–the–wall release for a thrash outfit. "Death Noise" was written in 1978, "Kamakazi" 1979, and the rest of the album between 1985 and 1987. Biedermann had a limited vocal range, but wrote to it accordingly, sounding something like Dark Angel's Ron Rinehart minus the falsetto screams.

"Vengeance Is Mine" is particularly twisted. Much of it is out of time, whether deliberate or accidental, it's hard to tell. The tempo and time signatures of the song wanders all over the place. There are some frenetic solos, and at time has some damned weird noises produced by who knows what. Easy listening it most definitely isn't. "Death Noise" has an AC/DC–ish backbeat, an almost funky section, and a Middle Eastern sounding solo. It all leads into guitar scrapes sounding like dive bombers attacking, and then the main body of the song starts. Strangely, the excellent main riff is so muffled as to be almost inaudible, with the clunky drumming further up the mix. Unexpectedly, it works. "Kamakazi" sounds like a refugee from Iron Maiden's debut album.

And so how do Claypool and LaLonde perform? Well, there are none of the trademark weird bass noises from Claypool, but his playing is still far from conventional. Often playing counter to the rhythm guitar, he fills many small spaces with runs, mini solos and unexpected notes. LaLonde's performance matches much of his output in Possessed, trading breakneck solos with Biedermann, with that nasty extra bite his former band was famous for. However, Possessed it ain't.

This album doesn't make much sense on first listen, but it is the sort of thing you find yourself drawn to repeatedly, without knowing why.