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Insanity > Insanity > Reviews
Insanity - Insanity

Pure unfiltered Insanity - 81%

AgnosticPuppy666, December 6th, 2022
Written based on this version: 2010, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

If you were to take any Bay Area thrash metal demo from 1985 or before and crank up the aggression to 11, you would get something on par with Insanity's 1985 debut rehearsal demo. This demo was instrumental to the development of death metal as well as its what I like to call "middle sibling of thrash metal and death metal," death/thrash metal. There are enough elements from both subgenres present in this particular release for it to be considered an example of the best of both worlds. Like the demos from other pioneers of death metal, this one contains both lightning fast tempos and riffs built on adrenaline and/or suspense throughout the songs. That's a characteristic certainly derived from thrash metal. What sets this demo apart from any other old school thrash demo are the deadly, shrieking vocals from late Insanity frontman Joe DeZuniga. One could argue that the demos from Mantas and Possessed couldn't even compare to the brutality of Insanity's '85 demo. I don't know if I would personally make that argument as I hold those 2 bands much closer to my heart than Insanity, but that does not mean I wouldn't be open to hearing what others have to say. Fans of Possessed, Sadus, and Morbid Saint should check out this demo as well as the rest of Insanity's discography if they haven't already.

Insanity's debut demo originally contained 3 tracks full of nonstop riffage from Joe DeZuniga & Dave Gorsuch, a generous amount of shreddy guitar solos from Gorsuch, pounding drums from the late Bud Mills, a subtle low-end in the mix from bassist Keith Ellison, and the shrieking vocals from DeZuniga that I had mentioned. DeZuniga had quite the vocal range to put it lightly. His vocal style sounded very much like Darren Travis from the very first Sadus releases. On top of that grating shriek, he also belted out some higher screams that reminded me of Hellhammer era Tom G. Warrior, and even some growls that started to get pretty low. Of course, any vocal style of that nature featured on a demo from 1984-1985 was a significant influence of death metal vocals. The riffs were obviously thrash metal influenced. You can clearly hear a riff from "Black Magic" by Slayer on the track "Blood for Blood." The usual chugging power chords on top of speedy down picking and tremolo picking were very much utilized. There were riffs also containing notes that sounded all over the place (for lack of better words) which created a very chaotic and spine-tingling atmosphere for this demo. That "very chaotic and spine-tingling" songwriting style was a major influence on the way death metal bands crafted their music. If Insanity's music can't get the average heavy metal connoisseur to headbang even a little, then I don't know what will.

Despite this rehearsal demo being raw, it is decently balanced. With a good ear, every instrument can be heard. That always makes for an enjoyable listening experience. However, I will say that those who are not as accustomed to listening to old metal demos may not enjoy this upon the first listening as there is a lot going on dynamically. The instruments and vocals are constantly blasting away at top speeds and an elevated volume. The vocals sound like they were recorded using a cheaper vocal amplifier. Unrefined vocal production is common in metal demos, especially older ones. If I had to summarize this demo in 3 words, it would be the title of this review: Pure unfiltered Insanity.

The 2010 Bandcamp version contains 2 additional tracks not featured on the original demo. Those tracks are "Death After Death" and "Attack of Archangels - inst. / Fire Death Fate." The former is an instrumental demo version of what would become the title track of the band's first full-length album. The latter is a combination of an instrumental track and the first track off this demo. I can only assume that "Attack of Archangels" and "Death After Death" were recorded for this demo, but didn't make the final cut. I don't know why the band didn't just have "Attack of Archangels - inst. / Fire Death Fate" as the first track on the 2007 cassette reissue, 2019 12" vinyl reissue, and Bandcamp version rather than having the same song play essentially twice throughout the 18 minute running time, but it's not the end of the world.

I find it disappointing that Insanity is not mentioned in more conversations nowadays regarding death/thrash metal and the development of death metal. Anybody who's familiar with Insanity knows very well that they were a big name in the world of heavy metal tape-trading. I think it's safe to say you had an impact on the world of metal to some degree if the likes of Napalm Death are covering your stuff (for context: Napalm Death covered the song "Fire Death Fate" on Leaders Not Followers: Part 2). Insanity's 1985 rehearsal demo is a solid, no-nonsense slab of death/thrash metal that's worth taking anywhere from 9 to 18 minutes (depending on which version you stumble upon) to listen to. Favorite track: Fire Death Fate.

Yeah, this will rip your face off - 86%

robotniq, March 17th, 2020

This is one of those demos which has found near legendary status as one of the first 'death metal' recordings. Certainly, this is some of the most intense metal you'll hear from 1985. It is a terrifying and ungodly racket. Imagine listening to two Slayer albums simultaneously, say "Hell Awaits" in one ear and "Show No Mercy" in the other. Add some horrendous, banshee-like screaming into the mix. That is what this demo sounds like.

"Fire Death Fate" is a decent opener, it shows the band in their full fury, it also has a catchy chorus which you can latch onto. "Ultimate Death" is the highlight, it starts with an amazing three-quarter speed riff (straight from the Slayer handbook). The crunching riff just after the two-minute mark is fucking righteous. Everything slows down and suddenly it all gets more menacing. "Blood For Blood" speeds things back up and heads into almost grindcore territory before pulling a recognisable chorus from the madness. The drumming throughout is phenomenal and is the main reason Insanity sound so powerful. The production is what you might expect from the time, but clear enough that you can hear what you need to hear. There is no muddiness at all, not much distortion, not much bass, but the overall sound works because the band is tight and talented.

Is it death metal? For 1985 it is damn close, near the top of the class (which would contain contemporaries like Archenemy and Devastation). In my view there are a couple of recordings from the period which have a more distinct death metal 'vibe’. Insanity don't have the same 'swirling riff-vortex' of the best moments from "Seven Churches", nor do they have the bone-crunching death metal feel of Terminal Death's "Faces of Death" demo. Insanity seem more aligned with the (very) extreme thrash of later bands like Morbid Saint. Still, who cares when the music hits as hard as this?

80's Death Metal Demo Series: #1. Insanity - 96%

UncleMeat, May 5th, 2009

In 1985, most death metal bands were still in their early stages, playing a much more simplistic version of the death metal sound that would emerge a short while later. Death/Mantas, Possessed, Master/Deathstrike, Black Dethe, etc. are all examples of this. Insanity however, had something else brewing in their rehearsal space - something much more technical, faster, and savagely brutal. It’s hard to believe this was actually recorded in 1985, as this band was incredibly ahead of their time, and thus makes this recording the perfect choice for being the first review in my "80's Death Metal Demo Series".

Regarding the production on here, well there really isn’t any. This was recorded in their rehearsal space (probably a garage) straight to a two-track tape recorder. The only piece of equipment they really had other then the tape recorder was one stereo microphone, meaning no mixer, no mastering job, and no studio touch ups. So knowing this, before hearing the recording yourself, one would expect something about as bad sounding as those early Death rehearsal tapes, but you will be surprised, and pleased, to find out that the sound on here really isn’t that bad. You can hear every riff, bass line, solo, drum fill, and growl perfectly, making this one fine specimen of death metal in its earliest stages from one of the most ripping bands of that era.

Joe DeZuniga, the band’s original vocalist who died in 1987, has an excellent voice. He utilizes a higher, raspier growling screech type of voice that really sounds like his jugular is being ripped from his throat as the recording is going on. One element that really set Insanity apart from all the other proto-death metal recordings from the mid-80’s was the technical riffing. Obviously it was not as intricate as what would later develop on the bands debut LP, but keep in mind, this was 1985. And while Death and Master were busy making simplistic, yet still awesome, Venom-worshipping proto-death metal, Insanity were busy constructing riffs that could easily take everything else from that era and blow it out of the water in terms of intensity, technicality and construction. Bud Mills, the drummer, who also died a sad, unfortunate death, really makes his skills apparent as he beats the SHIT out of those skins, with an equal amount of energy as the rest of the band is carrying out.

Insanity have remained a criminally underrated band for 24 years, and it blows my mind that when the discussion of pioneering death metal bands comes about, this band is rarely mentioned (well it really depends on who you’re talking to, if you know what I mean). But luckily, they do, and always have had a considerable cult following, as they rightfully deserve it, so finding reissues of their material is not very hard. And for this reason, I highly advise you to purchase everything and anything you can find. Highly recommended to those who like their death metal ancient and evil.