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Here Comes the Sandman to Protect Your Illusions - 90%

bayern, March 9th, 2015

The early-90's were fascinating times; not because new vo(g)ues (grunge, groove, (a)ggro-thrash, gremlins, g-strings, etc.) were looming on the horizon, but because the majority of the 80's practitioners were carrying on unperturbed by the winds of change, and even managed to produce their magnum opuses to the fanbase's utter delight. There was a lot of great music to choose from during those several years coming from all existing metal genres. This is when the most lasting symbiosis between two styles, the thrash/death metal hybrid, was born. By 1990 this blend seemed to have secured its place on the metal pantheon, and it wasn't surprising when some bands started to shift it towards more technical, more complex fields. Death suggested the transformation on "Spiritual Healing", but it was two other acts who went head-over-heels into paths untrodden until then: Atheist and Hellwitch...

So the “marriage” between death and thrash metal received a healthy technical twist thanks to those two aforementioned acts, more sophisticated and intelligent on “Piece of Time”, and more chaotic and violent on “Syzygial Miscreancy". However, the "holy third" didn't come out of North America as were the expectations; Europe had to give its fair share to the technical "baptism" of this sub-genre. Messiah almost qualified (they did, albeit one year too late with "Rotten Perish") with "Choir of Horrors", but lost due to their largely linear, less adventurous song-writing. So did Massacra who relied more on classical-prone virtuosity than on striking technical riff-patterns on "Final Holocaust". So who qualified then? Unknown newcomers from Finland named Protected Illusion, that's who.

These youngsters were already well equipped to do a bigger damage with their demos, but it was the "Swimming in the Moonlight" EP (1989) which showed their consummate musical skills and their penchant for brutal unrestrained music which could be considered the first death metal recording to come out of the Land of the Thousand Lakes, still heavily thrash-decorated. At this stage Nomicon were still largely a thrash metal act, and Demilich hadn't even started spreading their demos around. On the thrash metal side the only more technical/progressive exploit was Stone's "Colours"; the rest of the thrash brotherhood were still bashing directly without too many deviations. So the band's full-length came splashing on the scene, a shattering piece of aggression and brutality played with mind-blowing technical dexterity. It's a hard-to-believe piece of art, especially at the time when death metal's experimental spirit was just timidly showing its head above ground in Europe.

This effort actually predates Hellwitch's full-length by wholesome six months, and consequently is the first genuine display of chaotic technical brutality as opposed to the more calculated and elaborate feats of Atheist. Starts "Clockwork Toy" which opens the album with violent shredding and furious relentless "clockwork" riffage, the hard-to-digest rifforama topped by unholy rending shouts which could have been a highlight on any death or black metal release at the time. Things get a bit more controlled on "Plain Pain", another super-technical puzzle relieved by a short galloping passage in the middle. "Children of the Chord" is a technical/progressive thrash/death masterpiece, a shredfest of the highest quality featuring tons of time and tempo-changes packed within under 4-min; a composition which would have been the sure highlight on "Unquestionable Presence" even. It's true that it overshadows the remaining material the band's style brought to its blasting extreme on the short ripping "Decadence" which still shreds with an inordinate amount of precision and ingenious technicality.

"Greetings from Hell" is the most straight-forward track here, a fearsome basher which gets the message through without too much ado. "Symphonies of Happiness" would make any metal fan "happy" with its incessant riffage which surprisingly moves towards mid-paced variations in the 2nd half for a while those served with a nice twisted angle. "Merciless Dessert" is served near the end (intended as a "dessert", of course), another proficiently executed technical riff-fest with several memorable melodic hooks and a generally more moderate, thrash-fixated tempo. More "dessert" with the closing "Ruck Opstrom" which begins in the utmost brutal fashion, pure death metal madness, before suddenly turns into a calm pleasant ballad with a cool alternative edge. Needless to say, the vocals are immediately replaced by much more suitable clean ones; a totally unexpected turn of events, completely unheralded not even by the faintest hint, predating the serene balladic epitaph Hypocrisy provided on "Abducted". Still, it remains a generally pleasant surprise additionally pushing this triumphant album down the rabbit hole...

Well, 25-min (yes, the album is that short) of your life have been well spent for sure. Back in those days the first listeners exposed to it may have either developed migraine, or may have become addicted to it, first because of its irresistible complex aura, and second due to the audacious musicianship which throws quite a lot at him/her within an impossibly short timespan. It had by all means remained misunderstood and ignored: who would have thought that technical death metal would become a massive self-contained genre within the metal circuit with thousands of practitioners, perennially reinventing itself with new nuances added in quick succession, more or less appropriately. These Finns were just bashing their hearts out, it's clear; but they were doing it with loads of talent and vision being hardly aware that they were creating something truly original and out-of-the-box.

And, there must be something in the water in those thousand or so lakes over there: shortly after another young group of "psychos", Maple Cross, released a standout work of technical/avantgarde schizophrenic thrash/death, "The Eighth Day of Creation" (1991), with a more faithful to the Atheists style; and Nomicon and Demilich were already in circulation waiting to take their toll with some of the most memorable portions of visionary, forward-thinking music on the scene. Protected Illusion remained afloat with their "Sandman's Store" EP which came out one year later, and was another impressive slab of original technical thrash/death (more thrash, less death this time) which has increased the melody a notch for the sake of the aggression. Then a string of three demos followed which shifted further and further away from their staple blitzkrieg approach the style there being modern thrash/post-thrash, still fairly listenable, but generally more simplistic, with a darker tone, kind of paving the way for the guys' metamorphosis as a gothic/doom metal formation under the name Nevergreen first, and later as Sinisthra where they managed to reach the official release stage with one full-length and one EP.

So those tales would hardly put your children to sleep, but at least would by all means serve as a protection of their illusions that creatures like Santa Claus, the Sandman, the Toothfairy, and the Tall Blonde (Wo)man with One Black Shoe do indeed exist as harbingers of unhinged childhood-found happiness.

Madness in intensity and riffs! - 84%

CHRISTI_NS_ANITY8, October 20th, 2008

To be sincere I expected a different music from these guys, a sort of gore death metal in old Finnish style, like Demilich, Funebre and so on, but when I read their genre here on Metal Archives I was so surprised. They play a sort of death/thrash metal that has a lot of influences from the German scene and more specifically from the first Kreator with a hint of early Deathrow. So, already from here we can more or less fix the genre in question. The music is fast and the riffage is truly relentless.

This band has always been strangely overlooked even if with this album we can taste the goodness of their sound. Let me say frankly that it’s not a masterpiece, the way it’s long, but it’s a good piece of primordial, forgotten brutality. The first song is representative in this case and welcomes us with ultra fast riffs by the guitars, several up tempo parts and schizophrenic vocals. The intensity is always high and we haven’t a second to relax. The tempo changes are very precise and constant while the production is incredibly clear and essential at the same time. It’s like a live record but a bit clearer. All the instruments sound is pretty polish and powerful.

The following “Play Pain” continues on the same patterns with schizophrenic, energetic riffs and relentless drums. Some more progressive influences can be traced in the guitars parts while the drumming is truly fast and essential, even during the less impulsive parts. The solo add more progressive touches and some vocals effects are truly scary. “Children of the Chords” has inside a certain punk influence, especially in the first part while going on we return to fast thrash. The riffs are incredibly various and we can find a lot of them. The same can be said from the following, ultra fast “Decadence”.

Sometimes we reach the blast beats limits for the drumming and the solos are far more essential and seen as simply add of brutality. The intro to “Greetings from Hell” is the first mid-paced thing I’ve listened since a while on this album and it’s good too. Soon the faster riffs enter and we finally reach the blast beats for the drums. They are quite good and the vocals are even more pissed off. By the way, in some parts the tempo is calmer and on mid-paced patterns. “Symphonies of Happiness” is more punkish and again “in your face” with hardcore vocals parts.

“Merciless Desert” is strange for the tempo changes and the various kinds of extreme genres in it. We easily pass from up-tempo parts ala Hellhammer, to mid-paced ones and filtrated, more progressive sections. “Runk Öpström” is again heavily influenced from the first USA hardcore/crossover wave and bands like Cryptic Slaughter and Suicidal Tendencies while the drumming is on the borderline to blast beats once again. The long arpeggio break is one of the greatest things on this album because totally unexpected and melodic!

Overall, it’s a good surprise from Finland and it’s recommended for its hyper schizophrenic death/thrash style with spores of hardcore. It’s also free to download!