Life isn’t fair and you know it. Insanity, too, have been living with that self evident truth for the last 25 years. Here’s a band that was at the forefront of giving death metal a real, well-rounded identity while it emerged out of the unforged morass of first wave crudity. Here was a band that was riding the thrash wave along with Possessed, but managed to raise the bar much higher than their more famous contemporaries ever did. Here was a band that was playing true death metal while Schuldiner, Speckmann, and Warrior were struggling to distill the primitive into something more than a parody. Here was Insanity.
And nobody could give less of a flying fuck.
The band’s been through the wars. On hindsight, their obscurity seems preordained. How many bands could’ve survived the death of two founding members, and yet fanned the flames? What fears haunt a band that is reminded every time they look at their own logo, drawn by a fallen comrade, of their own mortality? How different would things be if line-up changes hadn’t cursed the band when a nascent Nuclear Blast came knocking?
We’ll never know for sure. More the reason to cherish their latest output, an ode to founding drummer Bud Mills who died in 2007. Visions of the Apocalypse takes some of Mills’ last drum tracks, mastered after his death, along with the Sacrifixion EP from ’01, and serves them up on a platter of the purest death this side of Styx. Guitarist Dave Gorsuch, the only remaining original member, also contributes vocals. His style and inflection pays tribute to original guitarist/vocalist Joe DeZuniga while adding more low-end to the thrash/death fashion of the 80s. It’s a joy to hear that throaty snarl, once beloved of many death metal bands, long since fallen prey to the cookie monster.
The songs run a gamut of attitudes from breakneck thrashers to sinister, mid-paced bludgeoners. There is a rabid ferocity to be found here, like a hive of strung up bees, a swarm of locusts running roughshod over all. Often they remind me of a more brutal Hellwitch in their ear for unconventional bits of serpentine melodies that are strewn about the more aggressive parts. The pace slows down frequently to allow a bit of space to develop, usually occupied by a more ponderous, heavy section, only to return to the rampaging motif. Solos are adrenaline-amped churners squirting out with tremendous potency to fill all cavities. Drums maraud; Budd Mills was reputedly a major innovator of extreme drumming. Siege and Repulsion may have been grinding and blasting, but Mills combined technique with unremitted aggression in creating a true touchstone for extreme metal drumming.
Most importantly, there’s still belief to be found here. There are no nods to the new age yet you’d be hard pressed to label it dated chiefly because of how progressive the band sounded when it started out back in the day. Insanity gave birth to a sound that defined death metal as we know it. While others have taken the template and added their distinctive flourishes, this album finds Insanity attempting to almost redefine history, and follow a path that could have been.