Review Summary: Defeated Sanity further cement their position as one of the top brutal death bands today.
Defeated Sanity have always been one of the more highly regarded “brutal death” bands, with good reason. In a subgenre populated by clones fixated on ripping each other off, these German death metallers have managed to consistently push out technical, heavy but also surprisingly varied and carefully layered releases. Granted, they’ve never been a band known for pushing boundaries, operating well within the relatively narrow brutal death spectrum. But the simple fact of the matter is they’ve earned a name for themselves by quite simply producing material of a greater quality than the majority of their peers, and “Passages Into Deformity”, their latest, is no exception.
Those expecting the band to have expanded their horizons and produced something out of the ordinary are going to be disappointed, Defeated Sanity have stuck firmly to their guns with this album. Their notoriously unhinged and ever shifting guitar work is still as foreboding as ever, often rapidly alternating between tremolo strumming to bass-laden grooves between each bar. There is even a minor presence of melody in a few tracks such as “The Purging” and “Perspectives”, something a lot of brutal death bands apparently have no concept of. Breakdowns are used in a necessarily recurrent manner; not obnoxious or overly dumbed down. They actually manage to add something to the record by often stripping down the previous sequence to a bare rhythm, thus progressing the tracks further and adding a dynamic largely unseen in the genre.
The drumming of Lille Gruber along with the rest of the instrumental performances is chaotic, while still keeping the beat with the rest of the band for the most part. It’s not uncommon for Gruber to extend beyond merely interesting fills and go against the grain of the music, yet never sounding out place or creating a sense of unwanted dissonance. For example, Gruber will often switch between blast beats and periodic bursts of double kicks very quickly, whilst simultaneously maintaining a framework for the rest of instruments to build upon. His cymbal-work is so varied that it will sometimes catch you off guard, but a rhythm will have appeared by the time a verse concludes. The production is cleaner than the last few albums these guys have released, albeit a little brickwalled, sacrificing a fair amount of dynamic range. With the extra clarity however, notes are easier to decipher, but the music still has that delightful thumpiness we’ve long since associated with the genre. Like a lot of brutal death bands, Defeated Sanity have chosen to use the good old popcorn snare drum, this along with the tinny cymbals helps produce a distinct “rawness” to the music.
One of Defeated Sanity’s most distinctive traits has been the vocals. Although they’ve sifted through quite a few frontmen, it’s obvious that the band favours a vocalist on the more “animalistic” side of the spectrum. Newest frontman Konstantin Luring lacks the projection and range that a lot of modern death metal vocalists possess, but projection and range is not what they’re after. Further reiterating the confidence these men have in their formula, they assimilate their newest vocalist as another subtle element of their sound, as opposed to a driving force. Luring’s performance isn’t overbearing, and suits the music to a tee. His lower-than-low growls and bizarre pig squeals add a curiously eerie and disturbing atmospheric quality.
There are subtle nuances that may not be apparent at first, but they gradually trickle to the forefront after multiple listens. The album may sound a bit samey and a lot of tracks may blend together at first. This apparent homogeny upon first listen actually comes from considerable variation of all things, which in the case of this album can be very difficult to wrap your head around. Every track contains a precisely calculated diversity of riffs, tempo shifts, occasional solos and instrumental breaks, making it a remarkably challenging but rewarding listen. As the album surges along, it becomes apparent that the variation isn’t being created between easily distinguishable, formulaic songs, but an amalgamation of ever-changing sequences within each track. As such the album is impossible to absorb and appreciate in only 2 or 3 sittings. But unlike a lot of typically disjointed brutal death releases, the album can be dissected and listened to over and over again.
Despite lacking the relentlessness of Palms
or the outright heavieness of Chapters
, Passages Into Deformity
more than holds it's own within Defeated Sanity's gleaming catalog. A challenging but rewarding listen, it goes about pulverising the listener in a more calculated way, without sacrificing the musical violence the genre is notable for. Hiding subtle nuances under ominous layers of aural cruelty, the German mob has once again produced a brutal death gem, cementing their position as one of the finest acts in the genre today.