Review Summary: Prelude to The Tragedy is still a landmark album that demonstrated what can be done within a genre that is now being brought down to its knees.
Ten years ago, few had ever heard anything quite like Defeated Sanity. While bands like Atheist and Cynic began melding jazz-fusion elements with the aggressiveness of death metal, the likes of Suffocation and Deeds of Flesh were cultivating a very different beast, taking brutality to extremes. For the longest time these styles remained broadly separate entities, perhaps considered incompatible in light of tech-death’s perceived sophistication versus the brazen approach of its estranged brutal cousin. Defeated Sanity took the technical virtuosity and jazzy rhythm structures of the Floridian greats and fused it with the categorical density of their gory counterparts, remaining scarcely imitated to this day.
To call Prelude to The Tragedy
“brutal” is an understatement, though lighter in production than its successors, it is still just as, if not more uncompromising, musically. The opening track “Liquifying Cerebral Hemispheres” – an unnervingly accurate name – wastes no time in conveying its memo. The clichés of modern brutal death such as horrible torture-porn samples are almost entirely absent, and the listener is immediately and unwaveringly assaulted with syncopated riffs and drum patterns for a solid half hour. As you’ve probably guessed, the album is fairly inaccessible, and requires your undivided attention and many repeat listens to be fully appreciated. Things such as hooks, solos and even breakdowns are sparsely incorporated, leaving very little for the uninitiated to grapple onto. Tracks such as “Horrid Decomposition” bring the overall tempo down a notch, and feature more predictable riff patterns. This allows a very scant
breathing space so as not to reduce the listener to a vegetable, but the overall “can’t hack it, get out of the cesspool” approach is maintained for the vast majority of the album’s duration.
Though it is easy to get lost in the musical labyrinth by virtue of its sheer aggression, Prelude to The Tragedy
is a surprisingly nuanced affair. This is where the jazz background of jaded guitarist Wolfgang Teske – who sadly passed away in 2010 after the band released their 3rd album – becomes obvious. Though not nearly as pronounced as on their 2007 effort Psalms of the Moribund
, the jazz elements and chaotic approach to song-writing are what elevate this album (and indeed, the band) above the lethargies of the commonly derided genre. Tracks such as the aforementioned opener, “Drifting Further” and “Apocalypse of Filth” showcase the band at their syncopating, time-signature shifting best. Thanks to said intricacies, the album comes across as calculated in scope but natural in execution, with each sequence flowing unhindered from the last and routinely surprising the listener with more than just senseless brutality.
Since releasing Prelude to The Tragedy
, Defeated Sanity have gone on to become as much of a universally respected act as the genre limitations will allow. It isn’t difficult to understand why they’re considered among the fore-runners of their craft, containing substance but still utilising brutality in droves. Prelude to The Tragedy
may have gone largely unappreciated in light of the band’s more accomplished records, but it is still a landmark album that demonstrated what can be done within a genre that is now being brought down to its knees.