Review Summary: Defeated Sanity's "Split with themselves" is much more than a looking glass into a world of 'what if' scenarios.
From the assault on the senses that was Prelude to The Tragedy
to the cleverly veiled technicality of Chapters of Repugnance
, Defeated Sanity have never seemed anything less than consummate in their approach to their craft. So, imagine my shock when bassist Jacob Schmidt admitted that melding their influences together has never ceased to be a struggle, often to the detriment of what they’re trying to accomplish. Could’ve fooled me, because their jazz-imbued yet wholly devastating compositions felt so fluid that it made typical transitions from lesser bands feel forced by comparison. Nevertheless, the band’s auto-criticism was well-warranted, being the catalyst in making their newest album such a peculiarity.
Like a solvent split in two, Defeated Sanity’s fifth album juxtaposes their unfettered brutality on one side, Disposal of The Dead
, with their less appreciated Floridian influences on the other, Dharmata
. As each component is able to exist without compromise, the end creation is simultaneously the heaviest and most progressive thing the band has ever done. The former’s guitar tone could function as infrasonic weaponry, as if axeman Christian Küln is using bridge cables for guitar strings. Even then, he still exhibits plenty of musical pyrotechnics amid all the chromatic slam riffs and bottom string tremolo abuse, but they’re obscured by an omnipresent fog the likes of which only Schmidt’s bass work is able to consistently scythe though. Both “Generosity of The Deceased” and “Suttee” have the bass jumping into higher registers and adding a touch of nuance, but it’s “The Bell” in which it really comes to the fore. As it’s pushed up in the mix, the ambience borders on extra-terrestrial, setting up an unexpectedly smooth segue into the band’s Floridian side.
title-track bolts out of the gates, totally unfazed at having been preceded by six tracks that effectively ushered in the Richter scale’s obsolescence. Drummer Lille Gruber trades in his popcorn snare for something with a bit more punch, as well as a litter of cymbals and even some temple blocks for jazzy authenticity. It also becomes apparent pretty quickly that Dharmata
is Gruber’s idea of heaven, as he weaves his way through topsy-turvy song structures and fusion interludes with a level of precision that would make Sean Reinert blush, probably. Bolstering their jazz leanings a la Cynic – complete with a Tony Teegarden impression from Max Phelps on vocals – might send up a flag or two for some, but the vibe on Dharmata
isn’t one of pretentiousness or self-aggrandisement but of fun. You can sense the musicians relishing the challenge they’d been unable to tackle under their brutal death fascia, with grins from ear to ear that you can’t help but mimic as Küln darts from fleet-footed rhythms to flamboyant scales and back.
What is perhaps most impressive is that the package as a whole manages to avoid the qualitative incongruities typical of splits, despite diametrically opposed styles present on each side. Yes, Defeated Sanity have the advantage of being a singular collective, but if anything that just merits further praise given the variety they’ve been able to exert amongst themselves. Disposal of the Dead // Dharmata
is much more than a looking glass into a world of ‘what If’ scenarios, it’s a peerless demonstration of resilience from the world’s leading brutal death metal band.