Review Summary: Death is certain for all. Until then, whether you want to be Atheist or Believer, or a bit of both, it's all good.
Let's just get right down to the core of this mother***er, shall we: the guitar distortion. I could listen to this album for days on end just for the gain, which is insane. And I'd probably give my right pinky to get the EQ parameters Believer used to dial in their guitar tone. It's mid-scooped era metal, obviously, but with just the right frequency filters and enhancements to make for an absolutely pulverizing sound. Applied to the palm-muted technical riffs, and in combination with the drums and the bass, the effect is simply devastating.
Apart from that, three things need to be said about this album. First, the riffing speed is uncanny at times. Apart from the dissonant hooks (which in some places involuntarily call to mind Voivod's Killing Technology
and Dimension Hatröss
, and anticipate thrash-era Extol), your brain will register the palm-muted triads in, say, Wisdom's Call
's main riff, only your ears may not have picked them up immediately. As for Idols of Ignorance
, to this day I can hardly grasp the stampede, head-over-heels tempo of the main riff together with the drums.
Second, orchestral thrash. They did it on Extraction From Mortality
and they'll do it again on Dimensions
, but Dies Irae
must be Believer's most effective experiment in combining thrash metal with symphonic arrangements and female operatic vocals. Together with the other tracks, it makes Sanity Obscure
into a uniquely deranged thrash album, manic precursor to the much more cerebral and jazzier opus Dimensions
Third, the Christian thing. Imagine living in a totalitarian theocracy in which you're only allowed to listen to music by artists labeled as 'Christian'. Your worst nightmare, you 'd think - perhaps, but not entirely. Even in the niche of extreme metal, there would be a select handful of bands giving you an idea of what quality thrash, including its progressive and technical ramifications, is about. Believer's discography would be part of that canon, and this is one of their finest offerings. On the other hand, there's few cases in which labeling music as 'Christian' is more pointless than this one. Roadrunner Records seems to have shared this view when it took over the band and this album from Christian label R.E.X. Music, understanding its potential to reach a larger audience. There's Christian- and biblical-themed lyrical content here for sure, in acceptable measures, on roughly half of the tracks. But do we really care? (Hell, even Creeping Death
had Hetfield doing a Yahweh impersonation.) By contrast, a track like Nonpoint
is all about the environmental pollution theme, much like new label mates Annihilator did with Stonewall
on Never, Neverland
in the same year.
All things considered, this is a genuinely ferocious offering of death-tinged technical thrash metal that, for 1990 at least, deserves a rightful place among the likes of Atheist, Anacrusis and Death. Could have done without the U2 cover in the end, but there we are.