Review by Will Harris
Sometimes, a band can come along and present an old form with such unwavering faithfulness and unshakeable technical ability that it effectively deflects any argument that they’re only doing what’s already been done. London-based thrash act Sanity Burns are one of the latest to claim that title with their debut self-titled LP. From the moment the intro of opener ‘Relentless’ breaks down into the familiar riff, cymbals-with-riff then beat-with-riff of so many 80s thrash metal songs, it’s clear that Sanity Burns is going to be a mostly nostalgic affair. By the end of that song, it’s equally clear that it’s going to be a good one.
Sure, vocalist Christopher Simmons might bear not the weakest of resemblances to Dave Mustaine (though the former does frequently switch to a deathly growl), and a fair percentage of the riffs could’ve easily appeared on Peace Sells or Ride The Lightning, but their brilliant execution is done with such white-knuckled conviction that almost any thrash purist will be willing to leave their comparisons at the door and simply rock out. All the usual thrash trademarks are there: ‘Eternity’ begins with a steady, empowering ‘Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!’ chant before accelerating into thundering, merciless speed metal, while ‘Embers’ channels the classical acoustic balladry of Metallica and Annihilator before it segues into its hard, mid-tempo conclusion of ‘Ashes’.
The production, for a self-made effort, is impressive and happily sounds even better cranked, though the vocals sometimes feel a bit too low in the mix. Hear them, though, and you’ll find all the familiar themes of 80s thrash: predominantly war, death and murder. And these themes are even treated with the same simplicity and irreverence that the old guys did; ‘I don’t give a fuck if you’re gonna die’, roars Simmons on ‘Killed In Action’.
It’s also refreshing to hear a modern thrash band refuse to succumb to the endless noodling and self-indulgent shredding that pervades so many records now; instead there are well-timed, proficient and gloriously gratifying solos that never compromise the solid, enjoyable songs. Drums, vocals and bass (headphones required) all put in more than adequate performances too.
Bad points? Well the track listing shows closer ‘Schizophrenia’ to be over seven minutes long and, with its brooding acoustic intro, has you expecting a steady-building epic, but conversely turns out to be a kind of sprawl of good, but ultimately disjointed parts of songs. Besides that, Sanity Burns stands as a most-fitting and thrilling tribute to the genre. And if the Mustaine likeness still grates, you might be pleased to know that since the recording Sanity Burns have acquired a new vocalist. Let me know when they release the next album — I’m off to dig out my bullet belt…
7.5 out of 10
- Killed In Action
- Black Widow