It’s been such an incredible period for death metal’s expansion and proliferation over the past five years that one could be forgiven for just now entering the field and discovering bands that have long been held as legendary to those in the know, particularly since so many “household” names suffer from long bouts of downtime between release cycles. Germany’s Defeated Sanity is one such act, and while four years isn’t quite an eternity, any period of time spent without new Defeated Sanity is too long.
To truly understand what Defeated Sanity is all about, look no further than 2016’s album Disposal of the Dead // Dharmata, which was a purposeful delineation of the band’s sound. Through its first half, the band reveled in ridiculous caveman slams and disgusting grooves for some entertaining if not catchy (for lack of a better word) brutal death metal. On the back end, the band channeled the likes of Death, Cynic, and Atheist for some remarkably intricate progressive and technical death metal (with the help of Max Phelps of Exist, who also spent time in Death to All and Cynic), with inflections of jazz fusion ramped up to degrees which the band had never before attempted.
This deconstruction helped to further define Defeated Sanity in their unique position in the greater death metal pantheon. Everyone privy up to this point knew of Defeated Sanity’s tech slamming ways, but the experiment of Disposal/Dharmata proved that it was no accident; this death metal establishment were adept at both styles separately, and could move the slider at will to dial in some truly enthralling death metal.
Now, in 2020, the group’s new record The Sanguinary Impetus feels like a reconstruction and recontextualization of Defeated Sanity, especially as the group reconvenes following the departure of longtime guitarist Christian Kuhn. Drummer and sole remaining founding member Lille Gruber took over guitar duties for the first time ever, and holds his own as the driving creative force of the project with his tasteful command of rhythm and groove. Vocalist Josh Welshman makes his comeback from Disposal of the Dead, and compliments the band’s eccentricities and excesses with his gurgling, gravelly presence. Longtime bassist Jacob Schmidt returns of course, and aids in the staggering immediacy of this new record; guitars and bass spiral in tandem during opening track “Phytodigestion” and the prominent bass work elevates the record as a whole.
The tug-of-war between the band’s prog/tech leanings and reptilian brutality remains in flux, subject to change for a breakneck songwriting style. The group manage to pull together a fleeting moment of oddly-timed Death worship in “Insecta Incedium” before staggering back into the dregs. The band can be heard pulling the same riff through increasingly ridiculous permutations on “Entity Dissolving Entity” to drive the point home that the difference between prog and brutal death can often depend entirely on the context in which that riff is played. Leading single “Propelled into Sacrilege” is likely the catchiest death metal song you’ll hear all year with riffs and breakdowns that are built to last. Late in the album, “Drivelling Putrefaction” features some of the most intricate percussion performances the genre has seen in some time, and later sees a rare guitar solo that can almost be described as excessively wacky.
Even at a relatively taut 35 minutes, The Sanguinary Impetus makes the most of its airtime and suffers no shortage of defining moments that make for peak death metal in 2020. The balance of this dichotomous sound is masterfully executed and leaves Defeated Sanity in a league of their own once again. The Sanguinary Impetus is a relatively lean but powerful record that stands out in the band’s discography as a uniquely captivating death metal record. With Colin Marston (Gorguts, Krallice, Behold! The Arctopus) at the helm, the band have certainly never sounded better, either. For those newcomers to the genre mentioned above, allow Defeated Sanity to offer you an incredibly listenable gateway to the deep end of death metal, as a better introduction will be difficult to come by. The rest of us are already well aware of their prowess, and with The Sanguinary Impetus comes an easy entry into the shortlist for album of the year.
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Defeated Sanity’s The Sanguinary Impetus is out July 24 via Willowtip Records. Pre-orders can be secured via the Bandcamp player above.