Blind Illusion – The Sane Asylum
Label: Under One Flag FLAG 18
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album
Genre: “”Progressive”” Thrash Metal
A1 The Sane Asylum 1:39 Marc Biedermann
A2 Bloodshower 3:50
A3 Vengeance Is Mine 5:28
A4 Death Noise 7:04
B1 Kamakazi 5:04
B2 Smash The Crystal 3:28
B3 Vicious Vision 6:14
B4 Metamorphosis Of A Monster 6:38
Backing Vocals -“ Cristiana, Elisabetta, Francesca, Jeff Wing, Marisa, Michael Lorenzo. Bass -“ Marc Biedermann (only for this song).
CHECK all samples: http://chirb.it/p0Fvvp
Bass -“ Les Claypool (tracks: A2 to B3)
Drums -“ Mike Miner
Guitar -“ Larry LaLonde
Mixed By -“ Marc Biedermann, Mark Needham
Producer, Guitar, Vocals -“ Marc Biedermann
Recorded at Hyde St. Studio A, May 1 – July 17.
Mixed at Alpha And Omega Studios.
A one album super-group of sorts which is now known for being the band that 2/3 of Primus
Blood Shower and Smash the Crystal. You can hear both Les Claypool future and Larry LaLonde past (being fresh from Possessed, the seminal Bay Area death metal band) on the album, but ultimately, it lacks the punch needed to create the epic that it could have been. Production may have been a key problem here, as it suffers from the same lack of bottom end that many 80 albums had.
My review of the album The Sane Asylum by underrated Bay Area Thrash band Blind Illusion. An amazing album filled with incredible songs and excellent musicianship. One of my top ten albums of all time.
Overall Score: 100%
This is Bay Area Thrash at its best! Celebrate the vicious visions of Blind Illusion, before they became Primus.
A moment’s reflection…what imperfection? – 100%
What really constitutes a 100% album? Obviously no album is truly perfect, perfect is a vague concept based entirely on opinion and preference. There’s no way for me to say this album is perfect. And it’s clearly not. The production isn’t so great, Marc Biedermann is a pretty poor vocalist, and there are certainly flaws.
But I feel the need to issue this my first 100% based solely on the concept that this is one of few albums that, not only I can listen to repeatedly and never get tired of, but also based on the fact that there isn’t a thing I would change about this album, which is a pretty rare thing for me to say. I can look through my album collection right now and probably give you a handful of things I would change about any given album, even ones I love. Even ones I listen to significantly more than this. Whether thereâs a song thatâs too long, one riff I donât like, a song that Iâd delete, whether Iâd change the production quality, change the volume of one of an instrument. And of course thereâs always the case where Iâd change the album by setting it on fire so that it can never again harm my ears with its awful. Bottom line: thereâs usually at least one thing I can say I donât like about an album.
There is nothing I can say I donât like about The Sane Asylum. From the strange jazzy opening seconds of the intro track, before the guitar picks up its distortion and shreds into the beauty as Biedermann welcomes you to the Sane Asylum, until the final moments, as Iâm not sure, but I almost think he ends the album by yelling-¦ -œBITCH!- (For the love of god, does anyone know what the last wordo n the album is, I hear -œbitch.-)
As some background, I feel itâs only right to inform you that I am, in fact, a Primus fan, and I did, in fact, find this album through looking Les Claypoolâs discography. However, I wouldnât call myself a Les Claypool fanboy, as I really am only a big fan of the first handful of Primus albums. Iâm lost a little by the Brown Album (although there is some good stuff after, Iâm not big on any full albums), and I like songs he did in other projects, but not really any full albums. So, while I think maybe itâs unfair to not let it be known that I am a fan of Claypool/LaLonde, but I also donât want anyone to think this is being blindly praised because theyâre on it.
It can be said that this is a progressive thrash album. The thrash is definitely very prominent, and is probably the biggest influence, and the progressive label comes partially from the many outside influences. Iâve already mentioned the jazzy moment in the opening track, and considering bassist Les Claypool is now very well known for his work in Primus, the funk factor in has bass playing should be expected, and it certainly is present, especially at some moments on Smash the Crystal. Still, there are many clearly progressive moments on the album. Many tracks have sound effects somewhat buried in the mix, thereâs a childrenâs choir and synthesizer on Metamorphosis of a Monster, and Death Noise. Just Death Noise. Kamakazi also features some wonderful melodic parts, and although this isnât exactly new in thrash, as this was post-Master of Puppets at least, which features some of the most useless melodic pieces in thrash, but this executes them perfectly. The melodic sections never compromise the dark atmosphere of the album, and they never feel forced, and most importantly, they sound great. The whole album works very well, and unlike on some progressive albums, where a prt sounds awkward or out of place, this whole album just flows.
Now, thereâs some argument that this albumâs shortcomings hold it back, such as the production, how low some of these interesting little additions are in the mix, and Marc Biedermannâs vocals. But Iâve always felt that the production was perfect for this release. It keeps it dark and gritty, just as Iâd want an album with songs like Blood Shower and Death Noise to sound. And the sound quality certainly isnât bad. Just somewhat gritty. The little -˜extrasâ being low in the mix keeps the focus where it should be: on the metal. This isnât a progressive album that loses focus on the music because itâs too ambitious with its progressiveness. This is a thrash metal album full of the musical equivalent of Easter eggs for the frequent listener. Iâve already said that marc isnât a good vocalist; however, heâs a vocalist that fits the sound. Tom Araya and Dave Mustaine are both bad vocalists, but could you ever imagine someone else singing for Slayer or Megadeth? And just as no one wants to hear Bruce Dickinson singing Raining Blood, I canât imagine who would take over for Biedermann. I love David Godfrey, both in Heathen, and on the Blind Illusion demos, but I donât know if heâd fit a song like Blood Shower.
Another possible shortcoming on the album might be the lyrics. I know some people really care about deep or powerful lyrics of some kind, and thereâs not a whole lot of that. In fact, some of the lyrics are rather goofy, although still strangely topical. For example -œThe middle east will ride the beast /They’re preparing now, for the feast /We watch them as we sleep /Their menu is prepared, it you they want to eat /The main course/For their holy war.- And the way the album ends: One day the whales will walk the earth /The hunter will become the hunted /Mammoth will unearth itself from the tomb of hibernation /He will sprout wings and fly / Man will be consumed by fire then condemned to the sea/ Burning eternally with salty water in the lung / Reborn, Reformed/The humble will adorn a new way / Without treachery or scorn.-
Clearly the band has something to day, but the execution is goofy and strange. I donât see this is a negative point though. I see it as silly and campy, in an intentional way. Maybe Iâm wrong, but I donât think the band sat around for hours fine tuning the lyrics. I think they found a silly way to get a point across. No, itâs not silly in the same way Anthrax writing about Judge Dredd is, but itâs also not taking its message as seriously as -¦And Justice For All. Even if I am wrong, than at the very least itâs a case of -˜so bad its good,â much like the movies of old where you can see the zipper on the monster or the strings on the spaceships. Itâs silly and awkward and still entertaining and good in its own silly way. And I wouldnât change a line on it.
So, a little about the actual performances: All of the band members play solidly, and thereâs really nothing as far as the main band hiding in the mix. Biedermann has a voice thatâs sometimes reminiscent of Dave Mustaine, or so I feel, he usually sings with a growl or with a strained sounding yell, although sometimes in softer spots, such as the previously mentioned Kamikazi, he sings clean. Again, it isnât great, but he works with what he has. He also, along with LaLonde, handles guitar duties. Biedermann handles most of the soloing duties, but both prove to be very competent, as Larry is given about four or five. As should be expected, the bass has a funk edge to it, but still fits right in with the style of thrash this band is doing. Mike Miner rounds out the group as a great drummer, and the whole band shows they have some pretty damn good technical capabilities.
In short, this is 40 minutes of imperfect perfection. There isnât a damn thing that I would change about this album. Itâs a little short, but I canât even say I wish it was longer, because who knows if they would have added filler, of which it wound up with none. In the end, this only leaves you wanting more, which is usually a positive remark, except that Blind Illusion left us wanting more for 22 years. And once we got it, we collectively asked if we could give it back. But this is a beautiful thrash album, with silly, yet topical lyrics, truly inspired by insanity, and I wouldnât have it any other way. And I can only hope and pray to the Gods of metal that Biedermann gets off this hippie rock shit long enough to, at the very least, get that final version of The Medicine Show he was talking about a few years back, and maybe remaster/rerecord some of those sick demos he had. Iâd love to hear quality version of Banshee. Either way, we still always have the Sane Asylum. And I’m willing to be committed here for a long, long time.
It like no other – 97%
There is really no album quite like The Sane Asylum. It thrash, like many bay area bands at the it came out. It also very good thrash. But it also has a progressive edge, something like Dream Theater mixed with bay area thrash metal. There are some downsides to it(namely that it is impossible to find) but otherwise it one of the best albums I have ever heard.
After getting my copy of Sane Asylum from ebay, I popped it right in and right what I had heard about the album was true. The lineup is flawless, it is the perfect blend of musicians. Marc Biedermann blows guys like Kirk Hammett, Gary Holt, Eric Meyer(except maybe on Time Does Not Heal), Marty Friedman, Chris Poland, Jeff Hanneman and others clear away. This guy is truly a guitar virtuoso, who like others(namely Mike Davis of Nocturnus), deserves way more credit then he actually gets. His solos are fast and powerful, and he plays many of them(I believe every song has at least two). They are also rather complex and technical, yet can be very melodic at times. His guitar work, with a little help from future Primus guitarist Larry Lalonde cement The Sane Asylum as one of the best albums I’ve heard ever guitar wise. There are few guys who come as close as being meant to play with each other like Biedermann and Lalonde, and these guys exploit that instrumental chemistry with the tightest perfection every seen.
Drumming isn’t horrible either. Few people know the name Mike Miner, but this guy is a truly great drummer. Yeah he no Gene Hoglan, George Kollias, Tomas Haake, but he fast, he melodic and he technical. He better then guys like Lars Ulrich, Gar Samuelson, even Charlie Benante at times. His drumming has a very progressive edge to it as well, as he isn’t always about hitting his snare and cymbals like crazy and then doing really fast double bass drum rolls(which he does quite a few of), he actually can be very creative with the use of his drums, especially his double bass pedals. He’ll often use them for some funky yet definitely metal beats to go along with the bass. He is the perfect drummer for the band.
Finally, there is Les Claypool. To bad he in Primus, because anything he ever put out with them looks small compared to what he does on The Sane Asylum. This is the band that him and Larry, and would form Primus later on from. His bass is amazing. There is just no equivalent. It makes James Hetfield feel sorry for not taking him into Metallica, because this guy makes Cliff Burton look like a bass rookie(and the guy is pretty damn overrated). His funky beats provide a nice progressive edge to the band, and give it a truly unique edge, giving them almost a fusion element to them. Coupled with Biedermann and Lalonde guitar work, and Miner drumming he also perfect for the band.
If you have the money, get The Sane Asylum. You will not be sorry.
Perfect? No. Brilliant? ….. – 100%
-œThe Sane Asylum- is a very special album, to put it plainly. It grabs you from the first note, and has total control of your mind till it lets up (sometimes, this isnât when the album ends). But donât let that fool you. This isnât a perfect album, it has flaws, as do most albums. But thereâs a quality that makes you enjoy those flaws, as if those flaws add more character to the album. But there is a lot more than just that behind this album.
At the time Blind Illusion released -œThe Sane Asylum-, they had been active in some form for about 10 years, quite an oddity for a band to release their debut album 10 years into their career. But in the case of -œThe Sane Asylum- it may be to its advantage. Being that Blind Illusion was a Bay Area band it is easy to understand the overwhelming thrash sound, but some of these songs date back to 1979, which creates quite a contrast to the songs written in 1988. Despite the bands thrash base, there is also a very prevalent prog rock element.
But -œThe Sane Asylum- never falls into the clichÃ© trappings of thrash metal, maybe due to the fact that they sometimes sound much more comfortable playing the more experimental material.
And as said before, the production is bad, though that would be an understatement. But even on this front, the album manages to possess a great sound. What exactly does this mean? Well, this lack of production shows off the skill of the musicians, and not the prowess of the producer on the board. The only thing that really lacks is the vocals, provided by Mark Biederman. They sound very thin, and often times seem as though they are stretching to reach a note, but just canât, and turn into a whine.
Of course, looking back on this album, thereâs always the looming presence of Les Claypool and Larry Lalonde, who would, of course, go on to form the alt-rock group Primus. Though at that point of their respected careers each already had a very solid track record, with Claypool being told he couldnât join Metallica because he was -œtoo good-, and Lalonde was known as the guitarist of the death metal pioneers Possessed.
Each song is very much important to the whole album, and while there are standouts (-œDeath Noise-, -œMetamorphosis of a Monster-), but each songs works with each other to create a greater whole. There are no weak songs, on this album. Each song has its own distinct qualities that make each individually great, and that individual strength
Overall, Blind Illusions sole album -œThe Sane Asylum- is a study of a puzzle inside a riddle. Itâs one of the most interesting listens youâll ever encounter. Find it. Buy it. And enjoy this masterpiece.
Oxymorons. And a fragment of perfection. – 100%
I believe this is the best metal album ever released. I know many people say such things lightly, and change their opinions and albums to worship within a week, or a year or two at best. I don’t, but you have nothing but my word to guarantee I’m serious. So, for all you know, I might be just another whimsical fanboy in the middle of my latest craze, ready to switch to Limbkin Parxit or a black metal band called Vomit Sodomy before next Saturday. I’m not, but you don’t know that for sure. Right?
I can only calm you down by saying that so far, in my two decades of metal, I haven’t heard another album worth 100%, or even 99%, for that matter. This has been my favourite album for over fourteen years. The Sane Asylum is in a class of its own, and has set a standard that can -and should- be approached and strived for, but so far even the best bands attempting have ended as asymptotic curves, never really having a chance to reach the level of perfection on this beautifully flawed masterpiece, no matter how much they improve. The Sane Asylum is fundamentally great because it set next to each other elements that should reject each other, and succeeds in blending them into colours that have rarely, or more likely never, been seen elsewhere.
First and foremost, there is Flawed Perfection. It impossible not to hear the low standard of the production. Most of the album sounds hollow and echoes abound, as if it was recorded in an empty 53 ft. standard cargo container. The guitar sound is somehow cheap and minimal, the drums lack all the sounds usually associated with thrashy aggression, and the bass is mostly audible when pounded with passion. The worst part, for most people, are Biedermeyer vocals. He doesn’t sound good, or even very credible, and his voice is simply repulsing with its narrow scale and tendency to break into a coarse shout-growl in louder parts. And still, everything in the whole is perfect, almost as if it had been intentionally fine-tuned to the right level of lousiness, just to rise so very high above the sum of the components. The guitars, with their WalMart effects and humble minimalism, attack with surprisingly vicious stings every now and then, mostly just executing their complex duties with fearsome ease. The drums wander all over the background of the sound, never outright surprising, but retaining with minimal tricks the essential knowledge of their own will, refusing to settle just for providing the beat. Everything has a purpose, and despite all the flaws the sound becomes a balanced, well-oiled machine from a dark steampunk movie, puffing and labouring, but doing its job with a surprising reliability and alien aesthetics. It truly is the android of Metropolis, at the same time a monster and a temptress.
There is the element of Uncompromising Mellowness. Aggression has never been so innocent on the surface, and so merciless underneath it. The best example of it can be found in the song “”Death Noise””. The intro, a whole song in itself, lasts well over three minutes, and is mid-paced, progressive and, in a strange fashion, very soft. At the same time it charges up the atmosphere, painting ominous images in the mind, perversely becoming progressively softer and softer, all the while building up a tension that could burst a vein in one head. When the almost subliminal heartbeat can finally be heard, more with the subconscious than the ears, for exactly twelve beats, the stage is set. But for what? A thrash song, nothing more, almost an anti-climax. But a perfect anti-climax, shorter than the intro, a compact payload to be delivered with pinpoint precision, a dumb warhead to devastate what the earlier stages had targeted. “”Kamakazi”” has a more complete and thorough combination of the two. All through the song the sound stays ominously mellow, but the feelings it awakens are nothing close to calming or soothing. Soft delivery is intertwined with a controlled, steel-eyed fury, with a deadly, dedicated determination and the delicate beauty of a cherry blossom. At no point during the album does the mellowness become a compromise, never does the band allow a real breathing space. They do what they want, uncaringly dealing out the constricting emotion that, disguised as mellow laziness, resembles a bad feeling before a certain accident. Imagine sitting behind the steering wheel of a car that inevitably slides on top of smooth black ice towards the rear of the last car to hit the mile-long pile-up on the highway. There nothing you can do but to stare and listen while the time slows down, all senses sharpening, gripping the wheel with white knuckles, and feeling the weighty block of frozen lead on the bottom of your belly.
Third, the Invisible Brilliance! While the album may be below many other works in production and sound, the workings of the separate instruments are magnificient. They aren’t in a zoo cage to be stared at by half-interested passers-by. You must take the time to seek for them, listen for Claypool odd bass lines, hunt the strange jazzy backbeats in the drum work, actively stalk the intriguing effect sounds and the child-choir. Yes, there is a child-choir, hidden like a religious artefact of a long-lost tribe, but audible if you only know where to look for it. Just like in a complex surreal painting, there are thousands of tiny details to be discovered and enjoyed, and just using a different stereo set and toying with the equalizer can provide stunning moments of illumination. This is a Victorian house designed by an insane genius, with secret passages and Lovecraftian murals, endless intricate reliefs with stories to tell and a surrounding overgrown garden that hides much. The musicians were the geniuses, and even if we lost some of them to Primus and the others have scattered, their metallic legacy remains in the 40 minutes of The Sane Asylum. It is a beautiful tombstone, a fragment of perfection.
I lack the technical understanding and the verbal skills to describe the album well enough for you to see what makes it so special, so precious, and so worthy of your time. So go and find it, on cassette or vinyl if necessary, and let it guide you. Give it several chances, study it with patience, and let it reveal its inner workings. It is a Lemarchand box worth working on. It may even turn out to be a one-of-kind Lament Configuration, and have such sights to show you… All you need to do is to trigger its fascinating mechanism in your mind and let yourself go. I’ll see you on the other side.