Defeated Sanity – The Sanguinary Impetus Review

[Artwork by Jon Zig]

Humans are predisposed to routine and generally avoid change as if it comes standard with a lifetime supply of random groin kicks in the middle of the night. Of course we also realize the inescapable truth that change is necessary, so the smartest way to approach it is to tug the old bootstraps and dive in with the sort of enthusiasm babies feasibly experience when change comes their way after tamping down a full jar of strained carrots. And as long as we’re speaking of embracing change and shitting our pants…


Germany’s long-standing veterans of brutally technical death metal should be up for some sort of award for being one of this offshoot’s most steadily morphing bands. Perhaps not as much in terms of overall sound—they’ve been serving up knotty, toothed, desperately pulverizing death metal since day one—but outside of the first half of 2016’s Disposal of the Dead // Dharmata, none of their full-lengths across fifteen-plus years feature the same lineup top to bottom. And while the threesome comprised of founding member and principal architect Lille Gruber (drums), Jacob Schmidt (bass), and Christian Kühn (guitar) has clearly delivered a level of stability (and stabability) to Psalms of the Moribund (2007), Chapters of Repugnance (2010), Passages into Deformity (2013), and Disposal of the Dead // Dharmata, the revolving door in terms of production team and vocal talent has all but guaranteed that each release would at least poke at the mettle of anyone pining for some illusion of routine.

Release date: July 24, 2020. Label: Willowtip Records.
Ah, but it is precisely “routine” that stands as the enemy of technical death metal. For proof, look no further than the often dramatic shifts between recordings from the likes of originators such as Death, Atheist, Atrocity (sad reacts only), Pestilence, et al. For their part, Defeated Sanity’s musical transformations have mostly been a shade more sly—the most dramatic occurring from the outright Suffoworship of the opening Prelude to the Tragedy to the largely autonomous Psalms of the Moribund three years later, and the split personality approach of their last effort, Disposal of the Dead // Dharmata, which cut a severe line between roaring brutality and an homage to the thrashy prog / fusion of early bands like Watchtower and Cynic.

Now, four years later, Defeated Sanity is at long last prepared to unveil the sixth puzzle in their bag of tricks, and it of course comes loaded with developments: Christian Kühn is gone (as of May 2019); Lille Gruber has added guitar to his list of duties; Josh Welshman has flown in from seemingly nowhere to become the new vocalist; additional guitars are provided by Dan Thornton (Abhorrent Decimation, Crimson Throne), Justin Sakogawa (Splattered), and Colin Marston (Gorguts, Behold the Arctopus, Dysrhythmia, Krallice, and several hundred others); and Marston additionally stepped in to mix and master The Sanguinary Impetus at his Queens, NY-based studio, Menegroth / The Thousand Caves. So, how do these changes affect Defeated Sanity’s proven strategy for brutalization? It’s best to begin by basking in the following video:

Being a bass play-through video, Jacob Schmidt is clearly the focus above, and his utterly absurd execution throughout the equally absurd (and splendidly titled) “Propelled into Sacrilege” demonstrates the level of proficiency required to keep up with the breakneck sophistication behind The Sanguinary Impetus. Those strings look like bridge cables during an earthquake, and it’s apparent that Schmidt has earned fingertip calluses impressive enough that he could’ve reached into the magma of Mount Doom to rescue the One Ring without even blinking an eye. Yes, he’s been precisely this capable since day one, but his contribution on The Sanguinary Impetus is… clearer than it’s ever been. The actual album version of the song tempers the bass presence a little, but not by much:

If you’re relatively new to Defeated Sanity, chances are pretty high that you won’t notice much out of the ordinary regarding Colin Marston’s mix / master job. It does shine a light on the band from an entirely new perspective, though. The 10,000-ton tank heaviness that lends such a preposterous amount of mass to records like Passages into Deformity and especially Disposal of the Dead is mostly sacrificed in favor of a more stripped and straightforward technique that allows the listener a better opportunity to absorb the complexity of each song. This is sure to be a sticking point for those who rely on Defeated Sanity to defeat their sanity with an anvil drop from 25 stories up, but The Sanguinary Impetus is truly no less brutal than anything these guys have managed in the past—it simply accomplishes the goal of crushing your marbles by making so many ruthless hairpin turns that even a homing pigeon with a miniature atlas strapped to its back will end up defeated and sobbing on the curb after this 34-minute bombardment. There’s also a strange sense of… homeyness or comfort in the brutality? It almost feels as if the back-and-forth between getting mauled by a deranged bear and relentlessly stung by a funky fresh crew of wild hornets is by request, and there’ll probably be tea afterwards.

The songs are mostly brief—four of nine don’t even reach beyond the 3-minute mark. But there’s enough force and jigsawed severity for your brain to contend with throughout each song that you’d never complain of brevity by the time the record pulls to a close. It all fits together extremely well, too, and a little time and a great set of headphones will reveal a million shit-your-pants moments that spring up after repeated plays. Hard not to give a specific and significant nod to the one-two punch of “Entity Dissolving Entity” and “Insecta Incendium,” though. The former boasts one of the record’s grossest bog-downs and Welshman’s most brutishly guttural grumbling, and the latter drops in a delightfully alien keyboard frolic amidst a swarming assault that’s so frenzied at times that listening to it while navigating a stairway will likely result in a very hilarious death.

Oh, and there’s a solo, too. Precisely one wriggling solo nuzzled inside a jagged fracture of another verrrry strong and twisted song deep in the game: “Drivelling Putrefaction.” It is a relatively brief but awesome solo that sounds a bit like Rick Rozz in his BSSCJ days—bangs, ‘stache, sweats and camo jacket—so polish off that B.C. Rich Warlock Reverse Headstock, crank it up to elevensies, and get ready to mangle.

Still need more convincing that has nothing to do with dumb ol’ words? Look and listen to this delightful slice of nutso nuttery:

So, should any of the other Defeated Sanity offspring fear dethronement from “favorite child” status once The Sanguinary Impetus settles into the bloodstream? Oh, who the hell knows. And more importantly, what does it really matter when a band this consistent at dispensing intricate ferocity decides to release new material. Gruber’s drumming is as gnarled and frantic as ever, Schmidt’s bass work is absolutely scorching, Welshman’s voice could crack concrete, and the mix & mastering approach makes them gitars sound like Defeated Sanity filtered through Atheist’s Piece of Time. How on earth could anyone on this planet possibly say no to that? Buy it for yourself, buy it for your grandparents, and throw yet another Defeated Sanity album into the time capsule to help future archaeologists understand why their ancestors ended up unrelentingly deheading the populace into insignificance.

Posted by Captain

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; Handsome & Interesting Man; Just get evil all the time.

  1. Kinda like last year with Devourment, it feels like the entire death metal community is waiting for this one to drop… and your review only makes the wait that much more unbearable. Great write up Cap


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