Insane – Victims Review

My door is always open for 80s-inspired speed metal. You see, all you younger folks merely adopted the speed. I was there when it first broke through the ground and started hunting for scalps. I was raised by it, molded by it. I owe it a debt. And so I grabbed the promo for Insane’s sophomore outing based on a sample I heard that sounded like the ugly stepbrother to classic Canadian speedsters Razor. I expected knuckle-dragging, saliva spraying acts of rapid-fire depravity on Victims. In this I was not disappointed, though the method of delivery had some surprises in store for me. Insane are not content to merely recycle the classic 80s speed metal sound, though they do that admirably enough at times. Instead, they lean into early crust-punk influences and also borrow from the unhinged retro thrash style of bands like Deathhammer to pull some infected rabbits out of grotesque hats. Sound good?

Opener “Maximum Force” is a slick way to sucker the unsuspecting into thinking this will be another run of the mill speed metal extravaganza. It sounds like classic Razor mixed with other 80s chestnuts like Deathrow and Exciter. This could have been released during 1984-1986 and fit right in. It’s fast, furious, raw and angry, living up to its title throughout its 4-plus minute assault. It hardly reinvents the speed wheel but it does a lot of things right and the riffs are above average and razor-sharp. “The Sword” keeps the fast times at Razormont High going while incorporating a slight punk edge to the proceedings, mostly noticeable in Gustaf Hellberg’s acid-drenched shouting. Once “Cruel Command” hit the streets however, the band fully transitions from classic speed to something like proto-crust-punk, as this is slower, chunkier and reeks of crossover. I hear a fair amount of Amebix in the stomping, bouncing riffs and abrasive style the vocals adopt. It even apes latter day Darkthrone in its shitty, garage punk rock bashing. It’s not exactly what I look for in a speed metal platter, but it’s weighty and vicious enough to satisy withnasty guitar-work throughout.

From here, Victims swings between the two poles it planted, with some songs being unabashed 80s speed and others existing in the crossover punk thrash realm. This gives the album diversity but it also makes things feel a wee bit unstable and chaotic, which isn’t the worst thing for a speed metal album. As a geezer, I prefer the straight up speed cuts, with “Sinister Night” especially hitting all the right sweet spots as it runs roughshod over restraint and good taste. The guitar harmonies are particular biting and really nail that throwback sound. Closer “Tormented Breath” is also quite pleasing, invoking memories of long defunct acts like Cyclone as the band rips and tears it up. The crusty side of the band results in some winners too, with “Sanitarium” being just overly excessive enough to win metal hearts. Imagine Venom and Possessed getting together to write a dumber version of Metallica’s classic tune and then proceeding to beat it into the ground after a few too many shots of J├Ągermeister. You can’t pass that up, can you? Not everything clicks though. “At Dawn They Die” fails to land no matter how many times I spin it, and there’s some heavy bloat in certain cuts like “Cruel Command. ” Speed/crust songs hitting the 6-minute mark is rarely a good thing as it tends to lessen the impact such tracks might otherwise deliver. That said, at a fairly tight 42 minutes, Victims is a pretty effortless spin with more than its share of aggressive energy and angst.

Erik Kristhammar and Gustaf Hellberg acquit themselves well in the speed/thrash/crust riff production department. There are a respectable number of memorable leads and classic, old timey harmonies slung around over the album’s runtime, and the solos are appropriately manic and enthusiastic. There are enough cool guitar moments on “Tormented Breath” alone to nearly fill another whole speed metal album. I also love the guitar tone. It works well for the barnburners as well as the rougher crust moments. Vocally, Hellberg has an interesting ability to shift between extremes as well. He sounds to all the world like the classic speed vocalist on some cuts, and then gets way more abrasive during crust hour.

Insane are a pretty talented crew and they aren’t afraid to shake things up. While I might have preferred a straight forward speed album, I respect and enjoy what they tried to accomplish here. Victims likely won’t make many end of year lists, but it’s a rowdy, head stomping dose of adrenaline with a healthy dose of 80s nostalgia at its beer-stained core. I like beer. I also like speed. I like Insane too.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Dying Victims
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 30th, 2021

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