Just a quick glance over The Sanity Days’ lineup, featuring members who have all, at different points, been part of Onslaught, will make you think you’ve got their style all figured out. It must be aggressive, speedy, killing thrash that they play! And yet, their music has got nothing to do with that. The Sanity Days’ debut Evil Beyond Belief is actually rooted in pretty straightforward heavy metal with thrash remaining a mere mirage hidden in some of the riffs and drum passages. But is this the only surprise they have in store for the listener?
Unfortunately, yes. There’s nothing astonishing nor shocking about this release. Vocalist Steve Grimmett (Lionheart, Grim Reaper), drummer Steve Grice, guitarist Al Jordan, and bassist Jase Stallard indulge in some familiar and somewhat tiresome heavy metal. More than just a part of the retro and revival wave that has struck metal during the past few years, they make music that might as well be streaming directly from the eighties through a metal channeling wormhole of some sort. But, hey, we’ve had year-end lists topped by “retro” bands, we don’t discriminate! The whole “this sounds old” thing wouldn’t be a problem if the songwriting was up to scratch. Unfortunately, again, it’s not. The problem that immediately becomes apparent during the first listen is that the tunes and the album as a whole are just too damn long. This has been an ongoing theme on Angry Metal Guy and The Sanity Days is one of the worst offenders in that regard. The material at hand comes off uninspired because it’s worn thin by endless repetitions. Once again it’s shown that a powerful, rocking riff can be too much of a good thing when repeated too many times. It’s exactly this that ruins “Charlie” and “Evil Beyond Belief,” each sounding mighty promising during their first few minutes.
The exaggerated duration of the songs is also reflected in their structures – they seem messed up and generally off. A lack of direction lingers and certain sections appear artificially inserted and misplaced. By the half point of each of these overly lengthy tunes, you might find yourself waiting impatiently for them to end. It’s just too bad, especially since the guys do sound as if they are having fun. The listeners, on the other hand, might not be. While I had a hard time picking out standouts due to all of the songs feeling quite similar, repeated listens revealed, expectedly, that when the band sticks with shorter cuts, featuring memorable riffs and catchy choruses, they can really nail it. “Satan’s Blood,” “My Demon Mind,” and “Firestorm” are prime examples. The album could have been a true banger if it had been filled with tracks such as these. As it stands, it’s pulled down by ho-hum tunes such as “Ruler of Eternity” (Dio deserves a better song!), “Closer to the Edge,” and the ballad “Broken Wings.”
Repeated listens also revealed some remarkable qualities worth noting. First of all, the singing is excellent with both choruses and verses delivered with conviction by Grimmett’s clean but enthralling rasp. Secondly, there is some good guitar work, several inspired solos (especially on “Charlie”), and solid drumming as well, but these elements don’t stick out that much since the album feels simplistic by design and fails to showcase the musicianship. Finally, the production is great. It’s unusual to hear such a well-produced heavy metal record with just the sound of the drums falling short. As evidenced on “My Last Words,” the snare sounds hollow at times.
At the end of the day and judging by Evil Beyond Belief alone, I’m afraid that The Sanity Days’ might end up relegated to the status of eternal support band. The type of act that’s tight and accomplished, but doesn’t really have the chops to fire up their audience. That would be a shame, and I sure hope their sophomore release will fix some of the issues and focus on the glimpses of greatness presented on Evil Beyond Belief. Till then, I’d rather listen to Satan.