Thrash ‘Til Death #23: Protected Illusion (Finland) 1988-1993

THRASH ‘TIL DEATH is a 50 week long set of features exploring the legends who crossed over between thrash and death metal between 1983-1993. The focus is primarily on under-served, unknown, and exemplar bands/releases. The selection is comprehensive but the numbering is not indicative of any type of rank or value: The order of band appearance is arbitrarily chosen. E-mail me if you want to suggest any relevant bands!


Although Finland would birth a handful of pure thrash metal bands by the end of 1985 there were virtually none prior that weren’t a crossover/thrashcore style born from the Helsinki area. Sure, W.D.M. counts and they were way up north but, it was Dirty Damage, Faff-Bey and less notably Mayhem who pulled up their punk pants and went extreme. Dirty Damage in particular would splinter into several inspired groups as most members would migrate somewhere else, or form a side-project by 1990: Rytmihäiriö, Corporal Punishment, and Protected Illusion. Some of these bands remain beautifully documented in their formative years, if they went anywhere at all, but there are some seriously big holes in that history today in terms of digital preservation. So, while I am going to do my best to share all there is to know about Protected Illusion it’ll be near impossible to experience their three post-1991 demos because they have not been collected or distributed in any meaningful way. If you want to get a better idea of the punk-boosted early Speed and Thrash metal era in Finland check out Svart Records‘ Real Delusions – The Finnish Speed & Thrash Metal Explosion 1987-1991 Compilation: [Click/Tap HERE].

If there was anything truly badass coming from Finland in the late 80’s that wasn’t death or black metal it was definitely Protected Illusion. I’ve always described them as Cryptic Slaughter‘s ‘Convicted’ as performed by Sadus circa 1988 so expect to hear an evolution from hardcore punk fueled brutal thrash towards death/thrash metal. They weren’t always a linear band in terms of style change so some of their stuff would approach grindcore and otherwise depending on the release. Full disclosure I discovered this band back in 2003 or so when they had a website posted that detailed their history and included free downloads for the full discography. Very few people have saved those files or uploaded them to YouTube and only one collection (covering 1989-1991) has been pressed by a small distro in Brazil back in 2008. There are no good tape scans and much of what you’ll be able to listen to will have to come from playlists I put together. Unfortunately until the ‘Dreams Downtrodden’ (1992), ‘Autumn Arrives’ (1993) and ‘Shadows Illuminated’ (1993) demos are either compiled or posted on streaming somewhere you’ll just have to imagine the band focusing more on standard death metal sounds. Protected Illusion are worth the trouble of tracking down if you can and their material is definitely the kind of stuff I’d want to license and release myself because I’ve not seen it given serious and respectful collection yet. I’ve done my best to research as much as I can but please feel free to message me or leave a comment if I’ve left out anything vital or gotten something horribly wrong!


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Artist Protected Illusion
Title [Type/Year] Demo-88 [Demo/1988]
Rating [3.25/5.0] LISTEN on YouTube [Playlist]

Having formed in Vantaa, Finland in 1988 Protected Illusion‘s first line-up would barely last a year with this first tape the only document of their early activities. It’d appear they came into the band very inspired to create hard and heavy thrash metal akin to the more brutal groups coming out of North America and Germany at the time. Gang-shouted vocals, stomping basslines, and an altogether pretty rote brutal thrash performance still stands out for its generally good sound quality and heavy songwriting thanks to the two guitarists. Much as I like this demo it is more or less rote for 1989. “Morbid Minds” is fairly brutal and “Rabid” is too, but none of it is all that relevant to the bands direction from that point on. They did, however, clearly begin life as a straight thrash band and this is a fine example of it.


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Artist Protected Illusion
Title [Type/Year] Opulence and Preservation…Poverty and Desperation… [Demo/1989]
Rating [3.5/5.0] LISTEN on YouTube [Playlist]

For their second demo vocalist Marko Rytkönen of Dirty Damage joins the band and his frantic style becomes a signature for the band that’d fit their increasingly extreme sound. In keeping with the theme of greater extremity new drummer Koffi doubles the pace and brings blasts and hardcore beats pulling Protected Illusion‘s sound away from pure thrash towards a punkish, grinding death/thrash style that’d just been considered thrash at the time. There are plenty of reviews and interviews from Finnish zines at the time that didn’t consider the band a death metal project really until about 1991 or 1992 depending who was writing it and I think that makes sense in context. If you loved Ripped, Hellwitch, and early Sadus there is some of that same energetic extreme thrash feeling here in a very raw form. Although I do think Protected Illusion did their best work from 1990-1991 this second demo is a clear indication of their future direction that really shows their first strike at truly extreme metal. “Greetings From Heaven / Perpetual Darkness” is one of the best pairing of tracks they’d written at that point and is the track I’d recommend most if you’re looking to make a case for 80’s death metal here.


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Artist Mayhem
Title [Type/Year] Bitter Remains of Better Future [Demo/1989]
Rating [3.75/5.0] LISTEN on YouTube

Erkki Virta was one of the first true talents of the early Finnish thrash metal scene forming Mayhem in 1983 and Outrage in 1987 and along the way to their 1989 demo they would become friends with the guys in Protected Illusion. Soon after the late ’89 release of this brutal pure thrash metal demo, which is very good, Virta would leave to focus on Protected Illusion who were perhaps a bit more modern and exciting. The style here is very similar to that of Infected‘s ‘Dark Century’ in that their style of thrash is pretty standard and rockish but the vocals are brutal and dark. Virta performs vocals and drums here but he’d join as a drummer only on the infamous ‘Festering Fairytales’ (1990). If you’re curious what his other (more extreme) band Outrage sounded like circa 1990: [Click/Tap HERE to listen to “Shattered”]


1989

Artist Protected Illusion
Title [Type/Year] Swimming in the Moonlight [EP/1989]
Rating [4.0/5.0] LISTEN on YouTube

Here is the first glimpse of Protected Illusion in their most exemplar form where extreme thrash, death/thrash, and crossover all bleed into one wild thrashing beast. This is the best entry point for classic thrash metal fans and old school death metal heads because it has a lot of Slayer-esque song structures but all of the intensity of a band like Ripping Corpse or Hellwitch. The title track is fucking incredible and is a must hear in their discography! Second guitarist Tapi had begun to write fewer songs as the band became more enamored with death metal and he would leave after this EP along with drummer Koffi. Say what you will about early Finnish (pure) death metal, which was fairly clunky to start, but if you were to consider this an early example by any stretch it is ten times as intense as most comparable releases.


1990

Artist Protected Illusion
Title [Type/Year] Festering Fairytales [Full-length/1990]
Rating [4.0/5.0] LISTEN on YouTube | Playlist [Non-Remaster]

From this point on everything Protected Illusion put to tape was recorded and mixed by Timo Tolkki (Stratovarious) who produced a few very important Finnish death metal releases when his studio first opened such as Abhorrence, Amorphis, Funebre, Disgrace, and the lesser known Corporal Punishment. Most of the versions of this album you’ll find streaming online are taken from the 2008 compilation but the original release didn’t have such blaring drums, perhaps because the mp3’s they released on the website back in the day were of lower quality. The bass frequency is hammering and irritating as shit on the compilation and I typically have a lot of trouble revisiting this album as a result. Kind of anti-climactic on my part but I never thought that this 24 minute album was any better (or worse) than anything else Protected Illusion released. It was self-released (as far as I know) by the band on tape as a ‘Cassette LP’ and comes as what is surely the most polished and psychotic release from the band to date. This is the first release from the band that was entirely recorded as a quartet and features a generally unique style of extreme crossover thrash/death metal hybrid. The non-serious lyrical kicks, brutal drumming, shrieking vocals and technical guitar arrangements definitely sound like they were aimed at the Relapse grind era, a bit like if Impulse Manslaughter had become a death metal band. The consensus is that ‘Festering Fairytales’ is the masterpiece of Protected Illusion and though I’m not a hundred percent on board with that it is undoubtedly their most accomplished set of songwriting and performances. Think of it as a really incredible demo that nobody ever noticed.


Artist Protected Illusion
Title [Type/Year] Sandman’s Store [EP/1991]
Rating [3.25/5.0] LISTEN on YouTube

Here we at least get to dip our toes into death metal albeit a unique form that was undoubtedly touching upon progressive death/thrash metal, groove metal, and Florida death metal all at once. ‘Sandman’s Store’ is definitely that jump towards full death metal in most respects but it isn’t a traditional form of it by any means. The whole EP is fairly short and plays as if it were one song, the band appear to have quickly composed this material and the liner notes specify that they recorded it in less than two days; Perhaps this explains the need for three different folks to perform the various bass lines on the record. It isn’t their best  material and sounds nearly unrelated to ‘Festering Fairytales’.

From this point on, Protected Illusion would soldier on creating an increasingly unfocused sound that felt unrelated to their pre-1992 releases. Main songwriter and guitarist Rami Auvinen wouldn’t continue on with the other band members who would form gothic metal band Nevergreen in the 2000’s that’d become Sinisthra which has been on hold since 2005 since their vocalist joined Amorphis, who’ve thrived massively since. Just getting this far into their discography I think most folks would agree they’d taken a few strong turns early on that never really delivered that extra something and no doubt the thirst for ‘next-level’ death metal, death n’ roll, and gothic metal in Finland began to really spike just as ‘Sandman’s Store’ saw the band stalling for ideas. I don’t remember why they’d eventually split and I don’t have any copies of their last three demos to get there on my own but, at this point it is clear their value was spent between ‘Festering Fairytales’ and ‘Swimming in the Moonlight’. That is enough of a ‘moment’ to warrant revisiting Protected Illusion but I won’t pretend any of their stuff is worthy of worship in hindsight.


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