SANITY CONTROL – War On Life (2020)REVIEW

Even the most cursory glimpse at the world-reaching news stories out of Warsaw, Poland these last several years suggest an intensifying rally shared between the capitol’s euro-centric political leadership and ‘far-right’ groups who’ve regularly attempted to convene as a show of nationalist pride each November 11th — A day meant to celebrate the sovereignty of Poland, a hard-fought freedom from centuries-long annexation by Russia, Germany, and Austria/Hungary after World War I ended. From the outside looking in the story appears to be the same from all angles, that overtly fascist displays have seen yearly increase in the country this last decade as certain groups become more bold within demonstrations and violence. This isn’t automatically a dilemma of changing ideological tides en masse but, the few loudest dogs unfairly representing the unwilling many with their barking. Per the madness of mankind’s lowest common denominator perception is everything, when it does appear that a nation prone to hateful manipulation (particularly the grip of the Catholic church…) is succumbing fast that sort of headline -should- be a call to action especially if you’d agree you’ve never felt remotely well-represented by any crowd. The fear that a visible mob on “patriot day” can signal deeper change in a nation is the most drastic “Monkey see, monkey do” thinkable but hey, my point here isn’t about combative politics so much as the ‘common sense’ perception of societal sway being so fragile feeling so ultimately cynical — Yet it is true, a vast majority of human beings go through life eager to fit in, impressionable as a result, and left squirming (left or right) under the taxing thumb of religion and corporation by default. That follower instinct is ever more evident as global information blurs into a horrifying echo chamber that most all are susceptible. My own thoughts, of course, but a general takeaway when having a closer look at what inspiration guides the scornful eye of Warsaw-based crossover/thrash metal quartet Sanity Control on their riled up debut album ‘War on Life‘ wherein their pointed hardcore punk fueled thrash metal attack is a symptom of a visible loss of security within the greater good, a natural violent reaction to the herded, useless apocalyptic pod people we’re all guilty of becoming. Good on ’em, there should be a thousand more bands sprouting up, spouting off and writing defiant razor-sharpend metalpunk music aimed at social illness and the inevitable waves of murderous corruption to come.

It isn’t party thrash. Yep, I mean that is just straight up where my mind goes when I have a colorful record with a jagged yellow logo on the front, you never know… but then again, I knew; When I’d first encountered Sanity Control their first demo tape (‘Demo 2019‘, 2019) caught my eye based on some pretty quick mental association: They’re Polish, dual color tape artwork, poorly mixed drum sound (on the tape), hand-drawn art, and all I could think of was those underrated demos from Slashing Death back in the late 80’s. As it turns out I’m sure both bands were influenced by some of the same mid-to-late 80’s punk-thrashers along the way but Sanity Control aren’t such extremists, instead rooting their sound in a traditional form of hardcore punk-leaning thrash metal. Think along the lines of post-’85 D.R.I. with simple-but-effective thrash riffing, some hints of Nuclear Assault‘s mid-paced action on ‘Survive’ and maybe some of that same vocal cadence; I’d even go as far as saying a few songs on ‘War on Life’ remind me of Mezzrow‘s album but that’d be an unnecessary deep cut to dig for. As is the case with most modern crossover/thrash throwbacks some manner of Leeway‘s early work finds lineage in Sanity Control‘s aggressive but not wholly primitive metal riffing alongside the usual modern standards such as Toxic Holocaust and Power Trip. In fact Joel Grind mastered this record so you’ll recognize his steady hand emphasizing the guitar tone, keeping the barker up front and up high without letting the high-energy drumming clobber ’em all out the door. Sound and style here are sharp, pro, and certainly not ‘outside the box’ in any sense.

Having been obsessed with this sort of crossover since before I’d fully hit puberty, I had no trouble falling right into ‘War on Life’ right away. Simple yet above-average riffs neatly presented by way of a serious and aggressive sound ends up recalling the most classic era of D.R.I. for the sake of the scratched-out, mid-to-fast paced thrash they’ve balanced with the raw, seething pitch of 80’s hardcore punk. The spastic wallop of the first couple waves of hardcore isn’t there but what bursts of speed hit create a tightly wound, efficient-yet-defiant sort of metalpunk. The title track/opener grinds right into what I’d consider the ‘competitive’ guitar centric age of crossover/thrash circa ’88 or so where the hammer-handed punk guitarists were getting spanked out of groups for shredders and thrashers after Suicidal Tendencies (and a few others) hooked onto bigger labels and hit more ears. The songwriting on ‘War on Life’ isn’t entirely sophisticated but the performances are precise and more technically sound than most any 80’s analogue I could conjure up, the closest I could come is probably Soothsayer‘s ‘Have a Good Time’ but even that is too hardcore punk whipped to really fit and Sanity Control‘s sound has all manner of modern precision keeping the standard of fidelity high.

How do you justify ‘old school’ traditional music via the 80’s when dealing with the issues of today? A throwback for the sake of progress? Mankind’s collectively subservient ignorance may have intensified worldwide but only for the sake of endlessly repeated mistakes, crossover’s thrash amplified punk unrest is yet timeless counterpoint. For the sake of confronting old scar tissue for the umpteenth time, this razor still offers a great sense of release. In other words ‘War on Life’ is a thrash record for folks who eat up the crossover zeitgeist and favor the pure n’ sincere punch that Sanity Control bring with clarity and bravado despite no major specialization hitting beyond lyrics. None of the songs particularly stand out because they’re all throttled out at similar speeds and rip through riffs that are feeling a certain space and circle of shapes on the fretboard, variations on a theme with a lot of gusto selling it.

Running order actually works against ‘War on Life’ due to the arrangement avoiding any notable separation of sides or thematic focus. If you’re going to thrash circa ’87 (or, ’07 for that matter) it really doesn’t take much more than some kind of dramatic pause to make it an event. I look at it this way “Raise the Curtain” isn’t the most important part of ‘Is This My World?’ but you’ll never forget how it bisect’s Jerry’s Kids infamous debut. Tracks are cranked out in seeming random run and this is not a terrible thing for a crossover record, at all. Thrash in, thrash out and see what sticks is totally viable in the world Sanity Control is working in but they’re way to good for it. I doubt most folks into the sub-genre will have the same criticisms to launch at it’s satisfying straight-forward verve but I’d felt the power of the full listen was sapped a bit without direction or anticipation built. Harping on the same points, riff oeuvre and cranked mood for 20 minutes is normal for a hardcore punk record but short as hell for a crossover/thrash 12″ anymore, at least for my taste. Still, I can’t pull away from this album feeling like a second of it was a bummer. Their attack kills front to back, the whole LP package is fuckin’ sharp, and the whirlwind of it could sit on repeat for hours and I’d still be up for the ride. In preview I’d recommend the title track, “Paying is Believing” and “Enough” as the hardest hitting pieces that will showcase Sanity Control‘s strengths and necessary redundancies at once. Moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
Info:
ARTIST:SANITY CONTROL
TITLE:War On Life
TYPE:Full-length
LABEL(S):Redefining Darkness,
Selfmadegod
RELEASE DATE:August 7th, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Crossover Thrash,
Thrash Metal

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