INSANE – Victims (2021)REVIEW

Ja, mina vänner, varför nu detta som kan synas som en dåres verk och det kan hända att det är det också som man känner sig själv känner man andra och där ser ni i dag röd i morgon död man vet aldrig när det är tid att lämna in.Tore Hedin

Destitution, opportunism, abominant nature, lack of nurture or the classic romance between passionate people and easy access to all manner of weaponry — What motivates the prolific murderer is not a rare genetic factor or unusually harsh situation, but a phenomenon dictated solely by the intensity of choices made by the individual under some manner of duress. All who participate in the grueling machinations of society stand equally capable of being bent towards acts of extreme violence, private or public, with the vellum-thin barrier holding fast by will of generations auld conditioning. What outliers break through are most often less than monstrous in their core causality, that is to say that even a globe ridden with widespread chaos, pestilential death and confinement produces the same per capita rate of folks willing to cross the line. Possession by death stalks us all in equal measure, whether or not you let the devil in is up to you. Hailing from a land long known for their work in institutionalizing and “rehabilitating” a relatively low instance of spree killers, Swedish thrash metal quartet Insane yet offer their own unique brand of murderous rage in ‘Victims‘, a traditional thrash metal kick intent on embracing the serial killer kitsch of early evil thrash. Their second and latest cult offering finds the band once again reeling back to the earliest eighties they can manage, soaked in a seein’ red and banging hammer rage, taking great influence from the bloodiest of progenitors.

Formed as a quartet in west central Sweden, on the shores of lake Vänern at Kristinehamn circa 2009, Insane were kids when they first started killing though it took several “petty” crimes ’til the gang’s run-ins took a serious turn. Tough as a demo titled ‘Facebreakers’ (2010) might seem at a glance, Insane were obviously green to start with a rudimentary and sluggish traditional speed metal tape, I definitely found it charming in hindsight but ‘Facebreakers’ is without question the most formative set from the band’s early works. That said, most folks wouldn’t hear it until 2019 when the band would celebrate their ten year anniversary via a tenth anniversary compilation (‘The Dungeon Tapes‘, 2019) where their demos appear in a reversed chronology. The second demo came in 2011 as ‘Death Race‘, this time clearly aiming directly for classic thrash metal circa 1985 or so and kinda getting there, think along the lines of early Whiplash or, the Artillery ‘Shellshock’ demo minus the Mercyful Fate vocal harmonies. If you go digging for these relics it becomes clear they were young and just kinda pushing out the most traditional, die-hard fare they could put together. Insane‘s distinct perspective began to edge in with the ‘Hollow Death‘ EP in 2012, a recording that’d clearly been the product of some greater mastery of thrash metal’s riff driven point of view; At the very least their grasp of melodic voicing had reached a strong classic standard even if the songs weren’t yet detailed enough for a full-length. This’d be the last recording with original vocalist Joacim Lindblom, who left in that same year to form traditional heavy metal band Witch Blade along with guitarist Erik Kristhammar whom still features in each band. I’ve always assumed this was because Insane were headed in a more aggressive direction and Lindbolm‘s register was better suited for a traditional heavy metal style but, either way they punched a bit harder from that point on. Guitarist Gustaf Hellberg took over vocal duties, they on-boarded a new bassist and form that point we can basically witness the ’85-’86 transition permanently in flux starting when ‘Interment of Life‘ (2013) arrived as a morbid thrasher that still held fast to their traditional heavy metal roots. Pure old school movement and no sign of yellow-eyed party thrashing in sight. I have some nostalgia for this period of the band’s history because it’d lead me to discover the equally strong Entrench through a 2014 split between the bands, the last release to feature the band’s original drummer. Insane have held fast with their core line-up since, developing their current sound off of the breakthrough chest-burst of ‘Interment of Life’, always murderous high-speed thrash metal with an ’83 heavy metal spirit in tact.

You wouldn’t expect a band with a simple, fairly common name like Insane and a debut album plainly titled ‘Evil‘ (2017) to rip but they do, and it did. They’d managed a style of thrash you’d expect to find on a label like I Hate, not too far from what Antichrist were doing on ‘Sinful Birth’ that same year with an attack comparable to the elite non-blackened thrash out of Scandinavia in recent years a la Nekromantheon and Deathhammer. Their own twist on this style still held strong elements of traditional heavy metal and speed metal, not using 1986 as the for sure cut-off point but generally informing their aggression with guitar runs and riffs that weren’t front to back skull-fractures, think along the lines of Aggressive Perfector today with harder d-beaten hits. I’d emphasize the importance of this debut because it must’ve been a hard place to launch past; Insane had landed their first record without any real hitch, with a remarkably defined personality and, much like Antichrist‘s second album, it is hard to imagine how they’d top it beyond iteration. In fact I wasn’t sure they had when I first approached ‘Victims’. When a band hits a home run with their first album there isn’t always a need for any profound hit of “progression” beyond what an album like ‘Evil’ was doing. Whatever stylized tweaking of performance and tonality they’d manage in approaching ‘Victims’ does make for a different sound, a different feeling with the same level of tenacious detail yet their knack for classicist thrash/speed metal songcraft is generally untouched. It comes as no surprise that Insane are still an inspired and engaging spectacle on this follow-up, a fine example of refinement without grooming, yet those already indoctrinated should expect to keep the faith with this album rather than venture into some bizzaro thrash realm or incomprehensibly twisted sphere.

Attack, attack, attack — That is to say, perhaps overstate, that they haven’t rewritten the Insane rulebook here, only found a slightly more blood-splattered hall of echoes to frame the horror of ‘Victims’ slash-heavy reap as an album that hunts, stalks and slays with its menacing primordial thrash metal ooze in depiction of Swedish serial killer habitudes. A lot of the same peers apply here if you want a ballparked idea of its sound — Echoing and shouted but intelligible vocals, the loosened stride of the first Inculter/Sepulcher albums and the shredding edge of Shakma‘s ‘House of Possession’. You might want to toss in some cues from the early Exciter and Razor playbook alongside ’84-’86 United States/German thrash to really extrapolate the goods but, it does suffice to say these guys are still leaning into their evil early eighties heavy metal roots rather than pushing too hard into any one thrash-adjacent extreme. Cheers to that, really, leave the jewel in its setting and swap fingers so you can keep punching. The attack that Insane are bringing on this album is what I’d emphasize as the major one-up beyond the oft NWOBHM leaning ‘Evil’, and this is evident from the moment “Maximum Force” finishes off its harmonized lead-in. Percussive riffs, early Slayer-esque breaks, and punishing pace all make for an appropriately direct and energizing kick-off. ‘Victims’ is almost too relentless in this sense, hammering away at this pace for most of the album while slinking into a deep coffer of classic sinister thrash metal riffing. The force with which these pieces are applied isn’t necessarily brutal in the way that late 80’s thrash tends to be but wheeling through the second single for the album, “The Sword“, it’d be hard not to come out the other side beaten and entrenched in ye olde classic thrash riffing tunnel vision. If that isn’t your “happy place”, you could just fuck right off but for my taste the way they tuck into their rhythm guitar attack is pure gold. And it isn’t as if the record lacks varietal pacing overall, some of the strongest pieces, “Cruel Command” and third single “At Dawn They Die“, emphasize the value of the mid-paced kinetic songwriting that put speed metal on the map in the first place albeit in an evolved, street-level format.

What does become evident as we roll into Side B is that ‘Victims’ bears a sort of sweet spot in terms of rhythm guitar arrangement that they’ve circled back to a number of times, creating a greater motif that could more or less be recognized within a random pairing of any two songs. The blur of sinking into their howling, clanging and mercilessly catch modus here might overshadow some of the killer hooks Insane are bringing, and I’d say “Sanitarium” is the best example of a piece I’d not thought twice about for the first handful of listens before it’d “clicked” and landed as my personal favorite piece on the album. The best analogue I can think of for this is buying ‘Shotgun Justice’ for songs like “Parricide” and “Electric Torture” but remembering “Brass Knuckles” best. It is worth mentioning that we’re not getting dry-scooped thrash metal throughout with a warm and echoing dynamism defining the unique but not unusual choice of sound design, this helps to emphasize moments of intensity and speed even if the beats per minute aren’t at all extreme. By the end of the album the deeper, longer cuts start to hit with more involved rhythmic maps, such as “Oblivious Void”, which aren’t as ready loaded with as obviate and immediate memorable moments though they do hold well in continuity with the textural, aggressive sound ‘Victims’ leads with from start to finish. The gist is that there are layers of depth to pull from the album if you’re a riff-needler or, you could simply sit stomp your foot along with Insane‘s developing signature of rabid-paced thrash that is unafraid to indulge all manner of heavy/speed metal tangent. A prime grab for folks who love the ‘Show No Mercy’ spheres of the sub-genre and a fine follow-up to ‘Evil’. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Dying Victims Productions
RELEASE DATE:April 30th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Thrash Metal

Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.