SUFFERING SIGHTS – When Sanity Becomes Insanity (2021)REVIEW

Closed-eye pseudohallucinations buzzing in mind and a hundred ‘old school’ death metal riffs informed by the razor-sharp aggression of late 80’s thrash metal in ear, this debut full-length from Santiago, Chile-based quartet Suffering Sights aims its full-bodied punch-out right for the kisser of classic death metal heads, deftly managing to glance off the jaw of any nearby folks who still live by the code of raw and fuckin’ mean thrash metal all the same. The street-riffing whip and Floridian bop of ‘When Sanity Becomes Insanity‘ will fit like a glove in the hands of anyone who’d spent their formative years imprinting on the too-sweet dovetail between thrash metal’s aggressive peak and the early, most earnest rise of death metal existentialism giving us a surprisingly authentic hit of circa 1989 South American death metal that goes an inch above and beyond the usual aesthetic checklist — And hey, they’ve got riffs, too.

The trust fund babies of Bay area thrash metal taught a new generation how to put on a show, the suburban outliers of German thrash metal made a show of stark globalist realism, and the greater South American thrash metal assured us that the blood on the streets was real and presented the truest, hardest possible version of thrash. Though I don’t mean to present these young folks as pure thrashers in terms of Suffering Sights, it is clear that they’ve connected with all of the above traditions of early extreme thrash best not only within the accomplished old school songcraft of ‘When Sanity Becomes Insanity’ but within their other projects, the first one you’ll likely recognize being Mayhemic but also Insecurity and Perversion. They’re driven, they can play, and an obsession with classicism makes for an exciting result in every case thus far. Suffering Sights is perhaps the farthest along its path having formed in 2015 and released a couple of singles before ‘Promo Demo II‘ (2018) and the ‘Existential Realism‘ (2019) EP where a raw, noisome capture, tightened ‘Leprosy’-esque riffing and the dramatist presentation of Sepultura‘s ‘Schizophrenia’ were already indicated on standouts like “G.E.B.” (“Genetically Engineered Bacteria”). Sure, if your demo reminds me of my favorite thrash metal album I’m gonna buy it either way, but these guys were ripping it up regardless.

Eponymous opener “Suffering Sights” tells us everything we need to know about this band’s intent as they rip through a handful of bluntly thrashed riffs, slithering tremolo picked motions, and whammy-bracing leads. This is exactly the sort of underground death metal you’ll find if you plum the lost graveyards of the sub-genre from 1986-1992 but presented with the action of guitarists who still consider themselves thrashers and this is reinforced by this best yet version of “G.E.B.” which pairs with the opener to great effect. The angle beyond the sort of expected references to post-‘Altars of Madness’ metal, the first Pestilence album, and aforementioned Brazilian thrash impetus is where Suffering Sights starts to get doubly interesting as their obsession with primitive death metal includes shades of Slaughter and Impetigo‘s d-beaten catchiness via wobbling, manic rhythms and the speed metal shocked crunch of ‘Immortal Force’-era Mutilator. Their playing is admittedly much sharper than those groups overall, and they can shred, but the punkish catchiness of primitivist death makes a strong ally with their early 90’s influences giving us a fuller spectrum of the authentic late 80’s/early 90’s death metal chasm. The short brain-drilling crush of “Face the Reality” (and “Punishment Voids” before it) embodies this connection with its ’86 German speed metal grind, upward scrambling solo, and simple but hard hitting progression into a quick thrashcore breakdown before ducking out. It sounds simple enough in writing but the effect of this piece within the context of the full listen is a jogging, head-craning kick in the middle of a death metal record that is already taking the listener for a seriously fucked ride. In plainest terms, ‘When Sanity Becomes Insanity’ embodies all of the best traits of late 80’s USDM and by proxy represents the most inspirational, fire-flung beginnings of extreme metal in Chile and Brazil.

Where I get the most enthused as a longtime fan of death/thrash is nonetheless within the more sophisticated songcraft of the album, a marriage of technical quick-changes and the distinctly sweet stench of ancient rotten death metal. “Hypocrite” is where we get the heaviest hits of pure death metal, dusting up a bit of love for the grinding shoves of ‘Harmony Corruption’ while meeting the sort of next-level riffing of Atomic Aggressor in pockets of double-bass rolling speed. Although “Hypocrite” is a major highlight as we bump into the second half of the record it is the ‘Haunting the Chapel’-esque introduction to “Worthy Acts of Hate” that had me fully primed and sold on the full experience of Suffering Sights‘ debut. Granted, I lean towards this sort of pure thrash metal guitar work by default so your enthusiasm may vary but for my taste ‘When Sanity Becomes Insanity’ only gets better in its second half as the full listen seals the deal with “Desperate Search”, the record’s peak neck-wrecking, whammy-diving, distorted bass growling ‘Victims of Science‘-fueled stomp.

So you’ve gotten the gist that a death/thrash metal record to the tune of late 80’s/early 90’s death metal is bound to thrill the brains out of an obsessive fan of this style, like me, but objectively speaking the authenticity of the render, the simple and effective arrangements of these songs and their vitally charged energetic performances are sure to convince anyone tangentially interested in old school death metal or the harder edge of early extreme thrash metal in general. There is nothing here for folks seeking modern takes on old classics, this is as pure as death metal gets in classicist thrasher’s hands and because of this I am instantly a fan of Suffering Sights for managing something serious, riff-crammed, and murderously delivered. Could they find further distinction without the usual prog/tech-death progression over time? I think this relies upon their further study of those primitive-but-catchy ‘proto’-death metal influences they’ve peppered throughout this debut, if they keep up this balance of classic thrash bombast-fused arrangements and memorable rhythms I’ll be on board for as many of these as they feel like put out. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (85/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:When Sanity Becomes Insanity
LABEL(S):Burning Coffin Records
RELEASE DATE:September 27th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Death/Thrash Metal,
Death Metal

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