Sanity Obscure - Subterranean Constellation (2012)


Singapore based four piece Sanity Obscure have a philosophy. They believe in their collective minds that music should have no boundaries. And that, if such boundaries do exist, they should be pushed and stretched as far as possible. On their new album, these four musicians hoped to begin that process, by combining an array of styles and sounds, ranging from thrash to death, black metal to hard rock. But philosophy is only madness without a sense of order. On "Subterranean Constellation," chaos and anarchy reign supreme, as this experimental band fail to expand our horizons, and instead push our buttons.

There is something scary in the opening track, a short intro called "Dreams - Manifestations." Whether it is the ominous singular chords that ring out, or the use of keys for atmospheric, and evil, purposes, a chill up your spine wouldn't be uncommon. The blood curdling screams that follow are not short on devilish tone either, only heightening the sense of evil. But as you move into "Rise Of The Machines," things get a little hectic. The opening stanza has a thrash element to it that, when combined with black metal style vocals, comes together in a fairly successful way. It is in the sections that follow that things go off course. Basic rock riffs with harsh vocals don't have the same weight, even with double kicks aplenty. The music often borders on that of System Of A Down, with intense grooves and fluttering guitar work. It, unfortunately, does little to hold your attention for the better part of four minutes.

Somewhere in the more stripped down verses of "Incarceration Divine" is the sound of a more mature band, a sound that seems to come and go with each passing measure. Even from verse to chorus, it is as if you are listening to a completely different album, if not a different band entirely. Rather than one cohesive theme, all of the pieces seem disjointed and bizarre when strung together. By the time you have reached "Synergistic Permutations," any of that initial pop is gone, leaving you with a cluttered mess of styles and tones, one that can't be easily identified. Sure, there are still some nice riffs, but they are often buried amidst clunky drums and layered vocals that don't seem to go anywhere. The latter half of the track, one that starts as straight black metal, quickly devolves into farce, with a wild guitar solo that could be mistaken for a child slapping at strings. The first positive burst in some time comes in the form of "Patient Zero" where, minus some of the space age effects, the band has settled into a groove; or so it would seem. Before you can complete that thought, a drum roll bursts through, boasting Lars Ulrich's "St. Anger" era snare sound. And, as with the tracks before, chaos ensues. Guitars crash into bass and drums, and you are left with a muddled affair.

With two thankfully short tracks following, "Doublethink" and "Hyperboreas," there is little time for all of the added nonsense that seems to creep into every track by the three minute mark. But the former still manages to introduce a fair amount of clutter, whether it be the constant wall of drums, one that is hard to get by, or a solo that, while well played, fails to elevate the track in any way. The latter, also clocking in at just over two minutes, is a mess of a track. Black metal vocals flank a constant "chug chug" pattern, with a bizarre guitar melody to follow. By this point, the music is predictable, if not completely sour. The keyboards do peek through for the first noticeable time, adding some electronic effects to an already crowded mix. If you have survived this far, then the nearly four minute closer, "Afflicted Mind," is all that stands between you and sweet, musical freedom. Cliche, messy, and poorly thought out, this eighth and final track is everything wrong with the album, rolled into one big middle finger for the listener.

A great band takes one style, and performs it brilliantly. Other bands take many styles, and perform them poorly. Sanity Obscure, for all their ambition and thought, fall squarely into the latter. They hoped to stretch musical boundaries, an admirable endeavor. However, through these eight tracks, they have done more to hurt their cause than help it, leaving a legacy of confused songs and poor execution. Every positive section, all ten seconds per song, is quickly dashed by the carelessness or pure lack of evolution that follows. If they could settle on one theme, one method, one style, perhaps there is redemption to be had. But "Subterranean Constellation" might be enough to sink them for good.

3/10