BLIND ILLUSION — The Sane Asylum (review)

BLIND ILLUSION — The Sane Asylum album cover Album · 1988 · Technical Thrash Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Vim Fuego
Most people will be familiar with the twisted little ditties at the beginning and end of each episode of South Park, courtesy of Primus. However, most people would be unaware of the link to the Bay Area thrash scene of that band. Guitarist Larry LaLonde was a member of the highly influential San Fran thrashers Possessed, and LaLonde and bass maestro Les Claypool were band mates in this little outfit, Blind Illusion.

‘The Sane Asylum’ was really a slightly off–the–wall release for a thrash band. "Vengeance Is Mine" is particularly twisted. Much of it is out of time, whether deliberate or accidental, it's hard to tell. The tempo and time signatures of the song wander all over the place. There are some frenetic solos, and at times some damned weird noises produced by who knows what. Easy listening it most definitely isn't. "Death Noise" has an AC/DC–ish backbeat, an almost funky section, and a Middle Eastern sounding solo. It all leads into guitar scrapes sounding like dive bombers attacking, and then the main body of the song starts. Strangely, the excellent main riff is so muffled as to be almost inaudible, with the clunky drumming further up the mix. Unexpectedly, it works. "Kamakazi" sounds like a refugee from Iron Maiden's debut album.

Despite the creative output of the Primus pair, they were little more than hired guns here. Main man Marc Biedermann wrote almost everything on the album. Released in 1988, some of the songs were already 10 years old: "Death Noise" was written in 1978, "Kamakazi" 1979, and the rest of the album between 1985 and 1987. Biedermann had a limited vocal range, but wrote to it accordingly, sounding something like Dark Angel's Ron Rinehart minus the falsetto screams.

And so how do Claypool and LaLonde perform? Well, there are none of the trademark weird bass noises from Claypool, but his playing is still far from conventional. Often playing counter to the rhythm guitar, he fills many small spaces with runs, mini solos and unexpected notes. LaLonde's performance matches much of his output in Possessed, trading breakneck solos with Biedermann, with that nasty extra bite his other band was famous for. However, Possessed it ain't.

This album doesn't make much sense on first listen, but it’s a grower. You’ll find yourself drawn to repeatedly, without knowing why.
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