It is oft said that lightening doesn’t strike twice in the same spot (to be honest, science has already debunked that theory but I don’t let logic get in the way of a good proverb) but, the first two releases from Layered Reality Productions have left me open mouthed and slack jawed (some might say that is my natural state and, who am I to argue?). In my inbox, Adeia’s Hourglass has rapidly been followed by the debut release from Sense vs Sanity, Out of the Void. For those of you that know me, I have made it perfectly obvious since I began as an author for Lady Obscure Music Magazine that, I am no fan of grunting, growling or, for a better description, cookie monster vocals. However, as I have delved further into the music scene and listened to umpteen different new releases, it has become apparent to me that there is nothing wrong with that style of singing if executed skilfully and, this is the major consideration, in the right place, not just added gratuitously or because the artist had no better idea of what to do. This has been proven, not once, but twice, in rapid succession. Hourglass put the first chink in my armour and Out of the Void has, now, firmly put doubts into my mind regarding my dislike of grunts and growls. I truly have to admit that I do like it when my beliefs and prejudices can be challenged to such an extent that I end up changing my mind about things and, it is brilliant that music always seems to be able to do that.
Sense vs Sanity is a progressive/melodic death metal project started by Dutch musician Sander Stegeman in 2010 after he left his previous project Posthuman. He is a composer, singer and guitarist. Posthuman released their debut EP Into the Void in 2010 which lyrically represented a darker period in Sander’s life. After Posthuman disbanded, Sander decided to write a follow up to this EP, he took his time to re-evaluate the life he was living and decided to change things. The material this period produced turned into the concept album Out of the Void. Sense vs Sanity started out as a studio project originally, but it has evolved into a live band which has taken to the live stage at the beginning of 2013. The only other full time member of the band is Joran Dijkstra on drums but a whole host of guest musicians also played on the album including Richard Sjunneson (The Unguided, Ex-Sonic Syndicate) on Vocals, Tom de Wit (Mind:Soul, TDW) – vocals and orchestrations and Jord Otto (Revamp)and Mendel Bij de Leij (Aborted, Mendel) – guitar, to name a few.
The humongous musical extravaganza to follow is barely hinted at as the album opens with the delightfully mellow A Spirit Dissolved which includes an exceptional solo and powerful drumming. The left hook to the solar plexus that is title track Out of the Void then rampages into focus, frenetic drumming, crashing guitar and harsh, growling vocals all contributing to the dark and dangerous feel, there will be no prisoners taken here. The slick guitar solo is a bastion of light amongst the darkness heralding, as it does, a lighter section of the song blessed with a nicely pared back guitar note and deep, melodic vocal. Normal service is resumed as the track careers off into the chaos again, dragged headlong by the rasping vocal. After the death metal fest of the previous track, the catchy drum and bass intro of Disposable is entirely unexpected but just works really well. The crashing guitar and pounding drums soon take pride of place again and the barking is counterbalanced well by the accompanying lighter (if not by much) vocal. The guitar, keyboards and drums all pounding along at a breakneck speed, perfectly matched by the screeching solo. The two tracks that follow, Trust and Never Enough are pure death metal, all grim vocals, crunching guitar and thunderous drums, performed at a frenzied pace. The growling vocal of the verses is pared well with a much more melodic performance on the choruses but, you know we are never talking sweetness and light here just powerful and mountainous performances. One thing that is becoming increasingly apparent is the excellent use of the guitar solo, these guys are extremely proficient musicians and each solo is a self-contained delight. The coruscating guitar that fires you into Rekindled is a pure slice of power metal and is given free rein to run roughshod for all too brief a time. The dominant vocal combination with elements of both the growls and melodic edge is top notch once again as this bombastic track thunders along, a nice touch brought by a hint of electronica in the background. There is a monstrous combination of death and progressive metal running throughout this track and I am beginning to seriously enjoy this album.
Taking the Reigns has a seriously catchy intro of rapid prog-metal guitar and bruising drum beat interspersed with slick melodic guitar licks. The vocals tend to rely less on the impressive shouty style and major more on that melodic edge, this track is as close as you’ll come to a straightforward metal song on the album although there is a strong progressive hint as well. I can’t help but smile when the guitars fling out an uber-cool twin guitar solo, a quality track on what is becoming an increasingly impressive album. You cannot take one step back as The Path powers into view, a thunderously heavy, screaming guitar riff and those solid drums providing the foundations as the demonic vocal pours over everything. The contrast provided by the smoother vocal and guitar interlude is perfect giving you time to take a breath before everything is hauled back into line by a nicely judged solo and that ominous vocal, another powerhouse track indeed. The laid back acoustic guitar and spoken vocal that is the introduction to Another Me is an oasis in a desert of prodigiously powerful metal. The addition of more of the stylish drum and bass to fight it out with the forceful and dark vocals is a nice touch. This song, despite the ever present growling vocals, is definitely the most melodic track on the album and has a really emotive feel to it. The next track on the album, instrumental, A Spirit Regenerated has a rejuvenating intro, all fast-paced guitar, slick keyboards and epic drumming, definitely prog-metal inspired in every sense. Almost from the start of the song there is a feeling that we are building to some sort of crescendo, brilliant orchestration slightly hidden in the background before the sublime guitar breaks out of its confines and fires away. I can’t avoid the feeling we a running headlong, either away from or into, something, which leaves you slightly on edge. The low key piano that leads out the track is a quality touch. Well, what a musical journey that was and, just for good measure, it’s not over yet as we are treated to an absolutely sublime acoustic version of Another Me as a final encore. Unlike anything that has gone before this is all lush orchestration, gentle drumming, superb acoustic guitar and a wonderful vocal duet. Completely different to the rest of the album but, somehow, completing it as a whole.
If I have learned one thing over the last few months it is to always be open-minded and never close myself to new discoveries and, thanks to that mantra, I am on something of a winning run at the moment. Once again, another previously undiscovered musical delight has landed at my feet courtesy of Sense vs Sanity and my life is richer for it. Please give Out of the Void a listen and make your own mind up but I, for one, have been suitably impressed.