Side one of Defeated Sanity’s new split with, um, Defeated Sanity offers the Berliner trio’s most merciless work to date. Side two very much does not—to the extent that even the most dedicated fan might have trouble recognizing the band.
“We’ve always struggled to bring all our influences into our music,” bassist Jacob Schmidt explains. “You can only put so many ‘progressive’ elements into brutal death metal without sacrificing brutality. Especially in the production of our albums, we felt that we lose many of the little intricacies to the extreme guitar sound, making them almost inaudible. It is hard to get an organically thick and brutal sound that has enough dynamics to let all the little technical elements from each instrument shine. That’s how we came up with the idea of dividing those two realms into a pure brutal and a more progressive ‘old school’ sounding EP and combining them.”
Bolstered by Despondency vocalist Konstantin Lühring’s abyssal croaks and burps on Disposal and the manic rasp of Max Phelps (Exist, Cynic, Death To All) on Dharmata, they execute the concept beautifully. Regardless, the caveperson side isn’t without nuance. Co-founding drummer (and sole remaining original member) Lille Gruber can only suppress his natural jazziness so much. Ditto for guitarist Christian Kühn’s way with harmonic invention. While their cryptosophistication makes the ride more enjoyable for listeners hungry for more than just the sound of knuckles dragging inside Suffocation trope updates, it does nothing to dampen the EP’s battering-ram intensity.
Likewise, the side based on the Bardo Thodol (i.e., Tibetan Book of the Dead) is nobody’s safe space. It’s just a helluva lot more complex—spectacularly so—than anything Defeated Sanity have recorded since (and including) their 1996 debut: the Devoured by the Black demo. Schmidt and Kühn take full advantage of multiple chances to display their virtuosity, while Gruber fills the second guitarist’s slot with the kind of fluidity and grace that’ll make filling his shoes live a bit of a challenge for Kevin Heiderich.
As always, they recorded at Schmidt’s Soundforge facility with the bassist doing all tracking and mixing—the one exception being drums for Dharmata, which were recorded by Guy Sternberg (Giant Sand, To Rococo Rot) at his Lowswing Studio.
“We started writing both EPs at the same time,” says Schmidt, “but finished Disposal way before Dharmata. As always, Lille did the biggest part of the songwriting. I contributed a good chunk of riffs and ideas to Dharmata, though, as did Chris. We had one option for vocals other than Max but it didn’t work out. Max was interested from the beginning and was so quick with learning the songs. It was a clear choice and we are very happy with it.”