The Sanity Days – Evil Beyond Belief (Candlelight)Sunday, 8th March 2015
What may sound like a good idea in theory doesn’t always fully translate when executed. Unfortunately, that’s the case with Evil Beyond Belief, the debut full-length release from the United Kingdoms The Sanity Days, comprised of ex-Onslaught members Steve Grice, drummer and band co-founder who played on all records until his departure in 2011; bassist Jase Stallard, who handled bass duties on Power from Hell and guitar on The Force; guitarist Al Jordan, who played lead guitar on 2007’s Killing Peace; and Steve Grimmett, who sang on In Search of Sanity but is most well known for fronting ’80s NWOBHM outfit Grim Reaper.
The Sanity Days is clearly comprised of talented musicians, which is why I expected more from their debut. It’s not an overtly bad record; however the band comes off more as the guys wanting to get together and jam some tunes for fun rather than have a vision for the band, the album and ambitions to tour and really take it somewhere, although the band states the contrary on its website. For many of the songs, Grice just lays down a simple, solid drum beat “nothing exciting; very few, if any, creative fills” which gives the record a plodding rhythm that meanders from song to song. Jase’s bass is prominent in the mix, often providing a Pantera-like groove to serve as the backbone to the record, which is mostly devoid of thrash elements, settling in to more of an ’80s power vibe, a la Metal Church (think The Dark), complete with haunting guitar melodies. The problem is, the first 25 seconds of The Dark-opener “Ton of Bricks” carries more punch and excitement than anything on Evil Beyond Belief.
Having said that, Evil does start out strong. “Genesis” kicks things off with a child telling a story about a ghost named Charlie, accompanied by ominous piano notes and guitar chords. This is followed up with the one-two punch of “Charlie,” featuring a snaking guitar melody, gang backing vocals in the chorus, catchy chugging riffs and haunting chords, and “Satan’s Blood,” which starts out slow before hammering drums and riffs take over. Steve’s gritty vocals dominate this one, which would fit nicely on a Grim Reaper record. Although Evil retains a dark and brooding vibe throughout, once you get beyond Satan’s Blood,” there’s not a lot to get excited about. “My Last Words” and “My Demon Mind” are solid mid-paced melodic rockers, but lack edge and creativity, and the flange effect in the solo on “My Last Words” doesn’t help matters. Much of the album comes off as generic and uninspired, especially for a group of established musicians who have been in the scene for years. “Ruler of Eternity,” a tribute to the legendary Ronnie James Dio, has an intro eerily similar to Pantera’s “This Love” and features a Candlemass vibe in the chorus; the up-tempo, pounding rhythm and distorted riffs of “Closer to the Edge” wouldn’t sound out of place on a Fozzy record; and “Broken Wings” is the ‘ballad’ of the album, with its sorrowful tone, melodic groove and slower pace.
Although Evil Beyond Belief has its moments along the way, it’s not wrong to expect more from this group of established veterans. Injecting some insanity to The Sanity Days would go a long way.