Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Howlin' Mad - Insanity (1990)

It's pretty ironic that Sabina Classen of Holy Moses appears as a guest on this album, and Andy Classen produced it, because the sole Howlin' Mad album, Insanity reminds me quite a lot of that other band's material, both Finished With the Dogs and the meatier albums the band would release in the next few years after. This is not only for the dense mix ridden with speedy, bright solo licks, but also the vocals of Gert 'Mad' Lange, which seem to push the thrash envelope into a more brutal territory, much like Sabina did with Queen of Siam and the amazing Finished With the Dogs. Howlin' Mad hardly have a piece of notorious thrash history on their hands here, but if you have a soft spot for blunt, deeper vocals (sort of like Prong's Force Fed, with an accent), then you may just find your head banging to this for a few moments.

It's honest enough, a mix of mid-paced flurries like "Into the Void" and "Dread of Nightmare" which beg comparisons to a Holy Moses or Erosion, and then some spry, shorter emanations like "Assassinated Nature". A few of the tracks take on a mild, surgical technicality like their countrymen Destruction, namely "Wordless Attack" and "Why This Actions", but they quickly devolve into bludgeoning meat hooks of average riffs. The most 'epic' composition here is "Fatality", at over 5 minutes that range from a somber intro to a the typical thrash triplet gallop, but it doesn't show much deviation from the structure of much of the record's pacing. "Drunk Till Emptiness", the track to feature Sabina, is a pretty standard thrash/mosh piece, similar to material by US bands S.O.D. and Anthrax, with Lange and Classen alternating their brutal slather in the chorus. Not much to it, I'm afraid...

Insanity is not only a redundant title for this (the band is called Howlin' Mad for fuck's sake), but an album that defines average for its day. The leads belie a level of proficiency that is simply not being exhibited through the majority of the riffs, and one gets the impression he/she could plug in and write an album of palm mute thrash like this within minutes. But it's not really a negative experience, simply one that you could have from any act in the 3rd or 4th tier of bands trying to carve themselves a small piece of the pummeling pie. The guest slot and kooky cover art make it more of a curiosity than anything else, but if you're in the mood for some no frills thrash with brute vocals, one listen to this won't kill you (sadly, not even with fits of laughter).

Verdict: Indifference [5.5/10]

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