Written by Kep
Schizophrenia – Recollections of the Insane
Death/thrash metal from Belgium
Releasing February 18
Ah, death and thrash. A pair that emerged as essentially one entity, destructive and unrelenting, ready and able to tear down the world of music as we knew it as the lethal weapon of bands like Possessed, Slayer, and Sepultura. Before long, though, death and thrash started to move away from one another, and metal ended up with two relatively distinct scenes: one downtuned and full of abyssal hostility, the other galloping and defined by virtuosic shred. Sometimes, though, the two are brought together again by a truly talented act that finds the common ground they once shared and masters it. That’s your cue, Schizophrenia.
Hailing from Antwerp, this Belgian foursome set lofty expectations with their debut 2020 EP Voices, a 5-track dynamo. Their upcoming full-length Recollections of the Insane is the logical and satisfying progression of a band that’s already found its niche and is now honing and perfecting its craft. I was looking forward to this album, and if anything my expectations have been exceeded. Schizophrenia is going to impress a lot of people with this release.
Theirs is an approach that essentially presents as a particularly substantial take on thrash with a visceral death metal aesthetic. The mix is thick and fucking massive, a veritable wall of sound, but there’s plenty of clarity so enjoying the extremely active riffage is easy. Bassist/vocalist Ricky Mandozzi is a hellish beast of a frontman, his bellowing roars leading the mix through sheer power and his hefty bass occupying a massive amount of room on the bottom end. It’s Mandozzi’s presence at both the top and bottom of the mix that makes it so goddamn huge.
Schizophrenia’s riffs are thrash-centric for the most part, with guitarists Romeo Promos Promopoulos and Marty Van Kerckhoven trading lead duties throughout. Surrounding and supporting those boisterous thrash leads are laser-focused death metal riffs that add a primeval sort of nastiness. Take opener “Divine Immolation”: after a towering intro the song barrels toward its first verse with a sinister melodic riff pulled straight out of Sweden, then settles into a robust thrash groove. I found Promopoulos and Van Kerckhoven’s work infectious, because the more I listened closely, the more I wanted to hit the repeat button and see what new things I could catch. Whether they’re shredding through whirling vortices of notes like in the second half of “Cranial Disintegration” or grandly duetting through mid-tempo licks as they do in the opening of “Onwards to Fire”, they electrify at every turn, and their solos are full of vintage swagger, especially the kickass back-and-forth shred in the solo section of “Inside the Walls of Madness”.
The powerhouse of Schizophrenia’s sound, though, is drummer Lorenzo Vissol (also of Bütcher and Skelethal), whose playing is a goddamn powder keg of drive and adrenaline. His ultra-precise playing is the spearhead, astonishingly fast and impressively varied; I find that too much of the classic snare-on-the-offbeat thrashing can get boring quickly, but Vissol mixes up his approaches constantly. “Sea of Sorrow” is a great example, with lightning-quick fills morphing speedy thrash rhythms seamlessly into breathtakingly violent blasts left and right, patterns that would feel at home in Sodom or Testament meshed into attacks straight out of Nile and Morbid Angel.
Recollections of the Insane is a particularly well-paced album, so its runtime sails right by. It comprises 9 tracks in 43 minutes, with a bit of breathing room in the majestic opening of the fifth song (“Onwards to Fire”) and then again in the atmospheric intro section of the eighth (“Fall of the Damned”). Between those moments of relative calm, though, it’s all gas no brakes, but with enough variety of tempo and approach to make sure each song feels dynamic and unique. “Souls of Retribution” stands out for its vindictive fury—in the bridge, Mandozzi snarls “I’ll follow you / beyond the grave / Fuck your skull / until it breaks”, YEESH—as does lead single “Cranial Disintegration” for its rapid-fire chorus lyrics and the build to its colossal breakdown-esque climax. Unfortunately, the record ends on its weakest track, “Stratified Realities”, which is a bit of a letdown after the exhilarating ride up ‘til that point, and the only thing that prevents the pacing from being essentially perfect.
Both fans of death and thrash will find little to complain about here, and I mean that wholeheartedly. There are moments I wish that producer Franceso Paoli, of Fleshgod Apocalypse fame, would’ve aimed for a more toothy, biting guitar tone, especially in the solos, and every now and then my ears ask for a slightly less crowded mix. But these are the definition of minor complaints, and won’t diminish anyone’s ability to enjoy the hell out of the album.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Metalheads who are looking for a high-quality modern take on the intersection of death and thrash, look no goddamn further. Schizophrenia’s Recollections of the Insane is the definition of a ripper, and it’s an incredible full-length debut. A merciless engine made of riffs that batter and thrash like flesh-rending whips, a devastating volleying battery, and formidably vicious vocals, this album is not to be missed.