Seizures – The Sanity Universal album review
It’s entirely appropriate that the cover art of Seizures’ The Sanity Universal features an image of a densely populated galaxy. An infinite system of stars, bound by interstellar gases, held in place by gravity – that most humbling of forces. Gaze at it for too long, lose yourself in the sheer scale of it, and you can almost feel yourself being crushed under the immense weight. It’s a perfect allegory for Seizures’ second LP; a stunning piece of work that is incredibly vast, totally overpowering and almost impossible to quantify. Originally independently released almost exactly one year ago to quiet but unanimously positive critical acclaim, Melotov Records have got their hands on it, applied a fresh lick of paint (remastering duties handled deftly by Chris Common) and put it out on vinyl for all to hear. Which puts it in the unique position of legitimately becoming my favourite record for the past two years running.
Seizures are that rare thing within metalcore; they are a band who require every inch of the running time that an LP provides. Listening to this record for the millionth time, I was thinking back to their split EP with Colombian Necktie (released on Sun Terrace Records back in 2012) and wondering why their tracks there didn’t quite hit the spot. It’s because Seizures have ideas that are too big to contain. They’re a band who work best when spread out over a large canvas; their music given room to breathe, expand and unfold. They create an incredible sense of cohesion, where each track feels like it’s a small part of a larger puzzle. By comparison, you couldn’t try and write out the Stefan–Boltzmann law onto a postage stamp and hope to make sense of it, could you?
So, Seizures are intensely mathematical. Try to successfully plot a map of any given song, like some musical cartographer, and you’ll often come up short. The tracks on The Sanity Universal are never predictable. Never heading in a direction you expect. An incredible feat in itself, considering that Seizures operate within a genre so rife with cliche. And unlike the often cold, clinical, mechanical angles of The Dillinger Escape Plan or the blistering brutality of older Californian influences (think early Eighteen Visions back when they were full of venom and wild energy), Seizures feel like they have an honest, tender and tortured soul buried beneath the layers of bewildering noise. It pokes through often; sometimes in brief glimpses, like the shimmering blanket of melancholy that settles momentarily in ‘Channeler’, while other times it dominates. ‘Kansas’ is a head-spinning cacophony of violence, with a crushing slo-mo beatdown to really get your knuckles dragging, but it’s anchored by a mid-point burst of heart-swelling melody (with Cameron Miller’s vocals never dipping below ‘feral roar’) that feels so pure and so life affirming that the catharsis it provides the listener is almost greater than any deafening outburst.
Similarly, the majestic, serene outro to ‘Ante Meridiem’ is the soundtrack to being adrift in space, slowly floating off into the eternal void of the universe as you watch Earth shrink into the distance, an odd sense of calm descending over you as your oxygen runs out. It’s quite beautiful. And crushing. With not a distorted guitar in sight.
They also use these quiet moments to unsettle and disarm. The opening section of ‘It Looked Like A Fire’ carries with it a sense of dread and impending sorrow which calls to mind post-rock monoliths Mogwai. That it eventually evolves into a song of such thunderous carnage and finishes with perhaps the heaviest moment on the record, as a wall of reverberating guitar noise drones behind frantic chugs and manic screams, is further testament to their ability to create songs that constantly surprise.
Elsewhere, when operating at full speed, they create white-knuckle blurs of aural insanity. ‘The Draper Project’, where a little repetition is used to great effect, and ‘Dreamsnake’, featuring a glittering beatdown and queasy lead guitar, have more ideas packed into their combined 8 minute running time than most bands could come up with over a whole career.
A year after I first heard it, and after listening to it a bare minimum of once a week since, I’m still discovering new things. Little pockets of inspiration secreted away behind towering riffs. Sparks of ideas that burst into life before they’re snuffed out to give way to new ones. The Sanity Universal is a dense and confusing record, sometimes hitting like a brick, other times soothing you with a calming hand. It’s an undeniably oblique tapestry but one delivered with such an incredible precision that it feels as though Seizures are guiding you through it every step of the way. Giving you just enough lead to lose yourself among the cosmos before reeling you back into safety. And then doing it all over again.
Released by Melotov Records, order the 2xLP from here