Knowledge At Hand: The Anthology

Inner Sanctum

It's one thing to write about an album; it's another to write about a career. […]
By Daniel Fox
November 8, 2013
Inner Sanctum - Knowledge At Hand: The Anthology album cover

It's one thing to write about an album; it's another to write about a career. UK's Heavy / Progressive Metal band INNER SANCTUM emerged in the British Metal scene during the 80's, and eventually evolved into FIFTH SEASON in '95... But what the band had completed in their first 7 years was astounding and genre-breaking. Moving away from a scene that was popularized by Heavy, Thrash and early Death Metal, this group of Brits had brought something new to the table; intelligent technicality. Where bands such as the big 4 strived for heaviness and grand themes, the music made by INNER SANCTUM is full of technical melodies and rhythms that engage the listener to think hard about what they're hearing. Recently, a compilation of their first demo tapes was released, giving us a taste of what was there before FIFTH SEASON.

Disk 1 contains them demos from '93 to '95, and opens with the ambitious self-titled off '95's "Again". Classic IRON MAIDEN sounds and rhythmic motifs are found here, fronted by John's infinitely powerful voice, somewhat reminiscent of FATES WARNING's Ray Alder in parts. Having heard this band for the first time, I could only imagine the reactions of listeners, 'back in the day', which were used to garden-variety rock and metal; to hear something with such a masterful grip on musical technicality, without overdoing it. "Enemy Unseen" begins the demo of '94, "Questions?" starting off with a deceptively peacefully clean and piano intro, which uses thoughtful chord progression to leave us uneasy. One is no doubt surprised when, once again, plunged into their special blend of technical Prog, marked by truly virtuosic rhythmic mastery. "Poverty of Intellect" is another track worth special mention here, and has an astonishing mix of changes in time signature and key, and many trippy rhythmic runs found in many of my favorite progressive bands, and an astounding bass solo. "Shine", which paves the way for '93's demo of the same name, is easily one of my favorite tracks in this collection, almost entirely for the quality of the bass; Kev Jackson is a veritable wizard and the instrument, and has proven to be an incredibly diverse musician,, alternating between harmonics, tapping and slap, often dueling with the blistering lead guitar work.

Disk 2 features a completely different set of tracks, running from '89 to '92. All around, the song is more raw, less over-produced, and overall more organic sounding... But just as weird and wonderful.  The opening track, "A Brief Madness", I found somewhat difficult to get my head around. Primarily a thrash track, there are still definitely hints of what were to come in later years in terms of technicality and melody. The most notable aspect of this song, however, are the vocals; John can't seem to decide on thrashing yells, or falsetto-like screeches, albeit hitting each and every note perfectly. "Influx Stupidty" off '91's "Static Veins" delves even deeper into Thrashy territories, drawing off classic SLAYER and MEGADETH sounds, yet still retaining a melodious vocal style, and intelligent progressive flourishes. Going back even earlier to 89's "Fear is Life's Blood", the sound is much muddier, and the recording is clearly amateurish and rushed, but what can else can be expected from a band's first demo? One must try to not let this detract from what was, at the time, revolutionary music. "Sensing the Horror" gives great insight into the treasure that could be found in the underground British Metal scene; rough recording belies what is uncharacteristically technical, yet also meaningful, Progressive Thrash Metal, that does not consist solely of 5 minutes of a bashed up-tempo drum pattern and painful, yelled lyrics.

Starting with a band's earliest, demo material is a new experience for me; a stronger, more insightful opinion and appreciate can be developed for a band. INNER SANCTUM is a band that has powered through, almost effortlessly, with their one-of-a-kind style of Metal that was unlike almost anything the 80's Metal scene could have heard. I am sure it's now time to give FIFTH SEASON a try.

9 / 10

Almost Perfect

"Knowledge At Hand: The Anthology" Track-listing:

Disk 1:

1. Again
2. Age of Light
3. Of Profit to the Wise
4. Enemy Unseen
5. Questions?
6. Poverty of Intellect
7. Birth of Acquisition
8. Longevity
9. Green/Grey
10. Shine
11. E.F.M.S.

Disk 2:

1. A Brief Madness
2. Excellence
3. Regression
4. Static Veins
5. The Unloving Touch
6. Influx Stupidity
7. Turn a Blind Eye
8. Beyond Apocalypse Dawn
9. Sensing the Horror

Inner Sanctum Lineup:

Kev Jackson - Bass
John Knight - Vocals
Jed Dawkins - Drums
Dave Ray - Guitars

linkcrossmenucross-circle linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram