Sacred Reich – Awakening
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 23/08/2019
Running Time: 31:23
Review by ‘Dark Juan’
You know, dear friends, acolytes, neophytes and zelators, we never sit here and discuss our feelings. Us Metal fans, we are the outsiders, the alternative and one big, drunken happy family united by our love of music and drinking stupendous amounts of alcohol. We should be more aware of ourselves and more especially of others. Make friends and love each other, boys and girls. Love is the law. Love under will. I’m saying this stuff and being serious because recently, as I’m sure you are all aware, it was the recent anniversary of the horrific murder of Sophie Lancaster, one of our own. This has got me thinking about how we all need to watch out for each other. If you’re in a pit and you see someone going down, lift them up. If someone is passing out or throwing up because of too many party treats or too much booze, be the one that calls the fucking ambulance and gets them seen to. There’s enough shit and bias against us tattooed, pierced and Metal/ Goth/ Industrial loving folks without us not looking after each other. Dark Juan loves you all. Rest In Peace, Sophie. You were a friend lots of us never got to meet and that still hurts, so many years after the event.
So endeth the sermon, and I have therefore picked up my glass of wine and I have slapped a new platter on by my favourite thrash band of all time, Sacred Reich (which, due to slight inebriation, I’m having trouble spelling…). For those of you who have been living under some kind of anti-metal rock, Sacred Reich were formed in 1985 and are an Arizona band who should have been absolutely colossal on the scale of Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax and always had a very polished, Bay Area thrash sound. Think the clean, arctic purity of Metallica’s Ride The Lightning with added bass (because Lars isn’t there to fuck up the production like normal) mixed with Bonded With Blood era Exodus. THAT’S the Sacred Reich sound. Their record “The American Way” is an absolute thrash classic and you should be hitting Amazon right about now to buy it. I’ll wait…
“Awakening” is the fifth album by these grizzled thrash stalwarts. What do you get? You get ultra-classic thrash that takes me instantly back to dying of alcohol poisoning with my friends in a tent in the middle of a field or a beach with a ghetto blaster and a shitload of tape cassettes. This is not a bad thing because thrash always had the perfect mix between power, aggression, musicianship and melody and it was my full on gateway drug into all other known metal. So, we have a classic band utilising a classic style with a classic sound. Have we a new Sacred Reich classic album here?
The answer, dear friends and defilers of the Whorehouse of Christ The Deceiver, is very fucking nearly. Sacred Reich have released a gem of a heavy metal record. It is pretty damned fine. Their sound has evolved too, incorporating elements of southern blues and full on groove metal into that classic US thrash blueprint and creating a new kind of warbeast, a chimerical quadruped cyborg armed with heavy machine guns and a really shitty temper. The groovy, updated sound undoubtedly benefits from the recent joining of Dave McClain, after his split with Machine Head and the infusion of young blood into the band in the form of Joey Radziwill on guitar. Sacred Reich, however, have never been afraid of leaning left of the centre with their music (anyone remember the truly execrable, but fantastically well-meaning ‘31 Flavors’ from “The American Way”? For those of you that don’t, allow me to enlighten you – Thrash metal band are quite possibly massively stoned or utterly fucked up beyond all known levels of sanity on god knows what substance and decide it would be a terrific idea to play a funk song. Oh. My. God. It is hilarious for all the wrong reasons. There’s shocking sequenced brass bits, lyrics of questionable taste and it is possibly the most uncomfortable piece of guitar playing I have ever heard in my life. Saying that, the message is an inspiring one…) what with them breaking into the Batman theme tune in the middle eight of ‘Surf Nicaragua’, but there’s not many shenanigans on offer with this record. This is a band who have rediscovered the love of their music and have decided that they are going to violently kill everyone with it.
What there is, though, is a level of comfort and satisfaction that is seldom achieved in metal. This is a band thoroughly comfortable with themselves, their music and the kind of record they wanted to make. Another one of the manifold reasons I love Sacred Reich so much is the fact that Phil Heal is a magnificently accomplished bassist, far in advance of his contemporaries. It lends the Sacred Reich sound that extra edge that, for this thrash loving Hellpriest, set them apart from the rest of the American thrash bands. He’s also a much better singer than most thrash frontmen as well.
I’m fucking loving this. It proves that thrash is still relevant and is not just some young bands having discovered Dad’s Kreator records and being achingly cool and replicating the sound of them for a modern and young audience who have never heard Sodom’s “Agent Orange” or Coroner’s “No More Color”.
Stand out track on this album for me is the simply jaw dropping ‘Divide And Conquer’. It’s an agglomeration of Slayer style verse and riffage, segueing into a classic Metallica sounding chorus. If there was ever a song this distilled the very essence of the sheer brilliance of thrash metal, THIS IS IT! Who cares that Phil struggles a little bit when he hits the higher notes. The middle eight of ‘Salvation’ also deserves note because of the simply sublime bass and guitar interplay that has caused me to soil myself in sheer excitement and caused me to thank my friend Marion in Laniscat for selling me a wipe clean sofa. Once again it comes in for some abuse, does my sofa when I’m writing for Ever-Metal.com. And serious, strenuous efforts at cleaning too!
I really don’t have the words to tell you how much fun this record is. Mrs. Dark Juan has been throwing things at me for the past hour because I’m A) Not making tea like I promised I would, B) flailing around like an animate, demented windmill, C) Howling like a tone deaf werewolf in mating season along to the album, D) Upsetting the hellhounds, and E) Accidentally breaking every ornament we own. See B) for more information.
To return to an earlier question: Is “Awakening” by Sacred Reich a classic record? I wish to qualify the opinion I gave you earlier. Yes, it fucking is. Ultra-precise, razor sharp classic thrash from the finest band ever to play it, with an engaging sense of fun, and for this record, a serious an uncompromising sense of who they are and where they want to be. Dave McClain was wasted in Machine Head. Sacred Reich is where he belongs. May Phil and Wiley and the new guys live forever. And more importantly, keep giving me records like this because I’m a dripping, spent mess of metal pleasure right now.
I think I’ll leave you with that mental image.
The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System has regressed instantly back to teenage years, and is busily chasing goth girls (and failing miserably at catching them), pouring insane quantities of beer down it’s throat and acquiring new and exciting neck and brain damage from headbanging so hard. 10/10 because it is fucking amazing! Thank fuck that Sacred Reich gave me this record, rather than Rock Goddess levels of disappointment.
To return to seriousness for a brief moment, if I may. Please, PLEASE, everyone support S.O.P.H.I.E. because we NEED to make the loss of one of our own in such a senseless and disgusting fashion MEAN SOMETHING. It is important, no, it is IMPERATIVE that our metal and alternative family love each other as hard as we can. We are the outsiders. We NEED each other. If you don’t yet support S.O.P.H.I.E. please just even buy a wristband and you’re doing your bit.
Thank you. I love you all.
02. Divide And Conquer
04. Manifest Reality
05. Killing Machine
06. Death Valley
08. Something To Believe
Phil Heal – bass and vocals
Dave McClain – Drums
Wiley Arnett – Guitar
Joey Radziwill – Guitar
Tweets by SacredReich
And for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation (S.O.P.H.I.E.)
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Dark Juan and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.