Sacred Oath – Return of the Dragon (Angel Thorne Music)

Thursday, 29th April 2021
Rating: 8.5/10

Well known for their US power roots from the 1980’s, Sacred Oath have ventured around different genre landscapes over the past decade – incorporating modern hard rock aspects especially through 2015’s Ravensong outing. Their last album Twelve Bells was more of a throwback to some of their classic traditional elements – bringing us to the latest record Return of the Dragon. Featuring a three-guitar lineup this go around, these ten tracks delve across the power/thrash landscape while also incorporating some modern/darker accents that never tarnish the legacy and strength of the band’s style.

Considering the decades of experience as well as the wealth of knowledge in the metal genre, it’s easy to appreciate the mixture of straight-ahead anthems as well as efforts that contain a bit more progressive sophistication and diversity. The title track for instance shifts between low-tuned power, semi-progressive shifts, and occasional faster transitions while vocalist/guitarist Rob Thorne holds out some serious high power notes a la Dio/Halford and the supplementary screams towards the conclusion heighten the heavy proceedings. Occasional disjointed guitar constructs then move into smoother rhythms for the follow-up “At the Gates” – allowing the rhythm section interesting flexibility for entertaining through killer off-time movements, the lead break emotive and stunning with plenty of neoclassical flourishes. You can also expect a few focused headbangers with that 80’s/90’s Ozzy meets Metal Church vibe – of which “Hammer of an Angry God” really hits the sweet spot through a vicious main musical hook and equally engaging chorus. Taking advantage of all the angles applicable due to harmony and lead break action, “Into the Drink” is another favorite – aspects of Iron Maiden, Queensrÿche, and Thundersteel-period Riot come into play, as fans will appreciate the progressive intricacies and additional air activity sound effects displayed in this arrangement.

The self-contained production keeps Sacred Oath sharp and on point, the subtle orchestration and additional bells/whistles complimenting the main musical proceedings. Return of the Dragon is an outstanding Sacred Oath record – bridging the past to the present, and hopefully keeping the faithful satisfied while introducing newer listeners to the power of the band’s sound.

Sacred Oath official website