Sacred Reich – Awakening (Metal Blade)Friday, 23rd August 2019
Making a modest impression on the thrash scene during the late 80’s/early 90’s through their Ignorance debut album and subsequent follow-ups the Surf Nicaragua EP and The American Way full-length – Sacred Reich would go into groove-like pastures when the moved up to major label ranks in 1993 for Independent. Times had changed though in the American metal marketplace, and by the time Heal came out in 1996, the band moved back to Metal Blade and all momentum was lost. They’ve been back in the scene since 2006 as far as a touring/festival draw based on legacy – deciding the time is ripe for a fifth album after 23 years away from the recording studio. Will Awakening put this Arizona act back as a serious contender – or just be another reunion record that gains initial interest but withers away to dust?
Recruiting some younger blood in the forms of second guitarist Joey Radziwill and producer Arthur Rizk keeps the steady veterans with a relevant edge that won’t restrict them to the 40 and over demographic. The title track wastes no time getting to the pounding groove and wild lead action – drummer Dave McClain and guitarist Wiley Arnett providing the circular motion to keep bassist Phil Rind on point rhythmically for his melodies, and the half-time transition near the conclusion will send bodies hurtling live. Overall these eight songs aren’t necessarily rearing back for the fastest tempos a la the early days – tracks like “Salvation” and “Killing Machine” chug along in comfortable anthem splendor, the latter reminding me a bit of Armored Saint and presenting some of the best Phil-led melodies to date, especially during the bridge and chorus. At this point in their career, there’s no worry that a “31 Flavors” will jar your opinion of the group – although it is nice to see them towards the end of the record push the accelerator a bit to their punkish/crossover nature on “Revolution”. Political unrest and social injustice still reign supreme for Sacred Reich on the lyrical front – which probably goes hand in hand with their thrash/groove metal stance.
Keeping a tradition of short but sweet records at just over 31 minutes, Awakening may turn the youngsters onto Sacred Reich a bit – plus keep some of the faithful headbanging away. Let’s see if they can sustain a second opportunity for relevance in an overcrowded, competitive world scene.