Paul Hutchings takes a trip down memory lane with a listen to the first three releases by Sacred Reich
2019 and the first Sacred Reich album in 23 years finally arrived with Awakening. It saw the return of Dave McClain to the drum stool he’s occupied from 1991 to 1997and the arrival of Joey Radziwill on rhythm guitar. The band’s played a smattering of shows through the UK and it was evident that Sacred Reich 2019 was still a relevant thrash beast. Fast forward through 2020 (and why would you linger?) and we arrive in 2021 and three reissues from Metal Blade.
First up is Ignorance, the fiery debut released in 1987. Whilst not as refined as the sophomore album, Ignorance is a stellar debut. Few albums can match the power of the opening double of long-time favourite Death Squad and Victim of Demise. There’s little to quibble about, even 34 years after it was first released. Phil Rind’s vocals were more urgent, and probably a little less controlled than they are today. His bass playing anchors everything and there are some magnificent forays into the land of Steve Harris at times as he moves his instrument into pole position. There’s the clear Megadeth influence on the instrumental Layed to Rest, an opportunity to slow things down whilst allowing guitarists Wiley Arnett and Jason Rainey to show their chops.The title track remains a monstrous song, with drummer Greg Hall nailing everything with ease. I love the build-up which suddenly explodes into a stomping mosh pit classic. At 32 minutes it’s not a long listen. The general intensity of the record is such that it feels even shorter but once Administrative Decision sends you have the option to listen to the 30th anniversary bonus track of Ignorance from the Metal Massacre VIII album or head back to Death Squad to spin it again.
It took a year from the release of Ignorance for the next Sacred Reich release to arrive but in October 1988 the now legendary Surf Nicaragua arrived. A song that would define how the band were viewed forevermore, there are plenty of reviews that are sour about the musical direction that the band were taking after the explosive debut. And in some respects, this six-track EP is pretty weak. The title track contains a bit of surfing anthem Wipe Outin the middle, and its formulaic, Anthrax style thrash can leave some a bit cold. It’s of a time when thrash was the thing and bands were churning out some average music. One Nation is a classic example, a real filler of a song whilst the cover of War Pigs was nothing to get excited about. Draining You of Life did at least hark back to the raw power of Ignorance. Two live tracks were standard for an EP of this type but it’s still worth a blast from time to time if you have 20 minutes to fill.
“Musically, we’ve tried to expand our horizons without forgetting our roots. Some people will appreciate the changes. Others, let’s just say, they’d be satisfied with ‘Ignorance II'”. So spoke Phil Rind after the release of 1990’s The American Way, the last album to feature Greg Hall. It’s an album that’s nowhere as ferocious as the debut, but the more polished sound still sounds good today. Rind’s lyrics continued to make social commentary, and there is still ample opportunity to get your thrash on. The title track remains a live anthem, the power of opener Love … Hate still ticks the box. Granted it’s not as visceral but the playing is tight, the musicianship a notch or two up from Ignorance and in the central pillars of the album, the six-minute double of Crimes Against Humanity and State of Emergency, there could be no doubt where Rind’s lyrical focus was. The rage of Who’s to Blame reflected the scrutiny the metal world was under following fan suicides, and then there is 31 Flavours. Sacred Reich’s marmite track: a funk rock closer, it still divides opinion but to be honest, it just makes me smile every time I hear it.
Three records that established Sacred Reich as a much-loved thrash outfit. The excitement when it was revealed that they were writing new material proved it. There’s rarely an excuse needed to play these releases and the reissues, despite being relatively close to previous 30th anniversary editions will give the band deserved attention, hopefully a few dollars in the pocket and new fans to boot.
All three albums are revised by Metal Blade on the 12th February 2021and well worth picking up if you aren’t old enough to own the originals or are just a Sacred Reich completest!