The Saturday Metal Review

Picture

Eternal Dark

(Backdoor Records)

Released in 1983

Rating: 8/10

I love going back and hearing classic heavy metal from different countries; in particular anything from the early to mid-1980’s will always do the trick to quench my taste. As we dig deep into the Saturday Metal review, I’ve selected one of the first Dutch heavy bands as our point of interest, so let me introduce you to Picture.

They hail from the Netherlands and the band released Picture (1980), Heavy Metal Ears (1981), Diamond Dreamer (1982) and in 1983 Eternal Dark. I thought we would review Eternal Dark for a few reasons – namely the striking album cover art and of course the 9 tracks of pure molten metal.

So let’s start with the album cover. I bring this up because it stood out to me when I was rifling through a Google image search of classic heavy metal covers. The ghoulish image of a nearly decomposed skeleton head with one eyeball still in the socket stopped me dead in my tracks. I love images like that, but sadly I have no idea who painted this.

Regardless of who the artist was, I thought the image perfectly represented the songs found on this release. The album’s title (Eternal Dark) surely proclaims this to be taking everyone on one hell of a ride and it did not disappoint my ears. I think what you get here is nine solid tracks that fall into the Accept-Judas Priest category that pack a big punch.

Most of the tracks will titillate yours ears – fast paced songs with a nice polished sound to boot. The opening track “Eternal Dark” starts up and delivers a catchy sing-a-long chorus and provides a Black Sabbath infused solo. Then you get a speedy number like “Griffons Guard the Gold” which is very reminiscent of Saxon in my humble opinion.

The strongest tracks slot right in towards the middle of the album. “Make you Burn” is the closest they get to sounding like vintage Judas Priest and it rocks big time! The twin axe attack of Chris van Jaarsveld and Henry van Manen trade off well and provide the sonic attack. As does the next piece “Battle of the Universe”; which provides the jet fuel for a quick paced number that high tails into first gear and never let’s up. There’s also a flourish of classical guitar riffing and it might be the highlight of the whole album. I can say the same thing for “The Blade” coming at you with a meaty mixture, coupled with the shrill sounds of vocalist Pete Lovell proclaiming – “no man can take the blade,” in the lyrical department.

As we get closer to the end of the album, the remaining tracks move along at a nice clip. Both “Flying in Time” and “Into the Underworld” segue well into each other, before the plodding “Tell No Lies” nearly halts the proceedings. But as luck would have it we end things well on a spirited number like “Down and Out”, so have no fear for those who think this might be tough to get through.

There are some who consider this album to be a rather bland affair when you prop this up against the previous release Diamond Dreamer, or even Heavy Metal Ears. Yes both albums felt more vigorous at times and a tad more lustful in the approach – but Eternal Dark is tight where it needs to be and adventurous enough in the sonic department. The guitars still have that vitality and it soars along with a strong production job to keep me happy.

I am giving this release a rating of 8 out of 10. It’s a polished record with a bevy of prime metallic offerings that will keep you going throughout the thirty-five minutes of running time. My favorite tracks are: “Eternal Dark”, “Griffons Guard the Gold”, “Make you Burn” and “Battle for the Universe”.

Album review – Entombed A.D.

Entombed A.D.

Bowles of Earth

(Century Media)

Written by Kenneth Gallant

8 out of 10

Entombed Bowles of Earth

 

I feel like Lars Goran Petrov still has something left in the tank. He’s back behind the mike and spitting verbal razors with a vengeance; while sticking to the tried and true formula of the band. Despite adjusting the band name after the custody battle with Nicke Andersson and company, Entombed A.D. forged ahead with most of the line-up that recorded Serpent Saints. They released Back to the Front (2014) and Dead Dawn (2016) – to varying degrees of success, and now they return with their latest offering Bowles of Earth here in 2019.

We do have a minor line-up change though on this one, as bass guitarist Victor Brandt is replaced with incoming axe grinder Guilherme Miranda. It looks like Tobias Cristiansson is playing bass on the live tours, so all is not lost on the bass guitar front. The addition of Miranda on guitar has given them a bit more push in the riffing and solo department; allowing for a fresh take to my ears. Often I am hearing elements of Uprising and Serpent Saints bellowing through the tracks; but still maintaining the death ’n’ roll approach adapted into their modern sound.

The first four tracks are brutal and ripping affairs; harking back to the muddy production and fierceness of their classic period. It’s like they decided to take a trip down memory lane and I’m not complaining one bit, since this is way more engaging than the previous two albums. The opening track “Torment Remains” pounds and thuds hard, while “Elimination” sounds awfully close to that classic 90’s death metal platform we all have come to know and love. “Hell is my Home” finds the relentless chug slapping you in the face and the riffing is fresh as hell here. The title track “Bowels of Earth” pulls back into that all familiar creepy intro (we’ve heard before), and then the sledge hammer attack of the guitars pounds you into submission. This track could really be slotted into Serpent Saints quite easily; plus Petrov’s vocals really sell this one to me. It should also be noted that the solo is sounding more like traditional metal, giving the listener something new to digest.

But this isn’t a full-on return of the halcyon days of the band either; when you get to a track like “Bourbon Nightmare” which falls into the mediocre approach of the previous two albums. The same with “Fit for a King” and “Worlds Apart”; sort of bring down the rabid tone somewhat; even plodding along at times. The lull doesn’t hurt the album on a whole because the next track picks up the pace again.

“Through the Eyes of the Gods” sears into your senses and lays down a meaty portion-filled riffing attack, assaulting your ears once more. Then you get this peculiar cover version of Hank Williams’ “I’ll Never get out of this World Alive” that doesn’t sound anything like the original version. I actually had to go onto Youtube to hear the original to compare and I see no resemblance of the Williams’ twang whatsoever. Perhaps the doomy lyrics are what drew the band to cover this tune in the first place, but I’ll never know what their reasoning is here. The last song to close out the proceedings is “To Eternal Night” and it didn’t move me at all; partly because it resembled the tone of the first two albums and it was the slowest track on this album.

This is also the shortest Entombed A.D. record so far, clocking in around thirty-six minutes, so pulling back and streamlining the brutality makes sense. I think you can hear the band gelling more as a unit and just going back to the original Entombed template is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong though, this isn’t Left Hand Path or Clandestine, nor is it even close to Wolverine Blues – so don’t pick this record up and expect that.

I feel like the album wants to make peace with all the silliness and drama from the past and roll out a record with those familiar sounds we’ve grown to love about this band. There’s plenty of the death metal chug, and greasy rock ’n’ roll/punk vibe to fill out the hysterics and yet offer some new variations like the more metallic edged solos and riffing. It’s not a bad thing at all, so check ‘em out and give this new offering a chance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Album Review – Sacred Reich

Sacred Reich

Awakening

(Metal Blade Records)

Written by Kenneth Gallant

8 out of 10

Sacred Reich Awakening.jpg

 

Twenty three years is a long time between records, not to mention coming up with some new tunes to grab everyone by the ears. The Reich are back on the scene to prove they still have some fuel left in the tank and you have to admire them for giving it a go again.

Although, Sacred Reich have never really left the scene (existing as a touring entity only), they signed to Metal Blade Records in 2018 and suddenly announced a new record for release in early 2019. So what gives here? What inspired Phil Rind and company to bust out the guitars and oil up the machine once more?

Perhaps it’s about having the confidence to bring new music into the world; especially at a time when the world seems to be upside down politically and socially. Maybe the Reich felt we needed angry-infused thrash metal with a social message attached, but then again the music on this album isn’t really all that angry.

It’s a surprising twist; given how this band put out classics like “Ignorance” and “The American Way” back in the day; this album is void of all that. I think one might have expected Phil to grit his teeth and start bellowing out his pissed off lyrics, but we don’t really get that here. Don’t get me wrong, Phil and the gang are in fine form for the most part, but I didn’t expect this record to be such an uplifting affair.

So having said all that, let’s dive in a little deeper with “Awakening” – the band’s fifth studio entry and find out what makes it tick in the way it does.

Most of the players return, with the only exception being rhythm guitarist Jason Rainey (dealing with some health issues). He’s been replaced with twenty-two year old Joey Radziwill from death metal band Dichotomize. Joey brings in some much needed youthful energy and seems to fit in nicely with lead Wiley Arnett.

The other big coo for the band is the return of drummer Dave McLain (late of Machine Head) and coming back to bolster the line-up. He sounds near perfect here and it’s like he never left the band; pounding the skins with such a commanding force. His skills compliment the band’s style tremendously, along with the main man himself – Mr. Phil Rind.

What can I say about Phil; he’s still a major force to be reckoned with – spitting out the lyrics and guiding the band throughout it all. Unlike previous records, his voice seems a bit more refined at times, possessing more maturity and still commanding that beastly roar when needed. He’s still got it as far as I am concerned and this is what still makes Sacred Reich a unique thrash metal entity in 2019.

The songs themselves are more uplifting, as I previously stated. Tracks like “Salvation” and “Something to Believe” bring a positive message to the proceedings. When you get to a track like “Manifest Reality” the droning chants give way to that familiar chugging of the guitars and allowing Phil to cut loose. His hoarse vocals push the chorus and Wiley contributes a really nice solo here. It sounds like vintage Reich to me and the lyrics continue to provide that positive outlook on life – asking everyone to stand up and be accounted for; adding that if you want positivity in your life then think and make it happen.

But then you get songs like “Killing Machine” and “Divide & Conquer” which refer to the old mindset of the band – a pummeling vibe and super charged lyrics about over-reaching religion and the spoils of becoming a solider. Pieces of the old Reich still remain intact in songs like these, but generally the lyrics overall face upwards to the sunnier side of life. These two songs in particular could easily be on a record like The American Way.

The other thing about Sacred Reich that hasn’t left their song-writing prowess is a penchant for utilizing groove. There’s tons of bluesy riffs going on in most of the songs, so be prepared to get that in spades when you get to a track like “Death Valley”. A very chill number for the most part, so I can already see some fans skipping over this one. Personally, it’s a number that I really like because it sticks in your head long after a few times listening to it.

On a whole though, Awakening is a solid slab of thrash metal for my tastes. Yes they have slowed down some and don’t have as much of that bite from their classic period, but this album still sounds like Sacred Reich. I would slot this right in around American Way and Independent and it’s definitely a better release than Heal will ever be.

The songs are short and straight to the point, managing to gut punch the listener on occasion. The fact Sacred Reich can still elicit these feelings 23 years later on a new recording is a testament to the powers of the band.

The Awakening has begun…so let the Reich play on!