(Metal Blade Records)
Written by Kenneth Gallant
8 out of 10
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!