SACRED REICH - Awakening (Album)



As 1987 continued to spawn a deluge of thrash metal for fans to drown in an ecstasy of aggression and bravado, the genre hit a pinnacle period as a second wave of bands entered the fray. It was late in the year when Phoenix based SACRED REICH released their socially conscious and political charged debut ‘Ignorance’. For me, ‘Death Squad’ remains the most intense intro riff on any album; one which is lauded as a timeless classic and on the “need to own” list of any self-respecting old school thrasher. 

Following that magical debut disc was the ‘Surf Nicaragua’ EP and three further albums ‘The American Way’, ‘Independent’ and ‘Heal’. 23 years since SACRED REICH last entered a studio they have released the aptly titled ‘Awakening’, an album with the return of drummer Dave McClain (ex-MACHINE HEAD) and new, young rhythm guitarist Joey Radziwill.

The band went into Platinum Underground in Mesa, Arizona, employing producer Arthur Rizk (Power Trip, Cavalera Conspiracy) and engineer John Aquilino. Any concern or hope the record would continue the punk edge of ‘Don't Do It Donnie’ (part of a split release with IRON REAGAN earlier this year) is quickly erased, as SACRED REICH stick to what they know best for ‘Awakening’.

It’s only a 31-minute offering, but from the first single and title track, it opens a bucketload of old school sensibilities. Phil Rind’s unique, booming vocal carries you aboard a plethora of super-tight rhythms, monster riffage and the effervescently, razor-sharp shredding of Wiley Arnett. While ‘Divide And Conquer’ initially appears to be a full pedal to the metal number, it becomes more of a rollercoaster ride as you enter the bridge and chorus, before a distinct change of pace for ‘Salvation’ and its Sabbath-esque groove and flavour.

The second single ‘Manifest Reality’ is the standout thrasher on the album, with its riff-laden potency, darker tone and lyrical refrain: “Be the change you want to see”. While this is a quote (correctly or falsely) attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, it sounds great coming from Phil Rind. Following on next is ‘Killing Machine’, a catchy stomper pulling at social consciousness about motivations to enlist in the military.

A little surprise is ‘Death Valley’, a cheery, southern boogie tune about death and reincarnation. There’s even cowbell from Dave McClain, who delivers every beat and fill throughout ‘Awakening’ with precision and comfort, to reclaim his SACRED REICH throne.

‘Revolution’ is full of punky goodness before the album concludes with an overly optimistic feeling in ‘Something To Believe’. It’s a great, driving, no frills metal song, but perhaps not the final crushing, riff-mongering track you might have hoped for.

Old school fans and those listening for the first time cannot possibly be disappointed with ‘Awakening’.  This is a positive yet aggressive album, 8 highly creative songs, marking a fine return for SACRED REICH, a band still at the top of their game. Welcome back boys.