I’m a late-to-the-party metalhead, okay? As in started my Thrash education with …And Justice For All and Countdown To Extinction kind of late. But from there, I went back and discovered the rich history of the genre and opened my ears to the outliers like Testament, Flotsam & Jetsam, and the band of the hour in this particular piece, Sacred Reich. I fell in love with the Phoenix-based outfit because of 1993’s Independent which is still beautifully brutal as much as it is lyrically potent and poignant.
They eventually went away after 1996’s Heal but returned to the live circuit in 2006 before dropping a long awaited studio follow up in the form of 2019’s Awakening which we love the shit out of (Read our rave review here). Today, they’re celebrating their history with a trio of reissues from Metal Blade Records focusing on their first three releases.
For newer fans, it’s a chance to hear what came before and the evolution of the Sacred Reich sound while for old school fans it’s just a chance to solemnly headbang and sit back with a shit-eatin’ grin knowing that you were in tune from the beginning.
Debut Ignorance is celebrating 35 years next year and still sounds as fresh as the day it landed in 1987. Mainstays Phil Rind on bass and vocals and Wiley Arnett on guitar along with Jason Rainey and Greg Hall (Who have since departed the band) on drums respectively created an instantly classic Thrash sound soaked with Groove akin to the legendary early recordings of Anthrax. From the moment “Death Squad” rambles in with a drawn out instrumental intro and then launches into a pummeling behemoth of Metal with Rind sounding especially gruff, it’s apparent that Sacred Reich have something special here. “Victim Of Demise” is an unparalleled scorcher that remains one of SR’s fastest and heaviest while “Layed To Rest” revealed the quartet’s penchant for instrumental interludes that were always effective on their own and within the rich fabric of whatever album they may, ahem, lay in. “Ignorance” itself is still an anthem and then some and we’ve said it before (And will obviously say it again and again and again) but any band that has a song named after their name easily skips to the head of the class in our book.
The American Way, originally released in 1990, was an album that defied the dreaded sophomore slump the instant “Love…Hate” triumphantly charged its’ way into metalheads’ earholes. Elsewhere, the title track is a politically-charged rabble rousin’ stomper that’s a staple to this day in Sacred Reich’s live set highlighted by Arnett’s screaming solos and Rind’s distinct wordplay. And later, “Crimes Against Humanity” and “State Of Emergency” are a pair of lengthy heavies that were the first taste of SR’s flair for crafting epic bangers that sought to enthrall fans with a newer brand of sonic storytelling.
In between those classic full-lengths, fans got the Surf Nicaragua EP featuring new tracks, live cuts, and a cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”. Opener “Surf Nicaragua” is a fun romp that really embraces the “surf” aspects in the title with not-so-subtle nods to that genre wrapped in a Heavy Metal beach towel and then “One Nation” lurches menacingly, switching between speedy thrash and a dastardly dirge with ease. Then there’s the Sabbath cover which is perfect for a bass/guitar duo like Rind and Arnett who easily inhabit the Butler/Iommi roles as Rind puts his own uncanny spin when interpreting Ozzy’s vocal delivery.
Ignorance, Surf Nicaragua, and The American Way are comin’ at ya on today (February 12th) courtesy of Metal Blade Records. All three are available for pre-order in a variety of formats when you head here. For more on Sacred Reich, including up-to-the-minute info on rescheduled dates for their tour with Sepultura and Crowbar, as well as biting political commentary follow the socials by clicking here, here, or here.