Album Review: Sacred Reich Get Up on the Wrong Side of the Bed with Awakening
Sacred Reich fall into that category of late-period thrash bands that were technically competent but never quite stood out enough to be worthy of legendary status. Their 1987 debut Ignorance featured prescient lyrics about the rise of fascism and the far right in America, but the songs themselves felt standard-issue compared to Testament’s mastery of hooks, Dark Angel’s technical wizardry, and Death Angel’s youthful passion. The band broke up in 1996 after a mixed run, only to reunite ten years later for that sweet, sweet European festival payday. They’ve toured ever since. Still, they haven’t recorded anything since swan song Heal 23 years ago. Now, with fascism resurgent throughout the civilized world, the original anti-fascist thrash act has returned with Awakening.
With founding members Phil Rind (bass and vocals) and Wiley Arnett (guitar) intact, along with ’90s alumni Dave McClain on drums, this may be the closest thing to a proper Ignorance sequel the band has done. The musicianship is impeccable, although Rind’s monochromatic bark remains a weak point. Their secret weapon this time around comes in the form of white-hot producer Arthur Rizk (Power Trip, Noisem). Rizk makes these songs feel like they were frozen in amber in 1988 and only recently unearthed. He also knows how to achieve the platonic ideal of that sound — no shitty drum clicks here. It sounds great.
They certainly bring the crunch with the like the staccato opener “Awakening” and the very Metallicesque “Divide and Conquer.” “Salvation,” with its yearning chorus, hits the strongest of the thrash attacks. However, the band succeeds most when straying from the formula. “Killing Machine” delivers an impassioned screed against the endless war grinding up American troops, all in a ridiculously catchy way. “Death Valley” brings in Armored Saint-style melodies to great effect. And “Something to Believe” ends things on a surprisingly hopeful note with a Soundgarden homage.
Overall, despite some very strong songs, Awakening doesn’t quite catapult Sacred Reich into the big leagues. It’s a solid thrash album from a band that knows its shit but still hasn’t nailed down its own identity after all these years. Still, if you’re looking for metal anthems to smash fascists to, Sacred Reich deliver.