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Thrash Under Pressure: Sacred Reich

Written by Tim Jones

Sacred Reich are another band that didn’t reach the dizzying heights of some of their contemporaries. Why is this? That’s anyone’s guess, really. Wrong place, wrong time is the most likely answer. In a time of tape-trading and word-of-mouth it was hard to be noticed if you weren’t in the top few tiers of the thrash family.

That’s not to say that Sacred Reich were unimportant. Far from it. They were unfortunate enough to hail from Phoenix, Arizona – I’m sure it’s a lovely place, but it was never a hotbed of thrash metal action.

Sacred Reich formed in 1985 and released their debut, Ignorance, two years later. To get an idea of what this album was like, it was produced by Bill Metoyer of Slayer fame. It would be fair to compare the two bands in terms of brutality but not sound. This is a masterpiece of thrash – full of the elements that made early thrash so great. It’s heavy as hell, but with enough melody to appease the ‘it’s only noise’ brigade. Sacred Reich were speedy, honed instrumentalists. This album was also declared by Revolver magazine to be one of the ’14 Thrash Metal Albums You Need to Own’.

The Surf Nicaragua EP followed a year later. This opens with the title track which has an absolutely killer, crossovery main riff. Unfortunately the Wipe Out and Hawaii 5-0 elements give it a slight novelty feel, which is a shame because it really is a great song. Sacred Reich proved they were still all metal with the head-poundingly heavy One Nation and a frankly outstanding cover of Black Sabbath‘s War Pigs. Draining You of Life is speed metal heaven and there are two live tracks to round things off.

The American Way was Sacred Reich‘s next release in 1990. This album is considerably slower than their early material. It’s still mostly well heavy though. Sacred Reich were showing themselves to be a lot more socially aware too. Who’s to Blame, State of Emergency and Crimes Against Humanity are all evidence of this. The album closes with 31 Flavors, a bizarre Chili Peppers-esque funky offering complete with horn section.

Independent followed in 1993 and incorporated more of a groove-metal sound. This was fairly popular at the time although no one was doing it as well as Pantera. At least that’s what a lot of people would tell you. This more than competes with some of the Texans’ material. It still retains enough thrashy elements to get a medium-sized thumbs up too.

Sacred Reich‘s final studio album came in 1996 and they hadn’t forgotten how to thrash. If anything they remembered it better than anyone else at the time. Right from the start Heal is cripplingly heavy. Brilliant. A fitting way to bow out, even if it wasn’t meant to be the end.

Yes, Sacred Reich also went “on hiatus” just like nearly every other band in the late 90s and members went off to form and/or join other bands. Drummer, Dave McClain, joining Machine Head being the most high-profile transfer.

The band have been active intermittently for the last 10 years, touring and releasing the live album Live at Wacken. Remastered versions of Ignorance and Surf Nicaragua were also released, but Sacred Reich have always claimed that there is no new album in the offing. That’s precisely the kind of thing that a band who intended to release a new album at some point would say. Hopefully.

Put them on your playlist: Victim of Demise, Draining You of Life, Blue Suit, Brown Shirt

About the author

Tim Jones

I’m an East Yorkshire-based fan of thrash, hardcore and punk who likes to write about it as much as he likes to talk about it.

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