Sacred Reich - Awakening - (5/10)
Published on September 22, 2019
Label:Metal Blade Records
In recent years, the metal community has seen more than its fair share of comebacks after long stints of silence. Cryonic Temple (9 years), Ancestral (10 years), Cellador (11 years) and many others have all awoken from hibernation in the last few years to release albums of varying – but generally good – quality. In the case of veteran political thrashers Sacred Reich, it’s been an almighty 23 years since their last full-length record! That’s not a hiatus, that’s a fucking coma! Okay, strictly speaking, the Arizonans haven’t been totally comatose; there have been compilations, splits, EPs etc. since the mid-2000s. But here in 2019, the generically-titled Awakening marks their first proper LP since 1996’s incredibly mixed Heal. In terms of line-up, this is as close to a classic reunion as fans are likely to get, so what kind of aggressive, anti-fascist power statement have they got for us?
Oh… Eight songs? Half an hour? You sure this shouldn’t be another EP? I don’t mean to be a backseat manager here, but I truly believe fans deserve so much more material after such a colossal gap. Perhaps if the material on offer was of such spectacular, mould-breaking, phenomenal quality, I could forgive the brevity. Unfortunately, Awakening only reaches hints of greatness – and even then, not very often. A big talking point among critics has been the odd production quality which, admittedly, does bring back a taste of the old school – as I’m sure is the band’s intention. But, even though I have no major issue with it, perhaps now was the time to bring the Reich’s sound into the 2010s. At least mainman Phil Rind delivers a solid performance. For a man of 50, he still sounds pretty gruff and ready for business at this album’s best points. His vocals only take a hit when the songwriting falters.
Other than the duration, Awakening‘s biggest issue is with the lack of creativity in songwriting, particularly with regards to riffs and choruses. I’m a simple man who loves chugging two-note riffs, but even I yearn for some extra fret usage on some of these tracks. For example – despite being one of the best tracks – does the main riff to “Killing Machine” really need that much open E-string rape? The choruses, too, tend to just be the song title repeated with very little development. The worst offender in this area is “Divide & Conquer”. Ironically my favourite cut here is the opening title-track which, arguably, has the least creative riffs and the simplest refrain! “Awakening” is a beast of a track which makes the most of its simplicity with a bombastic snare-fronted rhythm and endless two-note breakdown (which I can NOT get enough of!). Second single, “Manifest Reality”, is also an explosive thrasher that could almost have fit on the classic Ignorance. Again, it makes its rudimentary two-note riff work for itself.
Elsewhere, energy dips and artistry lacks. Not even that cowbell can convince me that the tame, inoffensive “Death Valley” is anything other than yawn-worthy fodder. Along with the whimpering, Soundgarden-esque “Something To Believe”, it’s easily the worst cut on the disc. “Salvation”, too, merely meanders along despite having a relatively enjoyable main riff. There is a moment of glory on the furious “Revolution”, but it’s too little too late. I had hoped to give this LP a huge write-up, and that this would be a crown on the legacy of the political thrash metallers. Unfortunately, it’s turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments of 2019 and I’m struggling to articulate my mixed feelings. Sacred Reich deserve more than what I’m about to say but: this is mildly enjoyable background music.