SACRED STEEL often catches some flak for having, for lack of a better description, a unique sounding vocalist. Not so much distinctive for any stylistic innovation, but more for an overtly nasally and sometimes quite sloppy delivery, culminating in the Metal vocal equivalent of a b-grade movie homage with an inexperienced director. The attention that is paid to the vocals is largely an inevitable consequence of a very conservative, by the book approach to Speed/Power Metal that makes early HAMMERFALL seem innovative by comparison, though Gerrit Mutz's usually high end howl is quite imposing in and of itself, though not necessarily in the desired way. It has a theatrical quality to it that rivals the pomp of Messiah Marcolin, though the actual quality and mode it manifests as bears a strong resemblance to Warrel Dane during his Sanctuary days. But with the release of this relatively obscure German outfit's latest opus "The Bloodshed Summoning", things take a decidedly modern turn.
The character of this rather cliché polemic against Pentecostal fanaticism has an extreme Metal flavor to it, not all that dissimilar to the earlier output of NEVERMORE, and Mutz's vocals have all but channeled the last few albums put out by said American Progressive/Groove mainstays, as if Warrel Dane's chain-smoking induced snarls have been communicated through a contagious virus to Gerrit's pipes. This all occurs amid the usual backdrop of MANOWAR meets GRAVE DIGGER riffs and beats that very seldom break out of said box, which has defined the band's sound since its inception. In all honestly, there is not much to separate this from the equally predictable yet slightly more interesting songwriting that dominated "Hammer Of Destruction", and here Mutz's frequent references to late 80s Death/Thrash grunts and downplay of his 2nd rate Geoff Tate attempts prove to be the strongest selling point.
This isn't an outright exercise in mediocrity, but the premise of the sound heard on here does tend to wear thin as the songs progress, culminating in an album that starts out fairly impressive and leaves wanting. The lone song on here that seems worthy of the epic Power Metal title is the predictable yet slightly multifaceted "Journey To Purgatory", which is surrounded by some reasonably impressive acoustic guitar work in "Join The Congregation" and "Doomed To Eternal Hell", but largely listens like an extended version of the band's tight-knit Speed Metal orthodoxy. Things get a bit more aggressive and ferocious with the likes of "Storm Of Fire 1916", "Under The Banner Of Blasphemy" and "Perversions Of The Scriptures", but doesn't really go beyond a slightly meaner and heavier of what usually comes out of the GRAVE DIGGER formula of late.
The comic book oriented album art of this mixed bag is probably its chief indicator of its nature, appearing like an exaggerated pulp story with a complete disregard for subtlety. It tends to taste good on the way down and leave the consumer with an empty feeling after a while, not all that different from fast food really. The charisma and draw this band's contemporaries in IRON SAVIOR and PRIMAL FEAR offer a less mundane, less repetitive alternative to this, and will tend to agree more with Power Metal listeners. This band seems to want to be a Thrash Metal outfit or maybe something along the lines of recent EXCITER output here, but can't seem to commit themselves to the task, thus leaving an album that is about as interesting as any number of more stripped down offerings. This is best demonstrated by the cover of MISFITS tune "Dig Up Her Bones", which mirrors this album's simplicity and accommodates Mutz's very limited clean vocal comfort range quite well. This album is probably worth hearing once for fans of the band, but far from a real breakout effort for a band that has largely been unable to really deliver the goods.
(Online April 3, 2013)