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There have been some rather odd attempts by 80s metal bands in reinventing themselves to appeal to the mainstream. The brief interlude where Grave Digger simply became Digger and labored under the illusion that Donald Duck was a superhero, Saxon’s and Tygers Of Pan Tang’s just shy of masculine flirtations with Warrant styled glam rock, and the barrage of bands who stopped showering and wore flannels in the early 90s to try and keep the groupies piling in (unaware that most grunge women who idolized Kurt Cobain were ass ugly) are just a few examples. But 3 members of the respectable German thrash outfit Living Death putting together a hokey sounding speed metal band with way too many AOR and pop/punk influences absolutely takes the cake.
What can be heard on Sacred Chao’s rather confused little mishmash of styles could be described as a lot of things, but consistent doesn’t quite factor in. There are gobs of lead fill-ins with enough pinch harmonics to make Zakk Wylde and Vivian Campbell blush. There is this ironically happy and upbeat feel to all of these songs that is almost akin to Motorhead giving up their pissed off rocker ways in order to sound more like AC/DC at their most tongue-in-cheek. The production is about as thin sounding as Calista Flockhart is two-dimensional, and the riffs are heavily cliché, though elaborated to the point of almost being unintelligible at times. Probably the only thing that is really on point is Thorsten Bergmann’s vocals, which are largely mid-ranged and punk-like in character.
This is one of those albums that you can find things to like here and there, but there’s usually something gumming up the works and making it difficult to really get into. “Cry For More” could maybe pass for a moderately good emulation of “Iron Fist”, but leads get so utterly ridiculous and the production so obnoxiously reverb drenched that it’s hard to get a coherent feel of the song. “Life Means Nothing” is an improvement in that the leads don’t quite overpower the riffs and vocals, but it doesn’t get much beyond that up tempo, tried and true NWOBHM format that was done better 7 years before. “Dirty Dreams” goes back down the same road as the opening song, largely resembling early 80s Motorhead with too many guitar screams and a chorus that sounds like it was plagiarized off an AC/DC song. “Leave You Right Now” is probably the best thing on here, as it meshes a “Love At First Sting” meets “No Rest For The Wicked” 80s sound with occasional fits of early speed metal in a more measured fashion. It’s not spectacular, but it provides a much cleaner version of Fred’s riffing style than the other songs.
Ultimately, this is an album that could go either way. I can see people either completely loving it or completely hating it, thus I’m sort of the oddball in that I can’t really decide how to feel about this, perhaps because I’m only somewhat familiar with Living Death’s work. This isn’t the sort of thing that demands tracking down the way some truly lost gem might, but seeking out the audio on the internet might not be a waste of time, though I can’t say I’ll be listening to it again anytime soon. In other words, when you have an equal amount of good and bad, you tend to get a neutral experience, and that is where “Sacred Chao” leaves me.
The short-lived, ill-fated Sacred Chao is named for the Living Death song "Sacred Chao", which makes a lot of sense when one considers that this is basically Living Death, or three members of the better known speed/thrash entity, who decided to continue their journey after that band's 1989 split. However, despite the presence of Thorsen Bergmann, Atomic Steif and Fred, there is not really all that much in common, as Sacred Chao perform a sort of mix of uplifting melodic/speed metal void of the thrash influences that had gradually enveloped Living Death, to the betterment of their sound. This has a lot more in common with the sounds of Running Wild, Rage, Scanner, and other German ilk, only Sacred Chao has this enthusiastic, goofy air about it that makes it a little difficult to take seriously.
Bergmann for one sounds quite different here, hanging out in a middle register with only slight use of his pinchy, nasal vocal style that one had come to either love or hate through the first few Living Death records. It's a curious shift, but ultimately underwhelming, and though the guitars are fill of fun and fiber, the production sounds like ass through the whole EP, like it's being spun through a wind-tunnel. The little guitar squeals characteristic of Fred's work sound like a bad attempt at commercial hard rock/metal, and the riffs are just never meaty nor catchy enough to function. Of the four tracks, "Cry for More" is likely the most exciting, sounding not unlike mid 80s Ozzy Osbourne, and the material grows progressively worse as you move along, with the lame "Dirty Dreams" biting off the famous AC/DC 'dirty deeds' motif, and the closer "Leave You Right Now" just utter shit.
Well, we all know who got the better of the deal when Living Death parted ways this year. Reiner and Dieter Kelch were at least able to release one more, respectable album in 1991's Killing In Action, whereas the mighty 'Toto' Bergmann's legacy ended here. I really can't picture what was going inside the members' heads at this time. Granted, they were always into the sounds of classic heavy/speed metal, hard rock and so forth, but how could this have been a good idea when the fan base was starving for their blistering, shrieking thrash metal? This EP is so pathetic that the band were inevitably embarrassed, so nothing more would come from it, which might be proof that there IS a God.