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The only moment on 'Ignorance' when Sacred Reich could be accused of wasting time is the opening minute and a half of 'Death Squad', the first song on the album. Perhaps that gently chugging mid-paced riff is meant as a gentle introduction to half an hour of thrash frenzy, since the band only settle down again once or twice on the entire album. The general feel of 'Ignorance' is one of urgency and doom, since all the instruments scramble ahead of themselves, especially the drums, and the vocals are never far behind.
I am having a few problems trying to decide if Sacred Reich were an important thrash metal band in the mid and late 80s or whether they were just another good group that put out one decent aggressive album, which fans have subsequently been mistaking for a classic. I'm talking about this album, because the band lost a fair bit of their intensity later on and opted for a more groovy approach, which doesn't sound so exciting nowadays. The moment you get your hands on 'Ignorance' though, it just screams "80s thrash!": from the short length to the post- (and pre-) apocalyptic lyrics to the nicely scuzzy cover and booklet full of corruption, torture, and disaster.
The band themselves don't pull off anything groundbreaking, but everyone is tight and focused, with no element underplayed despite the slightly weak production. There are a lot of super-fast sections to most of the songs and also at least one or two slower riffs to get heads bobbing and necks smarting; the mid-paced riffs have better variety and feel more thoughtfully completed in my opinion, while the thrashier moments have more than a hint of hardcore influence to them, as does some of the vocal phrasing. Phil Rind doesn't have an exceptional voice, but actually being able to fit all the words in is an achievement at this pace. My main complaint about his vocals would be that he doesn't sound angry or threatening enough to turn his lyrics (descriptive and astute, occasionally cliched) into a focus for the song. His bass, however, is always audible and very welcome indeed, with a nimble tone and a few creative moments.
Wiley Arnett is the band's real trump card on lead guitar. He solos frequently and introduces a few atmospheric melodies to the introductions of 'Sacred Reich' and 'Administrative Decisions'. The best part is that he can play quickly (and boy do his fingers work on some of the fast sections) and also with thought and technique: he doesn't end up sounding like Kerry King or the early Kreator material where they play fast but without content, which is simply pointless for me. His influence is sufficiently powerful for the album to include an instrumental track called 'Layed to Rest', which contains little but his lead work and ends up sounding great. The band gives him great support to make his leads always surprising and necessary, so they clearly understood where their strength lay.
Some of the songs are difficult to choose between in terms of quality, though I would pick out 'Sacred Reich' and 'Victim of Demise' as the standout tracks. 'Rest in Piece' has an amazingly catchy riff and solo section in its second half too. Nothing falls short in general, though there is a certain sameness about elements of the album, which disappoints for such a short release and perhaps explains why the band changed their direction. 'Ignorance' is well worth your time, but it's not essential.
Sacred Reich became one of the most popular acts of the second wave of thrash, along with people like Flotsam & Jetsam, Hirax, Agent Steel or Atrophy, who put out their records by the late/mid-80’s when the subgenre was firmly evolving into something more advanced, slightly commercial in some cases. Many of their peers were determined to make melody and progression part of their music, moving away from the early thrash stage of total brutality and velocity, like Toxik, Paradox, Forbidden or Meliah Rage on their respective debuts. These guys preferred to play it mostly straight, technically humble, yet introducing certain competent instrumental variations and some riff modifications in their structures to avoid absolute simplicity, pushing away melody as well.
An amusing discharge of energetic thrash is what tunes like “Death Squad” and “Administrative Decisions” bring, both featuring a weightier intro before real action starts, based obviously on raging riffs, fast tempos, at times including an alternative passage but generally remaining direct and easy. The band provides their music of even greater vigor on “Rest In Peace” and the title-track, whose main tempos are nearly uncontrolled, occasionally alternating heavier rhythm shifts and quieter instrumental series with extended pickin’ parts. Structures aren’t incredibly complex or diverse; riff changes are still limited and common, though results are pretty decent anyway in this passionate performance. Actually this stuff is far from versatile or surprising, their schemes stay unchanged during the whole record, with few exceptions like the more infectious choruses of “Victim Of Demise” or the explicitly lyrically-based homonym number, which incorporate the groups characteristic 1 or 2 distinct sections and primitive riff progression, getting rather generic and uninspired. However, aggression, attitude and speed are notable and continuous, remarkable particularly on cuts as “No Believers”, whose verses are an evident expression of immaturity and topics, yet instrumentally diverse, fierce and professionally executed. Melody isn’t part of any of these songs, they prefer thrashing raw and intense without making use of harmonies or sophisticated arrangements. The “Layed To Rest” prelude is the exception, an acoustic intro of sentimental guitar lines in the style of those Peterson & Skolnick would later abuse of on the The New Order record, here interrupting the uniformity unexpectedly of Sacred Reich’s intentionally incessant messy aggression. After all, titles like “Violent Solutions” are not musically pretentious…
So these guys ain’t technical, ain’t melodic, they only play thrash without much ambition, refusing to incorporate complicated arrangements or especially lengthy instrumental series. They modify the riffs and introduce different sections in general during the compositions, yet keeping them far from complex. Their potential and possibilities as musicians and composers seem to determine the configuration and nature of this material, unable to design something difficult or impressive, simply honest and natural, reflecting their attitude and predilection for speed and aggression exclusively. Usually embracing a uniform methodology to construct these cuts, it’s clear this stuff is lacking variety and fresh ideas, stuck inevitably in the limitations set by the subgenre, also a consequence of the band’s discreet originality. By 1987 there were already lots of thrash acts performing something alike. Sacred Reich didn’t offer anything peculiar or truly distinctive; they followed predictable patterns musically and lyrically, making their music certainly generic. Rhythm section is also common, effective, defining the fastest sequences and tempo changes efficiently but deprived of real virtuosism or grace. Rind’s unusual voice is the only characteristic that makes a difference, at times tender, cheesy, so scruffy and stagnant in a typical mid-range but distinct from the topical Steev Esquivel/Chris Astley/Chuck Billy raspy tone. Both Arnett & Rainey are fine guitarists; on other hand their technique isn’t incredible or astonishing, even though some of the solos here are competently developed. Production isn’t proper either, too clean, dry and weakening the texture and presence of guitars, though the best production in the planet could’ve not made this music sound better (the noisy Draining You of Life and Metal Massacre VIII demos show the same uninspired primitive essence).
They weren’t the most promising or the most talented, but they reached certain recognition and popularity among the fans, still nowadays they’re considered a cult group. They even headlined important festivals with people like Sepultura, Napalm Death, Heathen or Pantera like The New Titans Of The Block and so. Beware! The new kings of thrash are here! From Phoenix, Arizona Sacred Reich unleashes a thundering debut. Destined to be a classic, buy this album now!, the promo poster said…Well, they might not be the new kings of thrash but back then they played decent material, something you can’t put in the same level of the big daddies, yet you can enjoy if you’re not that strict. However, they didn’t manage to give continuity to their discography. Surf Nicaragua was an amusing EP, the following The American Way soon reflected a total decline. So definitely, this is the greatest thing these guys did, an acceptable effort.
After one of the most sold demo ever in thrash metal, and not only, field (Draining You Of Life), Sacred Reich in 1987 released their very first album that is still their best in my opinion. Here we can really breathe the true essence of thrash metal. The group is on pure adrenaline and the violence is always at high levels.
“Death Squad” is the perfect opener with a massive, bombastic mid-paced riffs that ends in a pure up tempo assault. The only slowest part is during the solo. Greg Hall is great behind the drums (he did an audition for the vacant place of drummer in Slayer after Lombardo left). “Victim Of Demise” is even faster than the previous song. Anyway the riffs are never boring because the guitars are always inspired and heavy. The pounding, clear production exalts all the instruments and the vocals are not too harsh.
“Layed To Rest” is a sort of intro to the title track. This intro is instrumental, with only arpeggios and solos. Very obscure and melodic. The title track is HUGE! My favourite song here, definitely. The mid-paced, apocalyptic intro is one of the heaviest things in thrash metal with the heavy drums stomps. The up tempo parts are like a river but never chaotic with lots of variations we have complicated guitar riffs/solos parts too.
Check out the bass/guitars parts in “No Believers”: speed, variations, technique, fast tempo. Awesome. “Violent Solution” begins very similarly to “Death Squad” to turn in speed. The mid-paced parts are full of strange solos. The speed ones come literally “out of the blue”! The beginning to “Rest In Peace” is tragic and apocalyptic, with a following drums march and hyper fast tempo.
The guitars riff on the title track get stuck in the head and won’t come out. This is the most important part in this album: the thrash violence is always balanced with melody and impressive sense of songwriting so that each song has something to be remembered for among a bunch of other ones in this genre.
A great album, made even greater by the very intelligent music and lyrics. This is the true masterpiece by Sacred Reich that any thrash metal fan must own. GREAT!
“…get up off your knees, there’s no God in heaven…”
DRI would release Crossover seven months prior to Ignorance and it seemed every offering that had an inkling of hardcore persuasion was automatically a crossover effort and vice versa. Some called it crossover, some called it the more obvious tag metalcore (much different than what it is nowadays), and while my eyes sparkle to the tune of thrash/speed, I have no dislike for most hardcore, therefore crossover/metalcore is quite acceptable in my world, though I am a bit thrown off when I read reviews of Ignorance, mostly recent ones, that dub the album a crossover event.
If Arizona’s Sacred Reich are a crossover band, it’s at the very fringes they dwell, perhaps as little as three toes in the hardcore realm while every other atom explodes with some of the most exciting, passionate, propulsive and true thrash the ‘80s had seen. The only things hardcore (in the style sense) about this 8-tracker are perhaps shavings of Phil Rind’s usually harsh, gruff monologue that in my opinion was always picture perfect for thrash and the socio-political/economic/government lyrical plots that hardcore bands often delved into, but at that time no style had a monopoly on lyrical themes. Besides those pinches, I’m at a loss.
True proponents of thrash do not merely lurk here, they pounce, raking with honed, bloodied claws of unbridled eagerness and fervor. Hunks of memorable songwriting embedded on rhythmic meathooks swing as if served on a whirlwind, commanding even the most reactionary thrash protester with the authority of a thousand Huns. Four talented kids who knew what they wanted to do created all this, and as far as I’m concerned is a top shelf release.
Gratefully, no goofy intro starts off the band’s debut, but instead a controlled, deliberate rhythm churns “Death Squad” with intrinsic force primed but not yet proven until it’s finally unfurled with severe consequences. A thick concentration of power coalesces into rampant speeds and hauling riffs, creating a chorus only the Juggernaut could overcome. Breathlessly, “Victim of Demise” takes over, a near relentless blitzkrieg that would have the Afrika Corps saluting just for the grotesque lyrics alone. Much more savvy is the short “Layed to Rest”, a roughly elegant, guitar solo-entrenched ditty setting an impassioned frame of mind for what would slowly transform into the title cut, another tank of a song with some of the more structured interludes thus far. Plenty of white-fisted groove bridges the speedier slices of “No Believers”, ending side one on the chorus’s bombastic strength.
More exchanging in their speed factor are “Violent Solutions” and “Rest In Peace” with the latter not only showcasing some nifty songwriting prowess, but also contains some of the band’s most cyclonic moments. “Sacred Reich” takes a striking, traditional rhythm a lot of bands could’ve conjured and fuses it with a might that many bands couldn’t have. “Administrative Decisions” is the basher that ends the lp, a steaming behemoth that doesn’t skimp on speed frenzy or mid-paced compression. I have little problem with Bill Metoyer’s production, believing it a crusty, solid achievement with perhaps the solo tracks needing to be magnified a bit.
There are a few examples of A-list thrash I throw on for those wanting to hear the style in its truest form. I like to stay away from the classics/well-known bands ‘cause everyone including my grandmother has heard them, so excerpts of Ignorance receive airtime along with Destructor’s Maximum Destruction, Pestilence’s Malleus Maleficarum, either of the Holy Terror platters, some Razor and a few others.
Ahh, Sacred Reich...I bought this when it came out, around late '86 or so, and it still holds up as one of the best American thrash albums released in that era. For what it lacks in the production department--the guitars are a bit cloudy, and the drums could have been not as thin--it makes up for with scalding amounts of steaming hot thrash fucking METAL. Production like this was pretty typical of thrash albums of this time period anyway.
"Death Squad" alone lets you know that you are in for some trouble with that menacing opening riff (Jason Rainey had a real knack for good riffs), and that fabulous opening sequence; mid tempo intro with pounding double kick drumming from the underrated Greg Hall (who almost got the drum chair for Slayer after Dave left the band--Kerry King was quoted as saying: "He looks like Barney Rubble, but damn, the man can JAM!!!"), some tricky syncopation thrown in, then once you get a good headbanging groove going...BAM! They kick it up a notch with chainsaw guitars and some vicious high-speed drumming from Mr. Hall, who shines all throughout this album. "Victim Of Demise" is more vicious thrashing highlighting Phil Rind's high-speed hardcore-like ranting about death and gore ( a rare subject with this band), and when I say hardcore, I mean the old school early 80s stuff, not this shitty metalcore garbage that the kids are losing their minds over these days. Sacred Reich were actually one of the first bands that made me start paying attention to lyrical content and being more discriminating in that field with their barbed sociopolitical commentary--again, a very old school hardcore tradition. Lead guitarist Wiley Arnette, another underrated player from this time, also shines throughout this whole album with killer soloing on every tune--and he was a devout Christian, too! Go figure, then, that he ripped so hard on guitar. "No Believers" has some of my favorite lyrics on the whole album: "The Bible is a lie, I defy the lying priest...I make my own destiny/Religion's for the weak, your soul will die forever/get up off your knees, there's no God in Heaven!"--in fact, Wiley was determined not to play on this song due to the lyrical content, but they railroaded him into it anyway!
Since most of their output after this album was weak and uninspired both lyrixcally and musically, this still stands as Sacred Reich's best and most consistent effort. If you're going to get anything of theirs, get this and take it fromt here if you must.