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Some have pointed out, perhaps rightly so, that Sacred Reich were among the most overt of trend hoppers within the late 80s thrash metal scene. It's a foregone conclusion that bands within the same style will have a lot of similar things going on, but it's pretty hard to miss the visual of thrash metal merged with surfing in a parody context coming out just on the heels of Billy Milano's Surfin' M.O.D., complete with a title song that goes so far as to quote a famous surf rock song, right in the midst of said title song no less, not to mention featuring a more restrained and radio friendly production and writing approach to coincide with Death Angel's recent proverbial bomb Frolic Through The Park. To all who had question marks as to why Sacred Reich was lumped in with the crossover scene and why they were often viewed as a lightweight band, the answer comes in the form of Surf Nicaragua, though the answer would become even more clear afterward.
As far as EPs tend to go, this is one of those releases that tends to follow the I'm The Man approach of promoting a new stylistic direction and loading up the balance of the listen with unrelated extra material in the form of live tracks, covers and unreleased songs. Nevertheless, it comes with a couple of brand new offerings that point to where the band intends to go in the future, starting with an extremely formulaic and light sounding speeder of a title song in "Surf Nicaragua". One thing that can be granted to this song is that it is fast, occasionally fancy and doesn't go quite as far down the weak, gelded sound that typified Death Angel's sophomore LP, but it is nevertheless fairly contrived when compared to the beastly brilliance that dominated Ignorance. Most of the song is built off of two riffs that could pass for decent speed metal circa 1984, followed by an extended instrumental section that kinda meanders around a bit too much, throwing in token quotes to the surf rock instrumental "Wipe Out", a fitting title for what happened to Sacred Reich's sound actually.
While the title song presents a somewhat watered down and comical version of where this band was just a year ago, it proves to be the stronger point of what is supposedly the new direction of this band. Coming in at a distant and embarrassing second is "One Nation", which typifies the slowed down, thin, utterly boring character of a number of latter day "radio thrash" releases, predating Metallica's famed 1991 departure of a self-titled album by a good three years and succeeding in being less heavy and engaging. Along for the ride is a pointless and stripped down cover of Sabbath's "War Pigs" and a couple of live versions of songs off the Ignorance tour that are well performed and serve as a good basis of comparison for why the rest of this album kinda sucks. But before is all said and done, Sacred Reich manages to pull one certified thrasher out of their hats in "Draining You Of Life", a holdover from their 1986 demo that is musically more in line with Ignorance and lyrically completely removed from the political messaging that would come to dominate things.
In terms of actual musical content, this is not a terrible album, but it definitely points to a band that wants to be both comical and taken seriously at the same time. This contradiction doesn't really work here, if it ever does, and it becomes less excusable in a band that has already demonstrated that they know better. It's not to say that thrash metal can't be funny, that it can't convey a viewpoint on something relevant to society, or that it needs to always be about senseless violence or horror, but Sacred Reich manages to only do the last of these three things well in their adopted style. For anyone looking to hear a couple of choice live songs off the debut and a better produced version of "Draining Your Life", this might be worth a look, but don't expect the rest of this to induce anything other than boredom.
"Surf Nicaragua", the EP with the exceptional cover, was published between the razor-sharp debut and the rather lukewarm "The American Way". This is remarkable because Sacred Reich explained in a text on the inner sleeve of the vinyl that their three own compositions represented the past, present and future. Fortunately, in terms of quality, these songs tended to the high level of "Ignorance". As usual, the main focus was on the brand new tracks of the A side. The lyrics of the opening title track dealt with the American foreign policy. Phil Rind sharply criticised its martial tendencies. In this respect, Sacred Reich differed from the majority of thrash bands that followed lyrically a much more belligerent approach. The anger of the lead vocalist was accompanied by a fast and sharp riffing piece of thrash. An aggressive verse led to the very catchy chorus. The following tune shifted back one gear while offering just an extremely short up-tempo part. Sacred Reich scored a direct hit with both tracks, although they showed an unmistakeable tendency of repetitiveness.
Apart from that, the band with the indecent name - since 1945, my German compatriots have a comprehensible antipathy against the word "Reich" - demonstrated its pacifistic attitude again. "We will not feed the war machine which leads our youth to death" was the key message of the lyrics of "One Nation". Altogether the band appeared in a new guise. They quoted Confucius on the inner sleeve - just compare this with the apocalyptic back cover of the debut album.
The B side did not reach the high quality level of the first tracks. To extend the EP seemed to be the only reason for recording a Black Sabbath cover while "Draining You of Life", the title track of their first and only demo, indeed appeared as a relic of the past. This was true not only from a purely musical point of view but also in terms of the bloodthirsty lyrics. Nevertheless, the sharp riffs of that tune compensated for the lame cover version. Furthermore, the song was the last proof of the unbridled enthusiasm of the band at the beginning of its career.
Let me sum up by saying that Sacred Reich never put the focus on quantity. With the exception of "Independence", they acted almost in a minimalist way. To be quite plain, I am not sure whether this EP was really necessary. They should have taken "Draining You of Life" on the debut, the new tracks would have enriched "The American Way" and the cover version did not make sense at all. Anyway! The EP in its real form was a pretty decent output.
I can be simple about this one. Bollocks to all newbie thrash teens who don’t get it: This is one of the classic eighties thrash metal EP’s. For one it has the most famous Sacred Reich track on it (‘Surf Nicaragua’) which incorporated some heavily punk influenced straight forward uptempo thrash metal as well as interesting late-eighties breaks and the famous Beach Boys surfing riff. For modern standards this happy form of thrash metal is of course not ‘true’ nor ‘evil’ enough since sarcasm and cynicism in metal is something newbies do not seem to understand anymore *sigh*. Just like the song, the lyrics are also in essence funny in a sarcastic way.
‘One Nation’ is stylewise the missing link between the uptempo thrash metal from their debut ‘Ignorance’ and the midtempo power thrash from their later second full length ‘The American Way’. Great song really. The old demosong ‘Draining you of Life’ should stylewise have been on their debut of course but fortunetaly they re-recorded it for this EP. The Black Sabbath cover ‘War Pigs’ is more than decent with Phil Rinds vocals actually being pretty damn good!
An what can I say about that briliant album cover. One of the ultimate ones in thrash metal!
The CD version also had two live tracks, being actually the best two songs from their debut (‘Death Squad’ and ‘Ignorance’). So have perfect can it be? There is no such thing as 100 points, so 99% is what I’ll give.