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This album... man is it annoying. Not due to any real grating qualities, but because of wasted potential. Much like several thrash bands of the later '80s (with the '90s actually beginning with 1993, when accounting for things like Arise and Tapping the Vein), if the band didn't hop on the death or groove bandwagons, or indeed actually try to push their sound forward, they ended up with stuff like this. Avid readers of UltraBoris' reviews will probably know it as 'whiffle thrash', probably one of the most downright frustrating stylistic subsections in all of metal music.
For those that don't know, 'whiffle thrash' is essentially a really softened up, mid-tempo and somewhat groovy style of thrash metal. It is characterised by all around bare-bones performances by people that know their instruments, a general lack of aggression, really soft and unfitting production and in the case of bands with a proper thrash heritage (like this one), *some* quality riff work. Environmentally conscious and/or politically charged lyrics are a staple too, as is overly simplified songwriting. With one or two notable exceptions (of a Euphoric and possibly Disastrous nature), every album produced under this school of thrash is invariably boring, restrained, dated, and just a huge waste of time on the band's part.
That pretty much sums up what is wrong here. Starting with the performances, it is clear to see that the band had huge dollar signs in their eyes when making this. Everyone in the band is functional enough, but their efforts are stripped of any real intensity. The drummer sticks to very boring and basic beats (barring the galloping double bass frenzy on 'Crimes Against Humanity'), but nevertheless at least keeps time. The bassist has quite a pronounced tone (rather than being relegated to a low 'boom', his bass can actually be heard in a funkish sort of way), and to be honest, I don't really expect too much from a bassist. And I am a sucker for a funk-like bass, so he gets to live. For now. (Ugh.)
Vocally, Phil Rind is still ace. His beefy, hardcore-tinged shout from Ignorance is practically unchanged, besides being perhaps more tonal due to the friendlier nature of the songs. His work is practically the best thing about this release, and helps the album to keep its head above the overwhelming sea of mediocrity that is late '80s thrash. However, the riffs are a bit mixed. Some of them are actually quite good, with 'Love... Hate' and 'The Way It Is' both showcasing an aggressive, solid set of riffs. The problems occur on many other tracks, where a symptom of late '80s thrash arises - these riffs are generic. They just sound played out, as though no effort has gone into their construction. It sounds like the band were listening to a few too many Zetro-era Exodus songs or Practice What You Preach while making this. They fail as thrash riffs, they aren't aggressive, captivating, heavy, or anything, really. They just sound like fodder for mainstream consumption more than anything.
The songs on this album are kinda... bland. Boring. Every song here has its verses and choruses right where you would expect them to be, as well as being perpetually locked in a mid-tempo groove Most songs have a fake-out intro consisting of a good riff that then goes nowhere, as well as a decent solo before the final chorus. Every song is rather light on the riffs, with a mere 3 - 4 per song, often with one of those being a slight modification of another. These songs are the very epitome of dull and lazy. Nothing interesting ever really happens. No, there are no fills or multiple solos. No, that riff you are hearing will not turn into a thrashing monster. And no, there are no bass breaks... wow this is so fucking boring.
And to be honest, the production doesn't help to bring anything to life... FOR FUCKS SAKE! WHY would anyone construct a thrash record that is SO FUCKING BLAND, and then give it THIS fucking production job? EVERYTHING has been softened up, quietened down, just so the tender pussies- I mean snowflakes aren't offended by this mainstream crapshoot. Nothing sounds aggressive here at all. The drums are a muffled thud. The guitars have a bit of crunch, but are mostly severely lacking in punch and sharpness. The bass can be heard well, though, and the vocals occupy a nice, loud and clear spot in the mix. Then again, that is more indicative of a vocally orientated record, with a background drone for the vocalist to sing over. Is this generic pop rock, or a METAL record?
GODDAMMIT I HATE WHIFFLE THRASH. EVERY fucking album in this particular subsection of thrash is mired in a very annoying duality: one of wasted potential. The basic framework (instrumental and songwriting talent) is there, and it shines through at times (the bass work, the vocals, a few good riffs), but the band never fucking USE it. They are far more content to plod along at mid-tempo, devoid of any fire and soul, all in the name of becoming the media promoted token metal band. And it is more than the principle of it: you can hear it. At every turn, you can hear the band deliberately holding back on the tempo, never quite developing that nifty idea, or Phil's voice being horribly misused on overly melodic vocal lines. It is so DAMN FRUSTRATING! SPEED THE FUCK UP!
And don't worry, I haven't forgotten about this album's 'party piece', otherwise known as '31 Flavors'. Naah, not on my watch. It is a riffless abomination, with the exposed bass just contributing to the overly funky cheese. The lyrics are shit, the pacing sucks, the vocals suck, it isn't funny, and frankly it is one of the worst songs I have ever heard on a thrash album.
FUCK THIS ALBUM!
It is just a legend that thrash metal declined because of the rise of grunge and all of the other shitty stuff that showed up in the early nineties. We cannot avoid the truth: thrash metal committed suicide. To express it more precisely, the genre was shamefully betrayed by its own flagships. Unfortunately, Sacred Reich´s second full-length contributed to this betrayal in a sustainable manner. "The American Way" offered very different songs that contained only a small quantity of thrash. Paradoxically, each and every tune itself did not strongly vary.
From a technical point of view, there was nothing to complain about. The band functioned well and the production did not lack of power or transparency. These prerequisites were necessary, but they alone were not sufficient to create an amazing successor to the violent debut. The same applied to the mainly well thought-out lyrics. Main songwriter Phil Rind sang about current topics, for example the lawsuits against Ozzy and Priest or the shameful situation of the lower social classes in the United States. Sacred Reich was one of a few more or less extreme metal bands with a message. But as long as we are talking about the creative work of musicians, ambitious lyrics are just a "nice-to-have".
As mentioned above, the music marked a departure from the pure doctrine of thrash metal. The full-length lacked of profound passion and untamed emotion. It seemed to be coldheartedly designed on the drawing board and I fear that they hoped to achieve the commercial breakthrough with this output. Of course, almost every band wants to sell its products as much as possible. But this should not be the sole objective and the clumsy approach of Sacred Reich was definitely not the be-all and end-all. Their wish to be accepted by the majority of mainstream metal maniacs, which is not at all a derogatory term, was just too obvious. While avoiding any angry outburst, the band delivered fairly flabby songs. Only two tunes stood out. The title track was based on a simple yet effective riff and the chorus was characterized by a high degree of recognition. "Crimes Against Humanity" was driven by the galloping double bass drum and presented also a memorable chorus. Mid-tempo was the preferred speed of these songs due to the (boring) general orientation of the album. However, these songs are still worth listening to.
The six remaining pieces formed a sad mishmash. For example, the punk-influenced up-tempo number "I Don´t Know" contrasted musically with the semi-balladic "Who´s to Blame". In any case, these pieces reached at least a mediocre level. But the terrible "The Way It Is" was a promising aspirant for the worst metal chorus in the history of humanity and "31 Flavours" was just... No, I do not want to describe non-metallic bullshit on a website called Metal Archives. In musical terms, I am proud of being intolerant. Perhaps this is the main reason why I do not really enjoy to listen to this disappointing full-length.
Nobody could really predict the decline thrash would suffer during the 90’s; actually 1990 was a great year for the subgenre, when many bands definitely achieved their finest moment before their sudden fall. We could mention a bunch of classic records conceived by that time, starting with Kreator’s Coma Of Souls, Megadeth’s Rust In Peace, Artillery’s By Inheritance, etc. which featured a more advanced mature sound, technical and refined. The evolution of their sound was vital to make a difference certainly, especially because in those days there was an enormous pile of serious rivals around. That was the reason why Sacred Reich’s The American Way didn’t succeed, its sound offers nothing remarkable or even original, just more of the same.
“Love…Hate” is a tedious way to being an album. The main riff remains untouched during most of the song, revealing no progression or variation, reduced to a scandalously poor accompaniment for the bunch of vocals. The quiet tender middle-break is the only element that breaks the uniformity of its boring structure, the only difference from “The Way It Is”, a tune that sounds exactly the same, including nearly exact lines from the first cut, though surprisingly developing the riffing ambitiously and designing a decent instrumental sequence that soon becomes predictable and empty. The unchanged riff methodology shows no modification either on the title-track, defined so easily and primitively by the same guitar line during the whole composition with those incoherent vocals so tiring and uninspired; its pickin’ part is performed over the same lame instrumental basis so there’s a total absence of diversity. The band tries incorporating alternative sections and varied riffs, aware of the need of making something more pretentious on the following “Crimes Against All The Humanity”, at first as dumb as the others but including an unexpected fast sequence. The most acceptable of the pack, “State Of Emergency” follows a similar pattern with bigger versatility of structures and riff alterations failing completely because those changes and arrangements are poorly constructed, so scruffy and weak, not even completely thrashy, not attacking that rough. Tempos remain generally weighty as well, with the exception of “I Don’t Know”, the most dynamic and hyperactive, determined by good loose lines, ruined by those lame verses however, that make the tune impossible to take seriously, turning it into a parody.
In those times of challenging new sounds and greater technique in the subgenre, Sacred Reich got stuck in their old ways, keeping their sound unchanged, showing no improvement or notable difference from previous releases, even getting less thrashy and inoffensive. “31 Flavors” and its cheerful funky essence, along with the dramatic ballad “Who’s To Blame” are the only alternative moments here, musically too weak, not serious enough to bring refreshing ideas or vary the record scandalous uniformity considerably. As I mentioned, heavier tempos and riffs are a majority here, still rapid and energetic on some few distinct sections, yet contrary to the subgenre standards of continuous velocity and ferocity. Technically, these guys aren’t Agent Steel or Coroner, it’s obvious they don’t have incredible skills or virtuosism. Instrumentally, these songs are humble and discreet, not only on their execution; the design of the song-writing schemes is lacking talent too. The inexistent development and alteration of those riffs is the clearest expression of incompetence and absence of creativity, something that affects the continuity and sense of their music, making it so common, simple and nearly unlistenable. Listening to the same riff and the same exhausting verse model is such a boring task. Results stay inconsistent when the group attempts to include a diversity of structures, which are still limited, unfocused and unreasonably added. So none of these titles is working out, the group’s efforts are vain, leading nowhere, while the need for a sudden direction change is undisputed, although these guys seemed unable to realize they got stagnant in the same ineffective formulas.
In conclusion, this is undoubtedly an inferior work from a time of splendor and glory for thrash. While others took the risk of trying something different, exploring new sounds and increasing the complexity of their music, Sacred Reich still believed in simplicity, repetition and clichés, as unreasonable as Nuclear Assault on Out Of Order. This band did decent better stuff in the past but back in 1990 they were unable to face the new times, becoming generic and common, the worst that could happen to a thrash act in that critical period.
Amongst the outfits popping up like an infinite regression of Bay Area reflections, Sacred Reich was one of those bands that didn't quite manage to smash the mirror with a lot of intrigue. Speaking in terms of neck-destroying mayhem, these guys were way behind the curve if one's standards include the likes of early Testament and Vio-Lence, to speak nothing for Dark Angel. Likewise, their sense of melody bordered somewhere between moderately memorable to plain sufficiency, falling short of the classic hooks brought out by Metallica and Megadeth. Honestly, the only area where they really made a mark was in their one-dimensional obsession with politics, coming off as the greenest of the green, even when compared to the likes of Nuclear Assault, while failing to capture the wit and humor that goes along with the ride.
Nevertheless, they did manage to make a respectable splash in the 80s, but by the time 1990 rolled in, it was pretty clear that Sacred Reich was more of a mind to play to the MTV approved version of things, taking a few cues from outright disasters on tape like "Frolic Through The Park" but largely taking the slower, groovy, safe route also taken by Xentrix, Anthrax and D.R.I. at around the juncture. In essence, when hearing moderately catchy and heavily formulaic mixtures of mid-tempo with occasional jumps into semi-fast territory like "I Don't Know" and the title song, a name like "The Safe Way" would fit a bit more than "The American Way", to speak nothing for the fact that the anti-PMRC and anti-capitalist cliches littered on this thing reek a bit of pandering considering how late to the show they were and how sloppily the presentation of the subject is presented.
The sad thing is, this album could have been a whole lot better if a few things were accented while others were either downplayed or outright removed. In the former camp of good efforts is a decent nod to later 80s Metallica in "Love...Hate", which starts things off on a high note and showcases some solid bass work, along with "The Way It Is" which tells a slightly longer version of the same musical story. But in the latter camp of outright suck includes a sappy half-ballad with horrendous lyrics in "Who's To Blame" which apes heavily off of the Nuclear Assault approach to balladry but is destroyed by brazen vocals and tired cliche musical ideas. Along for the ride on the wrong end of the tracks is a warning sign of the impending death of 80s thrash dubbed "31 Flavors", a really goofy funk track with zero humor and a lot of potential lawsuits from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers that managed not to get filed.
All in all, this is something that is digestible in small doses, particularly if a couple of the really bad songs are omitted from the mix. They didn't crash and burn nearly as bad as Death Angel did a couple years before, but this could be likened to a similarly unnecessary attempt at cleaning up a style to make it safe for more people to like, which never really works in practice and always ends up destroying a scene. Every style has its b-list bands which never break out of the pack, but are otherwise listenable when at their best, but "The American Way" falls a bit short of even this band's version of their best, and definitely foreshadows the outright crap-shoot that would ensue on subsequent albums. Politics is all fun in games until somebody writes shitty music to get their message across.
This is going to sound so typical but I preferred "Ignorance" over this album, and although this album has gained a relatively good reception and probably just skims the "thrash classic" tag, I have to admit this record never got much playtime from me. It's not an aysmal record, it's not like they sold-out, in fact if I'm being honest this record probably is good and it's not a far stretch of the imagination to see someone like me enjoying this album, but for the most part it has just rubbed me up the wrong way and it still does today. It is hard for me to put my finger on the issue, as to why this record doesn't achieve much for me. The songs are memorable, but they seem rather restrained and a little dull. The record isn't even over-experimental minus "31 flavours", but I'm pretty sure thrash or cross-over was never meant to be this pedestrian. Yes that's right I said it, this album lacks any spark and demands little response from the listener, and as far as I can remember thrash was once raw, subversive, radical and revolutionary. One listen to this album and a question mark goes straight over those supposed accolades.
"Love...hate" kicks off the album and there is no denying it is memorable, it just does not provoke much from the listener. It picks up with "American way", and even "The way it is" is tolerable but this is perhaps as good as it gets and these still aren't winners on their own. "State of emergency" is really long-winded and dull, again it is well polished and easy on the ears but where the fuck did all the conviction from the previous album go? "Who's to blame" is a cheesy half-ballad with some really mediocre and predictable lyrics, and what makes it worse is that Phil Rind sounds like he is bleeding his heart out, but does not have the vocal range for listeners to take this really seriously. "I don't know" seems to capture the most mediocre chugging riffs from the previous tracks, and just after over three minutes of it's arrival you're left thinking "What was that? I should have skipped that one." Oh and let's try not to get our knickers in a twist too much over what is coming next..."31 flavours" showcases an abysmal funk-ridden parody in an attempt to show how metal they are, by reaching out to their non-metal influences. Comedy only goes down well in thrash providing you've got better material to back it up. After enduring "The American Way" I really don't think any body has time for a funk track which makes "I'm the man" seem flawless. So what you like Faith No More and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, but at least those bands aren't attempting "thrash" and god forbid the thought.
It seems odd that Phil Rind loves this record and think it perfectly captures what Sacred Reich "are", and as a fan I do wish they would stop pushing "Ignorance" to one side and just admit how good that record was. By 1990 thrash had slowed way down, and Sacred Reich seemed to have succumbed to the outside pressure of the thrash scene. But bare in mind bands like Razor kept pumping out relentless speedy thrash with "Violent resitution" in 1988 and "Shotgun justice" in the same year 1990, yet Razor are for the most part over-looked and when people dig deeper than the big four bands like Sacred Reich get uncovered and praised, which is annoying considering how inconsistent their discography was after "Ignorance". I'm not saying you wont like this album, a lot does go in it's favour and even the production is pretty good. But in 1990 I wasn't quite ready for thrash to throw the towel in yet, bands were slowing down and I hadn't even burned out from the speedier stuff yet. Had this album been released two or three years later then it sure would have looked like a diamond in the rough. But does "The American Way" pass thrash standards for 1990? I don't think it really does, but many would disagree but I wont budge on this one..."The American Way" is average and although catchy riffs spring up there is never that one brilliant riff that blows your socks off. The thrash high had peaked leaving us with an unexpected and unwanted come down, and this album represents this akward time perfectly.
In 1987, Sacred Reich released an insane piece of thrash called “Ignorance”. In 1990, Sacred Reich released a pretty good piece of thrash called “The American Way”. Their second album is a pretty significant change in the way they wrote songs and a huge change in their attitudes.
First, the production is pretty much flawless. The guitars are crunchy and heavy, the bass is audible the whole time, and the drums sound pretty good. I do think the bass drum is too triggered, during the thrash parts, it just sound weird. It kind of sounds wet.
“Love…Hate” starts with a really heavy riff so you might think, “Oh sweet, this song is going to get fast and insane like the first album”, well if you said that, I’m sorry, you’re dead wrong. It pretty much stays one speed the whole time. While yes it is heavy, it lacks variation that I want. The same can be said about the title track. Again, it is very heavy and is a solid song, it just doesn’t go anywhere in terms of speed. One speed the whole time. “The Way it is” starts pretty fast, and stays this way. It’s not “Ignorance” fast but the riffs are fast. After the first three songs are done, these are the songs where the true thrash comes in. “Crimes Against Humanity” starts with an awesome drum intro, then about half way through the song, it breaks into some awesome thrash with an awesome solo. “State of Emergency” has a very upbeat happy sounding riff and is easily one of the best songs on here. This song also has some awesome thrash that comes in about half way. “I don’t Know” is just a pure thrasher. Pretty much fast the entire song which is desperately needed to counter act the first three. “Who’s to Blame” is the ballad with some speed. It’s a decent track but overall, pretty forgettable.
Now, comes the bad news. “31 Flavors”. I know they were trying to be different and funny but why the Hell would they actually include this?! This song blows. Terrible ‘funk’ song with terrible lyrics and overall just sucks. This album is a solid Sacred Reich album except for this song.
Lyrically Sacred Reich stayed kind of the same. Political stuff, I’m not big into the whole political thing but I guess they are good for what they are. It seems like the singer lightened up from “Ignorance” where on that album he seems like he just hated everything.
This album is good but just don’t listen to “31 Flavors”. This album has some good mid-paced songs and also some pretty good thrash on here.
Best tracks – “I Don’t Know”, “State of Emergency”, and “Crimes Against Humanity”
Yet another US thrash act that was on the cusp of something great before the wave finally broke and grunge took over, sending metal into its 90s hibernation (to be fair, it was a pretty active hibernation). Before they tried to ride the wave out with weaker material in the 90s, Sacred Reich managed to deliver two good full-lengths and an EP. The American Way was the second of these full-lengths, and for the most part a pretty good time.
Less caustic than Ignorance, this album was primed for success. Simpler, accessible thrash tunes with groovy riffs, catchy chorus parts and Phil Rind's beefy vocals. "Love...Hate" begins the album with such a song, stripped down thrash with a slower, power chord driven chorus and some cleaner vocals, though somewhat lacking lyrically. The title track was one of the band's more popular tunes, with a flowing but destructive verse riff and catchy chorus rhyme. "The Way It Is" has a rock style chorus after some chug laden verse riffs. "Crimes Against Humanity" is a thrash dirge with a slow buildup but a very catchy payoff, though the lyrics are total 80s metal hippy trash. "State of Emergency" and "I Don't Know" are both good tracks to round off the album. "Who's to Blame" is your typical anti-PMRC/censorship track.
That leaves "31 Flavors"...a funk song. Now, I realize they meant well with this, it's a sort of ...politically correct...errr...Metallically correct funk song? The band lists off styles of music and particular artists that it's 'cool' to listen to. It's actually pretty fucking retarded, and embarassing to listen to today (I wonder how they feel about it?) A funk song thrown in without an awful subject like this might have been funny, but when the lyrics are:
'Vanilla is smooth chocolate is kickin' strawberry is sweet all deserve a
hearty lickin' have em all three scoops piled high variety is the spice of
Well you can have soft serve and hard sugar cones root beer floats or my
banana split do you like nuts or some sticky whip creme come lick it off
and be my dairy queen'
'It's cool fool! Don't just be a metal dude!' FUCKING GAG ME SACRED REICH. GAG ME. You can even hear one of the guys in the band state "Dude...that is NOT metal" as if in some lame attempt to 'rationalize' the choice to include this travesty.
The album has been remastered, but even the original sounds decent by today's standards. This album is a lot less heavy than Ignorance, a fact that drove some fans away from the band. Some of the songs here are pretty fun, it's just a shame they had to go and ruin it. If you can stomach some simpler and mainstream thrash metal, and can accept the very 'end of the 80s' vibe here, then this isn't quite so bad.
Sacred Reich were a well known name back in the day and quite popular. They didn’t play Dynamo two years in a row for nothing! Trust me, I was there, and they ruled. They ruled big time. Such a great liveband. More than how they are now sometimes remembered or looked down upon by people who weren’t there. A bit of a shame really….
‘cause in 1990 Sacred Reich were in the subtop and because of their great live perfomance and earlier releases, every selfrespecting thrash metal head was waiting anxiously for ‘The American Way’. Whereas ‘Ignorance’ was a good yet two-dimensional piece of unoriginal political left wing thrash metal, ‘The American Way’ managed to produce mosty midtempo thrash without losing power and evolving into their own sound. Agreed, the riffs are still mostly simple but really standing out, as always, are the more than excellent drums of Greg Hall (No wonder Slayer attempted to get this man!) and the charisma and character of Phil Rind’s vocals and lyrics. ‘Who’s To Blame’ and ‘Crimes Against Huminity’ are perfect examples of top of the bill 1990 metal lyrics. Also very catchy! And being catchy is not a bad thing here. So what if the average pace was lower.
It’s a shame Sacred Reich practically killed themselves later on with a lot of those weird groovemetal songs on ‘Independent’, not finding their form again until 1996’ “Heal” and silently leaving the scene.
‘The American Way’ was, is and will remain: great