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The blinding lust. - 70%

GrizzlyButts, March 13th, 2018

Indiana based throwback heavy metal act Sacred Leather might feature ex-members of extreme metal acts like Coffinworm and Skeletonwitch but their debut album ‘Ultimate Force’ takes the pulpit with the spirit of heavy metal’s pubescent early 80’s panache. Though it occasionally echoes the ass-slappin’ rock of 80’s Judas Priest or Manowar on the surface ‘Ultimate Force’ has the dynamic of true 80’s heavy metal locked down well beyond campy retro pop-metal resemblance. The deeper layers of Sacred Leather reveal an album structured closely to classic metal albums like Omen‘s ‘Warning of Danger’ ( complete with 4th track extended ballad ) Tyrant‘s speed metal infused ‘Too Late to Pray’ and Hexx‘s ‘No Escape’. At any rate if they aimed for an authentic representation of 80’s US heavy metal and early power metal they nailed it.

The anchor for ‘Ultimate Force’ is vocalist Dee Wrathchild (aka Dustin Boltjes) who was up until very recently the drummer for thrash band Skeletonwitch as well as founding member of long-silent thrash band Demiricous. His wailing echoes King Diamond‘s performances on early Mercyful Fate records, specifically channeling ‘Don’t Break the Oath’ but with greater restraint in terms of theatrics. The compositions sort of rest in that 1985-88 era where thrash denial was real but bands like Hellion, Manilla Road and even Manowar all began to kick up the speed metal in heavy doses. But uh, ballads were still a thing and “Dream Searcher” is an eight minute centerpiece to test your steel in terms of schlock, I found it derivative in terms of balladry but Wrathchild‘s vocals reach commendable peaks throughout as he rests right in between 80’s cheese hard rock and heavy metal power.

The real force of nature beyond the inspired vocal performances of the first half of ‘Ultimate Force’ is the lead guitar work throughout. Within seconds of the album’s first howl impressive period specific lead guitar work dominates the Sacred Leather‘s voice in the same way Andy LaRoque and Denner/Blakk’s dual guitar heroism held their own on early King Diamond records. In fact the combo of opener “Ultimate Force” and “Watcher” feel like they were pulled kicking and screaming from the hallowed tracklist of ‘Abigail’ or ‘Them’. Though the vocals are somewhat subdued after “Dream Searcher” the lead guitars are relentless in adding interest to otherwise standard heavy metal tracks. The album might be obviously a bit front loaded in terms of it’s strengths but as a full listen it all balances out without becoming a generic blur of 80’s noise.

‘Ultimate Force’ is absolutely a hype-worthy traditional heavy metal release for 2018 if not only because of it’s authentic sound and powerful first half. Not only is it an inspiring nod to 80’s metal nostalgia but also a good jumping off point for folks who might be interested in exploring the redeeming guitar work and powerful vocalists of orthodox heavy metal past and present. Anyhow, I liked it enough that I bought a shirt and that is the biggest compliment I give any band.

Attribution: https://grizzlybutts.com/2018/03/12/sacred-leather-ultimate-force-2018-review/