Only the most ardent of fans would have predicted that after a 23-year hiatus, Arizona thrashers Sacred Reich, spurred on by the return of powerhouse drummer Dave Mclain, would make such a triumphant return last year with the awesome Awakening. But triumph they did, delivering an album of classic groove-tinged thrash that peeled back the years reminding us just how much we missed these guys. So in a “strike while the iron is hot” move. Metal Blade are reissuing three of the bands most potent and influential releases namely Ignorance, Surf Nicaragua and The American Way. Make no bones about it, the thrash scene would have looked a whole lot different without these seminal releases, which can now be savoured by a whole new generation.
You simply cannot have a discussion about the best openers on a thrash album without mentioning Death Squad, as it’s right up there with the likes of Battery, Wake Up Dead and Bonded By Blood and sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the Ignorance album, our first introduction to the sound of Sacred Reich. Another often overlooked gem on this album is the absolute ferocity that is the title track, a raging slab of thrash that defines everything that we love about the genre. It is a sad state of affairs that the world is still in a position where the majority of Phil Rind’s lyrics still carry relevance in 2021.
One short year later, in 1988, the boys would hit the studio once more to belt out the Surf Nicaragua E.P, the second of our reissues. As good as Ignorance was, this E.P saw the band really come into their own, with Rind’s vocals showing a maturity to match the upturn in his lyrical content. The blistering speed is still there, but this is where the band really started to incorporate a bit of groove in their work, opening them up to a whole new audience with the crossover crowd. Not many bands can get away with covering Black Sabbath, but Sacred Reich’s version of War Pigs is enjoyable, and we get two live tracks to finish it off, which while they are good, they are nothing compared to the classic Alive at Dynamo set which the band would go onto release in 1989.
1990 was a perplexing time for thrash metal, with bands dropping the all-out assault that made their name in favour of experimentation and awful attempts at going mainstream and Sacred Reich fell foul of that trend, whilst still managing to put out a pretty decent album. The American Way-our third reissue is a polarizing piece of work, that has some truly awful moments. The bands attempt at Red Hot Chili Peppers style funk rock on 31 Flavors is embarrassing for everybody involved, but they counter that with the likes of the title track-a classic headbanger and vital part of the Sacred Reich live experience and the pure power and aggression of State of Emergency.
Unfortunately, the band would have a bit of a downturn of fortunes in the ninties, but with thrash currently riding the crest of a wave, it’s time that one of the genre’s masters stepped back in the ring and show these youngsters how it was done originally. With a ripper of a new album and the finest part of their back catalogue available again, things are looking rosy for the Sacred Reich boys once more. Long may it continue… Chris Andrews