Amazing. Obviously, with heavy metal being fifty now, there are a lot of acts out and about engaged in the nostalgia business. Some choose to trot around playing only the ‘hits’ from their ‘glory’ days, offering nothing new but guaranteeing a good, risk-free time and that’s fine. Others choose to try and show how ‘down with the yoof’ they are by updating their sound to something they think is modern and then mangling their old songs to try and fit their idea of what’s hip… which is very risky and obviously not so good. Sacred Reich, on the other hand, have opted for a third way. They’ve written new music, yes, but have eliminated the risk factor by exhibiting absolutely zero artistic development since they were something of a force in metal’s second division in the late eighties/early nineties. That’s a win-win situation, surely?
Actually, I’m fibbing just a little bit. The new album, Awakening, has a track on it – Death Valley – that has a sort of Southern swing to it in a mid-period Corrosion of Conformity kinda way – that band bassist/leading light Phil Rind and co. would never have considered recording ‘back in the day’. Consequently it stands out like a sore thumb against the band’s core sound of rehashed thrash and burn, but it actually isn’t without charm, proving once more that bands really shouldn’t be scared of their own creative urges, even when the situation probably demands something a little more safe, or dare I say prosaic…
Which brings us to another track, Revolution… A sub-three minute punky thrasher that sounds like an outtake from SR’s best album from their first time around, Independent. Here they deliver exactly what’s expected of them and end up just sounding like a band coming back for one last payday… which of course is what they are.
This sort of piss and vinegar, ire-filled sturm und drang is always going to sound vaguely silly coming out of the mouth of a fifty year-old who still wishes he was twenty, but, for all my jeering, there is actually quite a lot to enjoy on Awakening. Closing track Something To Believe is right up with the best material the band has come up with, ever, fusing the jaunty mid-seventies doom of Black Sabbath to a bouncy, bass-driven grind that works really, really well and offers a home for Rind’s still-impressive roar to boom out from in fine style.
Divide & Conquer comes close too, despite the repetitious nature of the chorus, and opening track Awakening, also, reminds you of why the band nearly hit paydirt all those years ago with an ear-friendly brand of thrash that never demands much from the listener intellectually yet delivers a fine time, on a more visceral level, every time.
Welcome back, then, old metal blokes, and here’s to your third way thrashing!