Sacred Reich - Awakening (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Sacred Reich

Awakening (2019)

Metal Blade records

The two biggest stories in thrash, for the last couple of years, have been Slayer’s impending retirement and Metallica’s trek toward total world domination. Unfortunately, some great smaller thrash stories may have slipped through the cracks. Case in point, the triumphant studio return of Sacred Reich. The Arizona quartet originally formed in 1985, and split up in 2000. They reformed as a live act in 2006, but it took until 2019 to finally make an album.

Awakening is an appropriate name for a record that was 23 years in the making. New guitarist Joey Radziwill hadn’t even been born yet when their last album, Heal, was released. Radziwill is the new guy, but with the return of drummer Dave McClain, who spent the last two decades in Machine Head, three quarters of the classic lineup is in place. Sacred Reich is still led by songwriter/bassist/vocalist Phil Rind and lead guitarist Wiley Arnett.

The years have not taken the edge off the band’s blade, or the urgency from their sound. The title track starts things off by sounding thoroughly modern and harkening back to thrash’s heyday in the late ‘80s. “Living, Dying, Awakening!”. “Divide & Conquer” cranks up the aggression even further. Lind’s soaring vocals stand in sharp contrast to the choppy guitars and raging drums. “Salvation” celebrates the positive power of heavy metal! “Manifest Reality” is a new classic, and seems destined to become a live staple.

“Killing Machine” opens side two with a marching snare, machine gun riff and melodic chorus. The bluesy “Death Valley” incorporates some cowbell, but just doesn’t work. Fortunately, it’s the only real misfire on the record. Sacred Reich have never shied away from politics, and Awakening is no exception. The extremely fast and catchy “Revolution” is the epitome of this. Closer “Something to Believe” ends things on a yearning but hopeful note.

The cover art is a cool black and white throwback. They eight songs are throwbacks too, but they’re good enough that they don’t have to depend on the nostalgia factor. The first half of the record can hold its own with Sacred Reich’s very best material. They seem primed to be discovered by a whole new generation of headbangers. Hopefully Awakening is a second chance for these criminally underrated thrashers.