Sacred Reich’s fifth album, Awakening, is significant for a few reasons. It’s their first full-length album since they reunited in 2006, as well as their first since 1996’s Heal. Ex-Machine Head drummer Dave McClain, who originally played with the band for a few years in the early ’90s, has returned to the drum kit to take the place of long-time member Greg Hall.
Awakening is also the first Sacred Reich album without rhythm guitarist Jason Rainey, who was replaced by 22-year-old Joey Radziwill. Obviously, this is not a simple comeback album for a thrash band that originally had no plans to release an album when they reunited.
It must be difficult to live up to unrealistic expectations from those expecting the second coming of Ignorance, one of great thrash records of the late ’80s. Awakening is not Ignorance, but it’s also far thrashier than their last two albums, Independent and Heal. Those albums were hampered by the band repositioning themselves to fit the time period where groove metal became one of the few metal subgenres to gain any traction in an environment dominated by grunge, alternative, and hip hop.
Though elements of those two albums creep into Awakening, in a song like the punk-infused “Revolution,” there are plenty of instances where one can feel the energy of politically active musicians with a message to share, as they did on The American Way. Bassist/vocalist Phil Rind has messages of hope and uprising to share, though ones that don’t necessarily have to come from violent upbringings. “Rid your mindset of bad thoughts/Hatred and anger are burning coals/Don’t hang on, you have to let go,” he tells us on the spectacular “Manifest Reality.”
“Manifest Reality” is part of the first half of Awakening, a flawless volley of thrash where each track tops the previous one. Whether it was having young blood in there with Radziwill, or McClain’s top-notch drumming powering these songs up to another level, Sacred Reich land blow after blow with the first few songs on Awakening. While the pace slows a bit in the back half, it’s not something that dulls the edge of Sacred Reich.
Awakening tops off right around the 30-minute mark, making it the shortest album of the band’s career to date. Their “get in and get out” approach is refreshing when bands tend to go bigger. There’s not one wasted note, no misstep like a funk song (looking at you, “31 Flavors”). Eight songs with no filler, Awakening shows Sacred Reich re-energized and ready to enter their 35th year in existence on a high note.
(released August 23, 2019 on Metal Blade Records)
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Watch Sacred Reich – “Manifest Reality” Video