This week finally sees the release of Sacred Oath’s long awaited self-titled album. To mark the occasion it seems appropriate for Eurorock to give the European metal scene a huge Bastille Day pat on the back. Why? Let me explain.
Sacred Oath, who originally formed in 1985 in Bethel, Connecticut before disappearing, reformed in 2007. The fact that they are back at all is largely thanks to their quite significant underground European following. In short they kept the memory of Sacred Oath truly alive and well. Not bad considering that the band didn’t release a thing for over twenty years.
Until then, their one and only studio album was A Crystal Vision which was released back in 1988. Sadly, by the time the album had achieved something of a cult status at the forefront of the American power-metal movement, the band was falling apart.
Sacred Oath had gone as quickly as they had arrived citing time honored problems with their record label going bust and general disillusionment with the reality of the music business. The album remained a classic and was finally re-released in 2001 by Sentinel Steel Records by popular demand.
Inspired by the success of the re-release, they finally got back together and re-recorded their album as A Crystal Revision, which was released in 2005. It still didn’t restart Sacred Oath as fully as hoped because they were all busy with their own various band projects. However, when frontman Rob Thorne’s band began to wind down, chance would have it that it was the right time for the rest of Sacred Oath too.
Rob contacted the others and they decided to finally record Darkness Visible, the intended follow up to A Crystal Vision, which had been written back in the late eighties but had never been released. By 2008 they were back touring Europe and the live album ‘Till Death Do Us Part captures the resurgent band in all its powerful glory.
The anticipation surrounding the release of this new album was heightened further when the date was put back from May until now. As we waited you may have already caught the “Counting Zeros” video taken from the album, albeit in a shortened version with some of the most barbed lyrics missing. The full seven minute version is a contender for album highlight and states emphatically that Sacred Oath are most definitely back.
The band is the same line-up as on the ‘Till Death Do US Part album. Billy Smith, a guitar pupil of Rob Thorne, trades licks with his former teacher. The fact that he was taught by the man he now plays alongside of, shines through with a near telepathic understanding and dovetailing of sound. Rob still takes the majority of the lead breaks, but the contribution of Billy Smith cannot be understated and his presence powers this album along with characteristic window rattling riffage, (try saying that with a mouthful of crisps).
Maybe there is a clue as to the band’s current status within the album’s title. Self titled records are usually the first album from any band, so maybe they see this one as confirmation of a rising from the ashes, a re-birth, or a fresh new start. That is exactly how it sounds to my metal hungry senses. It also underlines the fact that they are well and raising the classic power metal flag to fight the good fight once again.
So what does Sacred Oath the album give us? Unashamed traditional metal, but with glorious 2009 production, that’s what. There are also shed loads of Rob Thorne’s trademark vocal acrobatics. Meanwhile, said teacher and pupil serve up riff after riff, and solo upon solo, as the album blasts forth.
One thing you do need to know before logging on and buying this album is that there are two versions available, a basic ten track one, and a deluxe fourteen track digipack beast with lyrics and generous sixteen page booklet.
From the opening near rabid gallop of “Paradise Lost,” you know that you will need to match the band for energy just to listen to the album. It screams ‘we’re back’ in full defiant 'Oathbanger' style. Next up is “Blood Storm,” a track that is a formula one car on speed powering forwards with a manic grin on the driver’s face.
“Voodoo Dolls” ensures that there is no pause for thought, or any room for wondering where the hell Sacred Oath went for twenty years, it’s just a solid assault of classic power metal. The full length “Counting Zeros” demands ridiculous volume, tempting you, like some smiling red devil on your shoulder, to reach for that switch. Rob’s voice hits every target above textbook riffs. This is today’s Sacred Oath at the very peak of their power.
“High And Mighty” is hugely magnificent (there’s possible tautology in that statement, but who cares?). It is melodic, tuneful, and representative of what this band still has to offer. This leads us into the machine gun riff that is the title track which is complete with Rob Thorne’s vocal somersaults.
“Caught In The Arc” and the cheerfully entitled, “Buried Alive” take us deeply into darker territory. “Buried Alive” is almost Maiden-esque with its galloping drive. As a result the standard melodic metal ballad opening of “What The Dark Will Undo” arrives with a relief akin to having a crushing boulder removed from your chest. When Rob opens this one he again shows that his voice has lost absolutely nothing.
My ten track version closes with “Hunt For The Fallen Angel,” a near six minute romp of classic power with a huge slice of 2009 sound. It is that epic production which helps lift this album on high. That, and the massive slices of classic metal being delivered for this generation.
This is no mere reunion. It is something far more significant than that. As Rob Thorne says, the album "has just been a whirlwind" and that "the band is in a zone." From where I lie, exhausted on the floor, Sacred Oath is classic metal but metal that is perfectly placed for today, for right now.