Released: 2012, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Growing up in the 80’s, Sacred Reich was one of my favorite thrash bands, if not one of my favorite metal bands period. Particularly their recorded body of work up through THE AMERICAN WAY; four regular-Joe lookin’ dudes with no pretense or image who cranked out some ripping thrash riffs and combined it with a stinging dose of social commentary - what’s not to like? For an ideological young metalhead, Sacred Reich was a breath of fresh air. Alongside Nuclear Assault, Sacred Reich proved that metal could be a conduit for addressing the real social issues of the day, potentially making their audience just a little more enlightened after a listen than they were beforehand. Hell, after reading the lyrics to “Crimes Against Humanity”, I was even able to convince my mom that there was more to metal than just partying and devil worship. Most fans have mixed emotions about the INDEPENDENT and HEAL records (no comment here), but I’ll go to bat all day long for their preceding discography.
Though the band has been on ice for most of the last decade, Sacred Reich returned to the stage in 2007 for an appearance at that year’s Wacken Open Air festival. A scant five years after the fact, the recording of that performance has now been released as a live CD/DVD companion set via the good folks at Metal Blade Records. There’s nothing in the press notes about why it took so long to release the recording, but better late than never, because LIVE AT WACKEN is freaking phenomenal. More than just a nostalgia piece to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the band, it’s a testimony to how well their music holds up two decades later.
The setlist reads like a fan’s greatest hits package, focusing on material from the IGNORANCE, SURF NICARAGUA, and THE AMERICAN WAY albums (“Independent” being the only exception). Listening to the guys jam on classic tunes like “Love…Hate” and the title tracks of the aforementioned albums, you’d never be able to tell that they’d been inactive for as long as they’d been. The band approaches the tunes with a sense of familiarity, but with an equal sense of reverence and respect for their legacy. And they absolutely kill it. “Administrative Decisions” sounds f#@king furious, and lyrically it’s probably more relevant now than ever before. The DVD portion of the release wasn’t included in the promotional distro, but as the audio on the CD is a straight rip from the video, I’m inclined to believe that there’s been very little (if any) post-production work to the recording. Which I’m 110% okay with, as the occasional slip up and between song pauses help to put the listener right smack in the audience alongside 60,000 other headbangers.
And Phil Rind is arguably one of the most down to earth and gracious frontmen ever to lead a metal band. There’s a genuine sense of gratitude in his words as he takes multiple opportunities to thank the crowd for supporting the band and making this appearance at Wacken possible. As he’s relating about how the band members have grown older, and in his case wider, it struck me that Phil Rind is the pot-smoking hippy antithesis to late-Exodus frontman Paul Baloff. Both guys just have such a natural, matter of fact, and self-deprecating relationship with their audiences, which belie the angst and aggression that they’re able to convey in their musical personalities. A thrash metal Yin and Yang if you will.
I give credit to Sacred Reich for limiting their “reunion” to a handful of live appearances and forgoing the usual cash grab opportunities (cough, cough, At the Gates, cough, never ending reunion, cough). The band has been vocal about enjoying life away from the stage, and knowing that makes a release like LIVE AT WACKEN that much more meaningful. It’s simply a celebration of some classic thrash metal tunes, and done so exceptionally well.
Can’t wait to buy the DVD.