I try to avoid the over-used term ‘under-rated’ when it comes to describing bands. It seems so many journalists use that term as a reason to say, ‘I really like this sub-standard band but no one else does, so therefore all those other people don’t know what they are missing’. However my gut instinct with a band like Sacred Oath is that they are under-rated or perhaps under-appreciated might be a better way to appreciate it.
These veterans of the USPM scene have slowly, confidently and expertly building an extremely impressive catalogue, with four studio albums in this decade alone, the newest being TWELVE BELLS on their own long-running indie label, Angelthorne.
The band has retained a mostly stable line-up and nothing has changed from the last album RAVENSONG from a couple of years ago. Very little has changed in terms of execution ad delivery of the solid, classic Metal sound he band has delivered for three decades. There are straight-up Power Metal songs, some more ‘Rock and Roll’ inspired tunes and even some slightly more progressive cuts like ‘Well of Souls’ with a nice acoustic guitar prelude, time changes, and longer arrangements that takes the song into the eight minute range. The production on TWELVE BELLS is warm and the guitar tone nice and think but not too ‘modern’ for lack of a better term. I don’t like the ‘retro’ very much because of the connotations but Sacred Oath has been adhering to the principles of classic Metal forever. The vocals of Rob Thorne are as solid as ever, good range and power for this kind of Metal, check out the opening scream at the album opener, ‘New Religion’! Good riffs, solid drumming, up-tempo, nice energy, and decent soloing all contribute to the complete hour-long package.
To return to my original train of thought from my opening paragraph, it perplexes me at time when bands like Omen, Helstar, Cirith Ungol, Jag Panzer, Metal Church and so on, all have this credibility in the USPM scene and a high-quality band like Sacred Oath, who were there from the beginning (1985) get left out of the conversation. Hopefully TWLEVE BELLS will go a long way towards rectifying this situation. Even if it doesn’t, and the band remains at the same level, the true Sacred Oath fans have another fine album to enjoy.
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