Album Review: Sacred Reich – ‘Awakening’

They never said goodbye

More than a few curious thrashers are eyeing this return from Sacred Reich with a bit of cautious interest, as the Phoenix old-schoolers are back with their first album since 1996’s forgettable Heal. I’m happy to report that Awakening—featuring the debut of guitarist Joey Radziwill, replacing Jason Rainey—is easily the band’s best offering since 1990’s The American Way.

The excellent “Divide and Conquer” shows vocalist Phil Rind in fine form—in some of the finest form he’s ever been in, amazingly. The song also showcases the band’s skill at writing memorable, mid-paced parts, as does “Salvation.” But they also pick it up and thrash hard and concise, the fast crossover of songs like “Manifest Reality” or the absolutely shredding “Revolution” (the album highlight—this song totally rules, being fast, catchy and undeniably Sacred Reich) reminding us how these old-timers recently held their own on a split 7-inch with young pups Iron Reagan.

“Killing Machine” rages moody like modern-day Priest, despite threatening to politely take our hand and walk us down to the nearest sports bar. “Death Valley” is the only point where the band starts to sound tired, an overlong, mid-paced groove rocker that gets exhausting and takes a while to get nowhere. Closer “Something to Believe” is fantastic, however, a moving anthem with great melodies and a passionate vocal delivery from Rind that shows exactly why Sacred Reich have always been a bit different, and—when they’re at their best—something special.

Smart move—and one that legacy thrashers never do—here with the short run time. Sacred Reich get in and out in under 32 minutes, a nod to the band’s punk leanings and a great way to ensure repeat listens of this surprisingly vital album.