Sacrilege – “Behind the Realms of Madness”

Crust Never Sleeps

It’s ironic that the first sound to be heard when dropping the needle—and vinyl was our only option in 1985—on Sacrilege’s debut mini-LP, Behind the Realms of Madness, was a synthesizer. Talk about a false flag. The spacey drone at the beginning of “Life Line” that introduced U.K. quartet Sacrilege to the world offered no indication of the imminent onslaught of the nastiest drop-tuned riffing since Satan belched out Venom’s first couple albums a few years previous.

In modern metal’s formative years, if we can generally use the New Wave of British Heavy Metal as Ground Zero for the movement, the U.K. and U.S. were trading body blows for the title of extreme music supremacy. The battering impact of the NWOBHM and the UK82 punk movement early on was answered with the pummeling blows of our own homegrown hardcore and thrash. They gave us Iron Maiden, Diamond Head and Discharge (among others), and we countered with Metallica, Slayer and Black Flag (among others). Back and forth it went, as metal was evolving and new subgenres were being created at a rapid pace.

It was in this fertile environment of experimentation and cross-pollination of divergent influences that Sacrilege delivered a crossover mini-album—just six songs in less than 30 minutes—of monumental importance. It could be argued, in fact, that the six tracks that constitute Behind the Realms of Madness had an outsized influence, compared to its meager sales and distribution, on extreme music—and particularly extreme metal—at large. This was a record that effortlessly combined punk, doom, crust, thrash and traditional metal in a way that no other band had dared to attempt at that point.

Though the members—guitarist Damian Thompson, vocalist Lynda “Tam” Simpson, bassist Tony May and drummer Andy Baker—all honed their chops in U.K. punk bands in the Birmingham area (three of the four played in D-beat legends the Varukers at one time or another), it was largely the West Coast thrash scene (with a bit of Chicago doom) that inspired the band’s turn toward metal.

The combination of a bold, powerful female vocalist shouting sociopolitical lyrics over thundering, doom- and thrash-influenced riffs and a hammering rhythm section was truly unique in 1985, and earned the band fans on both sides of the Atlantic, as Realms was released on Children of the Revolution in the U.K. and subsequently licensed to Pushead’s Pusmort label in the U.S. That this lineup didn’t last long and only played a few local shows together—not to mention the fact that Sacrilege’s subsequent albums veered off in a slower, doomier direction—only add to Realms’ mystique. Yes, it’s only six songs long, but there’s absolutely no filler and the unrelenting quality of the material makes it a worthy inductee for the Decibel Hall of Fame.

Need more Sacrilege? To read the entire six-page story, featuring interviews with all members on Behind the Realms of Madness, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.