Sacred Reich - The American Way (1990)Release ID: 4792
Sacred Reich were one of the few bands that tackled serious political lyrics in the thrash metal scene back in the late 80s, early 90s. While I have to say it sounds a bit contrived and naive now, I found it to be extremely fresh when I was a youngster and connected with it. But this is certainly not the only thing of note about these guys. They created tight groove based (think Pantera) thrash metal that was a joy to listen to.
The American Way is where everything came together for them. While the debut was crippled by both production and a lack of identity, this album stood out from the crowd as something different. Phil Rind is a great vocalist with a low gruff style that suits the content perfectly. The drumming is tight and crushing, if not amazing. But it's the riffs that get me moshing every time. Some of these tracks are long and the band knew exactly when to change things up to stop boredom setting in.
Things do get a little preachy at times and 31 Flavors, while a decent attempt to teach metalheads that there are more musical styles to explore out there, stands out like a sore thumb. But The American Way still makes me smile nearly 20 years on and goes down as a solid, enjoyable album that I recommend to all in search of something thrashing yet thoughtful.
My first experiences with Phoenix-based thrash metallers Sacred Reich came through late-night underground metal radio programs in the very late 1980's with both their 1987 debut album "Ignorance" & 1988 "Surf Nicaragua" E.P. offering me plenty of appeal & commanding further attention. The first Sacred Reich record I'd purchase though would be their 1990 sophomore album "The American Way". It'd come in the form of a cassette copy that Ben & I would give a good hard flogging over the next year or so. The highlight tracks had received plenty of radio play in the weeks leading up to the purchase so I was pretty pumped when we finally picked it up & in some ways this revisit has indicated that perhaps I let that excitement cloud my judgement a touch.
"The American Way" sees Sacred Reich slowing things down from the approach they took on their more frantic debut album, this time opting for more of a mid-paced, groove-oriented sound that still highlighted their politically & socially motivated themes very well. It's a heavily riff-based record that's built around a unified sound & tight performances. Listening back now, I'd have to suggest that the drum sound wasn't ideal but it's not a deal breaker by any means. Front man Phil Rind's vocals are strong & clear which helps him to get his powerful messages across very well & there are some absolutely belting riffs on offer here too.
The tracklisting kicks off with the true classic of the album in "Love... Hate" which was very much an anthem for my late teenage years. Every time Sacred Reich kick back into the main riff after the chorus is a masterstroke & sees me thrashing around like a madman. I have to admit that some of the other tracks that I loved so much as a kid have lost a bit of their gloss if I'm being honest though. "Crimes Against Humanity" & "State of Emergency" are certainly very strong inclusions but neither reached the classic status I thought they might whereas the title track now seems to fall well short of the pedestal I've always placed it on. The album fades significantly in the back end too with "Who's to Blame" being pretty flat & the pointless funk rock novelty track "31 Flavors" tainting what had the potential to be a really strong thrash record.
Look, there's still easily enough great material to warrant your attention here but I can't say that I consider "The American Way" to be essential thrash metal listening any longer. It's more the type of album where I'd pull out the best few tracks for a gym playlist as some of this stuff (like the chorus of "The Way It Is" for example) hasn't stood the test of time as well as I'd hoped, potentially due to the relative simplicity & reduction in aggression from previous efforts. Despite the obvious production issues Sacred Reich experienced with "Ignorance", I consider it to be a step up from this record. "Surf Nicaragua" too actually.