Review by Daniel for Sacred Reich - The American Way (1990)
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.