Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sacred Steel - Heavy Metal Sacrifice (2016)

The first thing I noticed about this ninth full-length offering from German stalwarts Sacred Steel, is that I had to turn it up a little bit. I had a hard time hearing it as the production volume is a little low. That's fine though, as they're obviously going for a much more raw approach to their brand of epic heavy metal. If you'll look on Metal Archives right now, you'll see a whopping 93% on this album by slayr666 and though that guy seems to know what he's talking about, I guess I'm going to come across as a bit of an alternative to the positive review. That's not to say that Heavy Metal Sacrifice is a bad record, but that perhaps it's not THAT good. I don't know, folks – somewhere along the line this one tends to lose me. If I can be honest, it might just boil down to the fact that I don't like Gerrit P. Mutz's (Angel Of Damnation, Battleroar, Dawn Of Winter) vocals. You see, even though the band have been together since '97, I've never heard these guys before now. Not even one single album. Musically, I think the record seems to combine thrash, power metal and classic heavy metal in a fine fashion. The songs are also thickly structured as much longer cuts like “The Sign Of The Skull” and “Let There Be Steel” manage to allow enough breathing room for more acoustic and slightly somber sections. Current guitarists Jens Sonnenberg and Jonas Khalil (My Darkest Hate) absoutely kill on this record, with a memorable drum performance offered by Matthias Straub (Naevus) and some nice bass licks from Kai Schindelar(Lanfear). As far as Mutz goes, I am not saying that he is a bad vocalist, but his performance here isn't really working for me. On most songs, that is. I absolutely love the almost doom-like structures given to “Beyond The Gates Of Ninevah” which offers a completely different approach to the band and livens up the formula quite a bit for me. Of the several songs I've listened to here, this one really works well for me even though it's the technical closer to the disc (the less said about “Iron Donkey” the better) and it's a bit unfortunate that it took nearly the entire listen before I found something that I really liked.

Going deeper into the listen, I begin to notice that there are some good thrash cuts here like “Hail The Godz Of War” and “The Dead Walk The Earth” which reminds me a lot of early Sabbat, and that's always a good thing. I'm also reminded of early Slough Feg (back when they were The Lord Weird Slough Feg) which also works for me. Let's even go with Satan. Yes, Satan works for me here as well. I suppose that fans of Satan, Slough Feg, Sabbat and several more (MA gives me acts like Skelator, Helstar, Running Wild and even 3 Inches Of Blood, which I agree with to varying degrees) will certainly find something to like in what feels like a very English inspired German heavy metal. I even hear some Primordial in the riffing that makes up “Vulture Priest” which is not an infleunce I expected. There's definitely a tribal vibe flowing through that one. So perhaps now that I've given the disc a chance to warm up, I should change my answer, as it were.

That being said, I still don't think this disc deserves a 93% but I'd certainly feel right giving it a strong 80%. Maybe if I listened to it a few more times, I would consider it even higher. Heavy Metal Sacrifice brings us back to the days when an individual actually had to sit down and fully take in an album, which is one reason that I think it might excel above some of their others (the average MA review scores from the band range from 55% to 80% respectively, but it mostly hovers within the upper seventies) and could net them the first 80% or 85% score percentage since the band's debut. I know that most of this must be boring you to tears, but it interests me greatly as a reviewer as it could literally be one of the best albums that these gentlemen have ever recorded. Maybe I'll even throw in the fact that Mutz's vocals are actually starting to grow on me a bit now. I gave this record an inaugural listen and noticed a couple things that I liked, but on this second one I'm really starting to notice quite a bit of things that I do like. If I haven't said it enough already, this is what I would definitely consider to be pristinely written and genuine heavy metal. When we get into the softer portion of “Let There Be Steel” we begin to experience true emotion, beefing up and already potent number from the beginning. Even if Mutz's vocals don't catch on with you in the beginning, you probably just need to sit down and soak it in. Heavy Metal Sacrifice isn't a fly by night recording by any means. You're going to have to listen to it in order to really understand the kind of adventure you're being taken on. There is definitely some modernism in the downtuned bass here and there, but the overall aura of the disc feels grained in the early eighties, even though these guys aren't in any way an eighties act.

Noting all of this, the disc is not perfect. “Iron Donkey” should have been scrapped and I won't even consider it part of the album. It's just a little silly thing that the band did on what is a very strong and serious album. Especially since it truly ends on such a powerful note as “Beyond The Gates Of Ninevah” a track that I could listen to many times over. I think it was that cut that really convinced me to dig back into some of the earlier cuts and give this record a truly fair observance. I would ask that you do the same. There's definitely something here, but it might not make itself known in the very beginning. Sacred Steel fans will be happy to know that Heavy Metal Sacrifice was well worth waiting for. Just give it some time, alright?

(11 Tracks, 48:00)


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