Sacred Oath – s/t (2009, Angel Thorne Music)
- Paradise Lost
- Blood Storm
- Voodoo Dolls
- Counting Zeros
- High And Mighty
- Sacred Oath
- Caught In The Arc
- Buried Alive
- What The Dark Will Undo
- Hunt For The Fallen Angel
Rob Thorne – Vocals & Guitars
Kenny Evans – Drums
Bill Smith – Guitars
Scott Waite – Bass
Producer: Rob Thorne
Total Time = 50:15
American Metal pioneers Sacred Oath have been one of the most talked about bands in the underground for years. The band formed in 1985 and, after a couple of demos, recorded their debut, A CRYSTAL VISION, in 1987. Shortly after the band broke up and the legend of Sacred Oath began as they were called one of the leaders of traditional U.S. Metal. In 2005, the band reformed and has released three albums: a re-recording of the debut, a studio album and a live record. With the buzz surrounding the band at a high, the new self-titled album has been unleashed. SACRED OATH was initially released as an iTunes exclusive back in April and the band started getting a bunch of offers from labels worldwide. It’s good to point out that there are two versions of this album: the 10 song jewel case that I am reviewing here and the 14 song limited edition digipak that I am trying to track down.
Sacred Oath plays an old school style of Traditional Metal that can be described as Power Metal, Thrash, Speed Metal and NWOBHM all rolled into one explosive package. Think Judas Priest, Armored Saint, Diamond Head, Metallica, Metal Church, Queensryche and Iron Maiden all rolled into one. That’s one hell of a combination! Opening the album is the speed demon ‘Paradise Lost’ that reminds me of the NWOBHM mixed with the early Metal Blade and Megaforce bands. There’s a blend of styles with Speed Metal and early Power Metal but it has that raw NWOBHM quality, the essence of independent Metal. ‘Paradise Lost’ sets the tone for the enitre album with twin duelling guitars laying down speed riffs and cool solos while the rhythm section lays down a thick foundation. Right away I feel like I’m back in 1982 again and everything is new. ‘Blood Storm’ is another guitar heavy song that slows down slightly with a thick main riff and plenty of double bass pounding but the bridge and chorus are quite melodic and catchy. Same thing for ‘Voodoo Dolls’, it’s a driving powerful song that captures that early Power Metal sound without all the “dungeons & dragons” stigma that the European bands seem to live with. The bass on ‘Voodoo Dolls’ is incredible, as it is on the entire album, and really pushes the song.
The first single/video from SACRED OATH is ‘Counting Zeroes’, a mid-tempo song that sounds a little subdued compared to the first three tracks. The song reminds me of Queensryche with the higher vocals and the Melodic Metal style…..’Counting Zeros’ is probably the most commercial cut on the album.
One of my favorite songs on the album is ‘High And Mighty’ because it has the very cool Iron Maiden style guitar parts around the main riff structure. If you could just play the music without knowing the band or hearing the vocals, you would swear this was either Dave Murray or Adrian Smith dropping in the licks and solos on top of a very modern main riff. I hear those guitar parts and it just gets the headbanging. Same thing with the title track ‘Sacred Oath’, it sounds very Iron Maiden until Rob Thorne starts singing and he adds in his high Geoff Tate impression. Thorne still has a gruffness to his delivery but the highs sound like Tate in Queensryche pre-EMPIRE. The music on ‘Sacred Oath’ is right out of the Maiden playlist, especially come the solo with the twin leads and the bass…..great song. ‘Caught In The Arc’ stops the Maiden-isms and moves into the early Metallica era of Metal but ‘Buried Alive’ chugs along at a Maiden pace. Both songs are very heavy, especially ‘Buried Alive’ with it’s bass gallop and machine gun guitars.
Eight songs in and the band throws a curveball at us with a ballad! I really didn’t expect that at all but ‘What The Dark Will Undo’ is pretty cool. The beginning of the song relies on a melodic vocal from Thorne and subdued guitars and bass. Just when you think this is going to be a quiet ballad, a break in the Metal pounding, Rob Thorne breaks from his melodic vocal into a full-on scream and the band hits it hard again with breakneck riffs and pounding drums. It turns out ‘What The Dark Will Undo’ is one of the heaviest, and surprising, songs on the album! Closing out the record is ‘Hunt For The Fallen Angel’, another Power Metal feast that has a European flavor to it with it’s melodic flourishes and high end vocals. There’s also a little Progressive sound to the music (especially the bass) during the solo section, like early Dream Theater.
It’s hard to expect much from a band that released one classic record in 1987, broke up and reformed almost 20 years later but Sacred Oath have hit on all cylinders with this new self-titled album. There are a ton of influences here but in no way is Sacred Oath copying Iron Maiden, Metallica or Queensryche note for note. What they are doing is taking bits of each bands sound and making it their own. Traditional Metal is making a major comeback and pure Power Metal has been a force since the late ’90s but it seems like the majority of bands playing these styles are from Europe. It’s nice to hear an American band like Sacred Oath make an album that sounds so fresh because it sounds retro. My bottom line? One of the best albums of 2009 and one that I just can’t stop playing! Other bands should take notice. Now I have to track down the limited edition digipak because there are four additional original songs…..I’ll bet they are just as good as these ten.
The album is excellent and I like every song on it but, if I had to pick one song it would be ‘High And Mighty’. There is something about those guitar licks over that main riff that really catch my attention.