Review: Sacral Rage – Beyond Celestial Echoes
Many would say that the glory days of technical speed, thrash, and heavy metal are behind us. Many feel that bands like Helstar haven’t had much in the way of competition in the style since the ‘80s except from other classic bands that are still kicking (Heathen and Satan have certainly had excellent comebacks that manage to jam in technical wizardry alongside killer riffs and songwriting, among a couple others), and honestly, those nay-sayers wouldn’t be entirely wrong. After all, the old days when there were more amazing heavy metal bands than anyone knew what to do with are definitely gone.
However, that’s not to say that quality heavy metal, thrash, or speed metal are only made by classic bands. Some of the best newer stuff is made by relative newcomers, and with Sacral Rage’s debut album, Illusions in Infinite Void, Sacral Rage proved that they can stand up to the best of modern speed and heavy metal with the adept merging of stylings from bands like Helstar, Mercyful Fate, Crimson Glory, and more to form a sound that manages to both be a throwback to an older era as well as a solidly newer and totally original raging monster of an album.
Now Sacral Rage are back again with a new album, more rabid to impress and delight than ever. The essential Sacral Rage sound of strange technical speed riffing spaced out with simpler speed metal rhythm guitar and Mercyful Fate leads has been taken a step further, with even crazier leadwork, more frantic vocals (as often affecting a particularly piercing imitation of John Cyriis as they do James Rivera), and an even heavier amount of raging thrash. Sacral Rage have always claimed a huge amount of influence from classic Annihilator, but it shows more on Beyond Celestial Echoes alongside what sounds like some additional influence from bands like DBC or Voivod. The result is the cessation of the era of speed metal Sacral Rage, and the birth of tech power/thrash masters instead.
Never a band to be shoehorned into a single category, though, Sacral Rage don’t let the above comparisons encompass the entire album. Moments of clear death metal influence (listen carefully, and you’ll hear an entire section halfway through lifted from “Immortal Rites”) dance with ‘70s prog rock, space rock, and even early European power metal. The basswork is unfortunately not as distinctive in the mix as you might want, but it has its moments where it rises above in a break or by virtue of playing a line a bit different from the guitars. “Suspended Privileges” in particular has some pretty tasty bass. The drum recording similarly is nothing that screamed out at me, but it’s extremely competent, sits nicely in the mix, and the performance compliments well the absolutely insane guitar playing. Any band should be happy to have a drummer as capable as Vagelis is- and indeed, many Greek bands are, judging by how many projects he’s involved with.
My only real complaint about the record is how incredibly goofy the fifth song, “Samsara (L.C.E.),” is for the middle part where Dimitris counts in song form under a riff that isn’t quite good enough to make up for it. Aside from that Sacral Rage have somehow managed to build on their fantastic first record while also doing something somewhat different, an incredible accomplishment for a band that already put out one of my favorite records of the last few years. Even the fourteen minute long epic closer to the album- which really reminds me of what I wish the newest Vektor sounded like (though I don’t want to spoil anything by saying more!)- is a total triumph. Once again, Cruz Del Sur Music has come through in delivering us a modern record of utmost quality, and I’m excited for the day I can own it.