For the 30th anniversary of their debut album, Ignorance, politically-charged thrash metal band Sacred Reich is currently touring the U.S. In these strange, tumultuous times in our nation and the world, some good old fashioned activist-minded 80s metal should be in order. Along with Single Bullet Theory and Byzantine, the Reich ripped apart Philadelphia’s Voltage Lounge.
Local thrash/death metal group Single Bullet Theory was up first. I thought it was interesting that they also have a politically-related name. They definitely brought the heat to the Monday night show, starting it off with a bang. Guitarist Matt DiFabio‘s screams and growls were intense, and the band’s overall sound matched. Really aggressive and ferocious, they had a controlled chaos that was very enjoyable in a live setting.
Byzantine, who was touring with Reich, was sandwiched in the middle of the show. Right off the bat, frontman Chris Ojeda had this energy and enthusiasm that was contagious. The groove metal band hailing from West Virginia really knew how to mix it up, delivering a number of sounds. Their slower tempo moments were a real punch to the gut following their more thrashy movements. I can see why Sacred Reich chose them to open for them: there’s a certain tenacity about them, with solid riffs and heavy vibes.
Opening with the theme song from 2001: A Space Odyssey over the sound system, Sacred Reich took the stage, all in plain black t-shirts. I respect their no frills approach and lack of theatrics, allowing the music to be front and center. From the powerful chugging of “One Nation” to the melodic “Crimes Against Humanity,” they slammed a set full of hits. I love how the band has the typical thrash stuff like “The American Way” and “Surf Nicaragua,” but can also slow it down for numbers like “Who’s to Blame”. The latter track really epitomizes the blacklash of Reganism against metal music. Between the Satanic panic and endless anti-drug propaganda, the 80s social conservative era was not favorable toward metal. It’s a bit silly in retrospect, but was a serious thing back then. Sacred Reich was a clear response to that.
Back to the music though. The band was as tight as they could be, and vocalist Phil Rind still has it. They have the original lineup too, which not many bands from the 80s can say. Their material has aged really well; they have so many killer riffs, it’s crazy. You gotta love their standard “War Pigs” cover too, a metal classic that perfectly fits within their canon.
The mostly gen-x crowd was really digging it. Lots of old-school thrashers in the audience, and even a young guy who looked like he just time traveled from 1987. There was a small pit that was formed. I guess not too many people were up for thrashing around on a Monday night. There were a couple times it got slightly out of hand and security came rushing in. Odd for a small pit, but Phil responded with love and understanding.
With songs about freedom, pollution, and important relationships, Sacred Reich’s themes sill hold true. Phil hinted at possible new material, and it would be interesting applying their sensibilities to the modern political landscape. I’m definitely open to it. Long live the Reich!
Sacred Reich Set list:
2. Administrative Decisions
3. One Nation
5. Victim of Demise
6. Violent Solutions
7. Crimes Against Humanity
8. Who’s to Blame
11. War Pigs (Black Sabbath cover)
12. The American Way
13. Death Squad
14. Surf Nicaragua