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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

CD Review: Sacred Oath - Sacred Oath

Sacred Oath - s/t
2009 Angel Thorne Music Company, LLC/Worldsound
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Back in the day there were certain bands I had pegged into certain timeslots of my weeknights and weekends, ones I considered my wind-down groups before slipping on the all-important nightcap album before bed. Sounds ridiculously over-structured for a teenaged headbanger of the eighties (and they thought us to be unorganized slobs), but somehow it ended up being that way. After the big gun bands made their appearance upon my returning home from work or school, there was that obligatory hour or so reserved for Blitzkrieg, Savatage, Executioner, Anvil, Piledriver, TNT, Raven, Keel, Lizzy Borden and such; you know, the less-celebrated groups relegated to the third tier of eighties metal heirarchy but still deserving of spinnage. Where was Sacred Oath in that stack?

Had I become an "Oathbanger" back in the day, I certainly would've had no qualms in slipping Sacred Oath into my relaxation rotation. The Connecticut power metallers, albeit briefly-lived during their original run, were certainly deserving of maybe a hair more recognition.

Sacred Oath, like Crimson Glory, were quickly lumped amongst the ranks of Queensryche disciples because they didn't quite fit the mold of popular heavy metal yet they were still buzzworthy in the eyes of the underground, despite the fact Queensryche themselves were still en route to being crowned momentary lords of prog metal.

Sacred Oath managed to get one album, A Crystal Vision out under their original incarnation before they packed their bags at the end of 1988, along with their label Mercenary Records.

In 2005 Sacred Oath reunited (sort of) with Rob Thorne and Kenny Evans and as they've recruited to their cause bassist Scott Waite and guitarist Bill Smith, the Oathbangers have been able to keep their sworn allegiance to the group with the 2007-released Darkness Visible and last year's ...'Til Death Do Us Part.

With an efficiency denied them in the eighties, Sacred Oath are back for a third serving in as many years with a self-titled album which largely rocks and has its heart right where it needs to be pumping with all chambers cleared.

If they are to be compared to Queensryche these days, Sacred Oath would have to be considered a point ahead in terms of aggression, tenacity and quicker tempos. Of course Geoff Tate has far more polished chops than Sacred Oath's Rob Thorne. That being said, on the Oath's latest enterprise, Thorne is on his game quite often while unfortunately off-kilter at times. The higher Thorne lifts his pitches, the more struggling comes about despite his commendable ability to hold notes for lengthy periods.

Honestly, Sacred Oath is a bouncing and frequently heavy album which may not be wholly perfect but has more moxy than over half of the eighties bands looking re-stake their claims. The opening number "Paradise Lost" is a high-charged fun tune with galloping tempos, savory guitar solos and a proud, booming charisma that would've had their original caste screaming ecstasy.

"Blood Storm" winds like a metallic top on a short drawstring which sets up the speedy and rowdy track "Caught in the Arc" appearing later in the album. In turn, "Buried Alive" is closer to Iron Maiden and WASP than Queensryche with its hooving power grooves. Ditto for the album's closer "Hunt for the Fallen Angel" which employs a terrific charge on the heels of Kenny Evans' punching throb.

Sacred Oath gains a bit more dynamic ground with trad power rock ditties like "Voodoo Dolls," "Counting Zeros" and "High and Mighty," the first two of which are less memorable, while the latter song bears more weight amidst its slick tunefulness. The title song, however, carries a nut-busting riff that is squashed by Rob Thorne's overzealous caterwauling.

Apparently incomplete without the power ballad "What the Dark Will Undo" which does rescue itself from wallowing into a corner with hard-strummed blaring overhead, Sacred Oath attempts to replicate not only the magic harnessed from A Crystal Vision, they likewise attempt to modernize their throwback sounds for extra staying power.

In all, Sacred Oath is an entertaining, resuscitated wave from a refuse-to-die group which still has something appreciably meaty to offer their Oathbanger faithful.

Rating: ***1/2

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