I Can’t Change, I Can Only Be Me: A Thing About Sacred Reich and Squandered Opportunities

This weekend marks the second annual Full Terror Assault open air metal festival in Cave-In-Rock, Illinois, and I was supposed to be there, and I’m not, and I’m sad about that. FTA is the first (and so far, only) “European-style” open air metal festival (à la Wacken, Dynamo, Hellfest, etc.) to take place in the United States. Beginning Thursday night and running through tonight, the festival promises “maximum brutality at maximum frugality” – tickets are dirt cheap for a festival, and they include camping. Plus, it’s BYOB, so you don’t have to give some asshole $10+ for shitty beer. Also, the lineup is amazing.

FINALPOSTERweb

See?

I’d planned all year on being there, but due to a series of stupid decisions and piss-poor planning on my part, I can’t afford it. To be honest, last year’s fest boasted a more solid overall lineup, with Napalm Death and Obituary headlining, along with Terrorizer, Eyehategod, Warbeast, Noisem, Broken Hope, Iron Reagan, and a ton of others. This year has Lockup, Master, Rotten Sound, and a different ton of others (they had Venomous Concept, until a visa issue kept guitarist John Cooke from entering the country), but the most exciting part for this old thrash fanatic is the mighty Sacred Reich performing a rare US show.

Since semi-coming out of retirement in 2006, Sacred Reich almost exclusively play the European festival circuit every summer and then stop performing live until the next summer, when they travel back to Europe. I can’t really blame them; it’s no secret that metal fans in Europe are more passionate in general than predominantly lazy-ass American metal fans, so why not go where you’ll be more appreciated? Still, though, they’re one of the old school bands that I’ve never had the chance to see live, and this was gonna be my chance, and instead, I’m sitting home listening to them and writing this dumb thing.

Sacred Reich was formed in 1985 in Phoenix, Arizona. They recorded a demo tape called Draining You of Life in 1986, then scored a deal with Metal Blade records after contributing the song “Ignorance” to that label’s Metal Massacre VIII compilation. They went on to release four full-length albums, one studio EP, a live EP, and a live full-length before breaking up in 2000.  1993’s Independent  very nearly brought the band some fame. The title track was featured in the 1993 movies Son-in-Law and The Program, and they scored a minor hit with the single “Crawling” (which I used to hear alongside White Zombie’s “Thunderkiss ’65”, Faith No More’s “Midlife Crisis”, Suicidal Tendencies’ “Nobody Hears”, and a whoooooooole lotta “grunge” on “Solid Rock X-103”, which later became “X-103, Indy’s New Rock Alternative”, and which is now “Alt 103.3”, which is just stupid, but I digress).

With the exception of a few songs, the band’s output was fiercely politically and socially conscious, covering topics such as US involvement in Central America, Aparthied in South Africa, the destruction of the environment, domestic racism, flaws in the US education system, etc. They played a major role in helping my young brain develop the worldview I hold as an adult, and I still very much hope to see them live some day.

The band reformed in 2006 after receiving offers to play European festivals, and they began performing live again in 2007. They have no plans to record new music, which I must say is a decision that I respect and admire. They are under no illusions regarding what their fans want, and that is to hear some classic goddamn thrash metal played at high volumes in front of thousands of like-minded maniacs, which is what they will be doing tonight at approximately 11:15 PM CDT. I will not be there in person, but I will be there in spirit, and the following songs will be in my forever-banging head.

“Death Squad” is the first song on the 1987 debut/masterpiece Ignorance. It’s a helluva way to kick off an album, and this live version is a helluva way to kick a ton of ass.

Here’s the title track…

“Violent Solutions” is my favorite song off Ignorance, and is maybe my favorite Sacred Reich song overall.

1988’s Surf Nicaragua EP is short and sweet, and by “sweet” I mean vicious. Here’s the superlative title track:

1990’s The American Way isn’t quite as solid as Ignorance, but it’s still a damn fine album and contains a few all-time classics, such as the title track, which was featured in the 1992 Pauly Shore/Brendan Fraser/Sean Astin “classic” Encino Man. Is it weird that 2 of the band’s 4 soundtrack appearances were in Pauly Shore movies? Is/was he a fan? I guess in a world where Pauly Shore was once a legitimate force at the box office, anything is possible. Anyway…

“The Way It Is” is also from The American Way, and is also a ‘banger…

Here’s “Independent”, from the 1993 album of the same name…

And here’s “Crawling”, from the same album…

And finally, here’s “Blue Suit, Brown Shirt”, the explosive anti-racist diatribe and album opener from 1996’s Heal

Man, would I ever love to hear that song live.

That’s all the time I have for now. If you’re at FTA II, enjoy the hell out of yourself. If you’re stuck somewhere else, crank up some Sacred Reich and try to ease the pain. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to stay heavy, always.

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