|Musical Style: Power Metal||Produced By: Caesar Kalinowski|
|Record Label: Intense Millennium||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1988/2010||Artist Website: Sacred Warrior|
|Tracks: 13||Rating: 95%|
Sacred Warrior got its start in the mid-eighties when vocalist Rey Parra, guitarist Bruce Swift and drummer Tony Velazquez were part of a Chicago based secular band named Nomad. Swift was the first of the three to become a Christian and played an influential role in Parra and Velazquez making decisions for Christ. Subsequently putting together a new band to make music reflective of their faith, the three began praying for a bass player and soon met Steve Watkins at a local Bible study while keyboardist Rick Macias was later recruited after attending an impromptu jam session. The group decided on the Sacred Warrior moniker because it reflects that not only their commitment to Christ is sacred but that as warriors they need to put on the armor of God and prepare themselves for battle on a daily basis.
Rebellion is Sacred Warrior’s 1988 Intense Records debut after signing with the label on December 13, 1987. The album, long out of print and a hard to find collectors item, was re-mastered and re-issued in late 2010 by Intense Millennium Records with new artwork and two bonus tracks, “Day By Day” and “Prince Of Peace”, taken from Sacred Warrior’s unreleased demo from 2001.
Sacred Warrior plays classic American power metal that fans of Queensyrche, Fates Warning, Jacobs Dream (David Taylor era), Recon and Faith Factor will embrace. When playing music of this capacity, a vocalist who can hit a high note is a must, and such is what we have in Rey Parra, whose high pitched and operatic style helps lend comparison to the previously referenced bands. Progressive based pieces “Rebellion” and “The Heavens Are Calling” find him at his silkiest and smoothest, although when stretching he exhibits the full range to his voice on the stunning ballad “He Died”.
Musicianship shines as well. It all starts with guitarist Bruce Swift, a fast and fluid player who wears his main influence, Randy Rhodes, on his sleeves in no uncertain terms. His soloing on the speed metal influenced “Children Of The Light” and epic flavored “Day Of The Lord” proves he is, well, aptly named while a softer side to his playing can be found on the bluesy and laid back “Famine”.
Tony Velazquez, in this reviewer’s estimation, rates with the better metal drummers of his era. He best showcases his proficient and technical style on heavy hitters “Mad, Mad World” and “Master Of Lies” but when called upon can also deliver a profusion of double bass (see “Children Of The Light”). Keyboardist Rick Macias performs capably as well, reflected in the highlighting touches he adds to the melodic “Sword Of Victory” and ominously commercial “Stay Away From Evil”.
While Rebellion was originally recorded in less than ten days and on a minimal budget, I always found its production to be quite solid for the time. The re-mastering, however, makes a good thing even better in allowing for the heavier guitar sound, cleaner mix of leads and keyboards and weightier low end. The re-issue comes highly recommended as a result.
There is good and bad news to report in regards to the new album artwork. Good in that it is superior to the original; bad in that it could have been better. If you are a label releasing an album entitled Rebellion by a power metal band named Sacred Warrior, then wouldn’t it make better sense to include artwork reflecting a “medieval and/or high fantasy theme mixed with spiritual warfare overtones” as opposed to the fluffy black and white floating angel we end up with? See album artwork from the likes of Blind Guardian, Rhapsody Of Fire and Seventh Avenue to gain an understanding how this could have been done better.
Track By Track
I always have had mixed feelings about “Black Metal”. Musically, it is a superior number bringing all that works well with Sacred Warrior: forthright tempo, galloping riffs in abundance and Parra wailing with the best of them. It is also one of the albums more melodic based tracks. That being said, lyrics cannot help but leave you scratching your head:
Long hair parted between the eyes
Silk pants wrapped tight around your thighs
Each day goes by you're living a dream
You try so hard, say what can I do
Or how can I make it
Why not admit it's a part of a dream
Countless hours spent in front of the mirror
You've really made it clear
The following, however, sums things up best:
Why do you want to follow the leader
You should set the example
You gotta want to be like Jesus the messiah
He's a jealous God
He wants you to serve Him with your life
Straightforward heavy metal would be the best way to describe “Mad, Mad World”. This one finds the group cranking up the energy level and settling into a mid-paced groove. The end result is the joining of bass and drums that carry the song during its verses and forward rhythm guitar buttressing its driving chorus.
It does not get much better than “Stay Away From Evil”, a dark and swarthy number giving rise to a slight touch of the commercial. With highlighting keyboards leading the way, the song charges forward from the start in high energy fashion, not culminating until reaching a chorus with one of those gripping hooks you will be challenged to ride of your mind (this is where that commercialism in question comes into play). The bands passion and emotion cannot be denied on this one.
The same can be said for the ballad “He Died”. Yes, this is the albums least “power metal influenced” tracks with its melodically driven approach. But does that mean it is any less of a work? By all means no in that the song proves expertly done with its complementary joining of piano and guitar and Parra’s moving vocal performance. I say “He Died” holds up well next to any ballad from the era. The focus is on Christ’s work on the cross:
He died for you and I
On that day
As He hangs on the cross
For you and I
He said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do"
And when they hung Him on the cross
His face they did not recognize
And when they saw Him hanging there
Oh, the pain
Quite the contrast is presented with the relentless “Children Of The Light”. A two and a half minute double bass driven romp, the song places emphasis on front to back up-tempo riffing along with a guitar solo in which Bruce Swift stays true to his name. Same darker moments in the backdrop make their presence felt as well.
“Rebellion” ranks with the albums finest. The song brings a slight progressiveness, reflected in an intricate chorus that starts slow and bass heavy only to pick up in pace for the more decisive tempo at the end. Otherwise, “Rebellion” stands out with a cool intro in which bouncing tom-toms give way to a well timed "Oh-woah-oh-woah-oh- woah-woah-woah" from Para. It also must be noted the tightness to the bands performance, particularly during the racing instrumental section featuring some cow bell and rhythm guitar interplay. Lyrics revolve around rebelling against Satan and turning to God as the answer:
Well you're falling from God
And it's such a shame
You know Satan is the one
That you've gotta blame
Yes, there's an answer
And it's waiting for you
Turn back to Jesus
You know what to do
“Day Of The Lord”, a slower and more mid-paced track, brings an epic feel. Perhaps it is the fixed riff structure or emphasis on the grand and stately, but the song almost exudes a worshipful quality, as can be found in its majestic chorus:
On that day oh Lord in the sky
Praise your name Lift Him up so high
On that day
Contrasting with the sublime environs is quite the intense guitar solo.
“The Heavens Are Calling” is as heavy – and as good – as it gets. What we have here is an emotional onslaught of bone crushing riffs and a heavy hitting rhythm section that creates an ominous if not all out prevailing milieu. The resulting power and intensity hints at Theater Of War era Jacobs Dream. But you will find some progressive elements as well, demonstrated in a quieter (almost operatic) passage at the halfway point that gives way to a fierce instrumental passage. “The Heavens Are Calling” touches upon the second coming:
Won't you join us all you people
Behold He's coming from above
Father's wrath upon His hands
All the kings shall bow and all authority shall fall
For it is said that your worldly possessions shall fade away
But in His kingdom what you'll have is here to stay
See the lights shine on the shadows of the world
Seven scrolls of wrath are poured upon this land forevermore
Our God is calling for the time He comes is near
When He will rule throughout the land
Then all the people of the earth shall mourn
Because they'll see that He is the One
Ohh the heavens are calling
Ohh so give glory to the King
A bluesy vibe can be found on “Famine”. Rather than hitting hard, fast and heavy – as many of the previous tracks do – “Famine” switches gears and takes the more low-key and relaxed approach with Swift’s stylish playing lending to the bluesy scene. It works in that what we have is an underappreciated track that helps make an already very good album that much better.
“Master Of Lies”, similar to “Mad, Mad Word”, is a straight on metal assault characterized by its knife-edged guitar riffs and unwavering tempo. No, not the albums catchiest but solid nonetheless in mirroring the bands trademark power and proclivity for the portent. Subject matter is self explanatory:
Well I'm gonna tell ya a little story
About a man named lucifer
He is the master of deception
And he wants to see you burn
He's got the power in him to make the evilness to come out
And I tell you this my friend
That evil man won't rest until he's done his evil deed for the day
He'll take away your pride then he laughs as he walks away
He's got you thinking that everything that you do is OK and right
The choice is yours my friend beware
“Sword Of Victory” closes things in melodic fashion. An almost anthem-like feel is put forth by this one, as found in the regal flavorings to its chorus and hints of symphonic keyboards in the backdrop. Additional keyboards make their presence felt at the start of an instrumental passage driven by an intent guitar solo.
The demo bonus tracks might depart from the classic Sacred Warrior power metal sound but are well done, although a bit thin from a production standpoint. “Day By Day” is a bluesy hard rocker with a pronounced bass line and “Prince Of Peace” a worship rock number featuring a strong melody.
I have always appreciated the consistency of Rebellion. In an era in which many Christian metal albums featured just 9 songs and around 35 minutes of music, Rebellion was a true full length effort in bringing 11 good songs and coming in at just over 40 minutes. This is a major factor contributing greatly to the final score of 95%. As for the re-issue, get it for the improvements as a result of the re-mastering but do your best to overlook the new artwork.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Black Metal" (4:40), "Mad, Mad World" (4:16), "Stay Away From Evil" (2:46), "He Died" (3:55), "Children Of The Light" (2:38), "Rebellion" (4:29), "Day Of The Lord" (3:36), "The Heavens Are Calling" (4:32), "Famine" (5:12), "Master Of Lies" (3:13), "Sword Of Victory" (3:30), “Day By Day” (4:07), “Prince Of Peace” (3:31)
Rey Parra – Lead Vocals
Bruce Swift - Guitars
Rick Macias – Keyboards
Steve Watkins – Bass
Tony Velazquez - Drums