Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Sacred Warrior - Master's Command
   
Musical Style: Power Metal Produced By: Sacred Warrior & Dave Jahnsen
Record Label: Intense / Roxx Records Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 1989 / 2017 Artist Website:
Tracks: 11 Rating: 90%
Running Time: 49:09

Sacred Warrior - Master's Command

There’s something about ‘Ryche influenced power metal that makes hard music devotees go weak in the knees.  Perhaps it is the high-end, soaring and at times operatic lead vocals not unlike those of revered Queensrÿche front man Geoff Tate.  Maybe it is a technical proclivity rooted in the power metal aesthetic that also suggests of light progressive bearings.  It might also be a high level of musicianship found in a guitarist both melodic and searing, intricate double bass drummer, bassist that lays the detailed low-end foundation and keyboardist that underscores but not to a fault. 

With Sacred Warrior, it is all of the above in light of its dark but sophisticated take on the power metal form.  Arising  out of the late eighties Chicago, Illinois metal scene, Sacred Warrior recorded a pair of demos prior to landing a deal with Intense Records, which led to its 1988 debut full length RebellionRebellion rates with my favorite albums from the eighties, with unrivaled power metal anthems “Rebellion”, “The Heavens Are Calling” and “Stay Away From Evil” playing no small role in this regard and helping lend to a well deserved 95% Angelic Warlord review.  Yet, Rebellion did not come without its share of variety in the form of not only traditional metal and speed metal, “Master Of Lies” and “Children Of The Light”, respectively, but also ballad based territory in “He Died” and the blues leanings to “Famine”. 

Sacred Warrior followed up in 1989 (also on Intense) with sophomore effort Master’s Command, which while not potentially top heavy with as many great tracks, it delivered great continuity from not featuring quite the same level of diversity as its predecessor (observation and not critique either way).  I initially wrote a review of Master’s Command (85%) in 2006 at around the time I launched Angelic Warlord but for reasons unknown, I never got around to uploading it (guess you could say I am somewhat of a procrastinator).  What finally got the ball rolling and ultimately led me to rewrite the review from the ground up is the spring of 2017 Roxx Records limited edition vinyl and CD re-issue of Master’s Command.  The choice re-mastering to the re-release (and more on this later) led me to up the final grade to an every bit deserving 90%.

Immediate impression from the albums opening title track is how Sacred Warrior’s ‘Ryche influenced power metal designation is aptly earned, at least when factoring the silky smooth and effortless delivery to front man Rey Parra.  “Master’s Command” otherwise proves resolute in its mid-paced facets, starting to a spacey keyboard solo prior to impelling through its verses to an unequivocal guitar presence while lightening as airy backing vocals fade in to adorn the resplendent refrain.

“Beyond The Mountain” ups the tempo in taking a more melodic approach.  Sleek and fluid but not forsaking the Sacred Warrior propensity for the assertive, the song sets an elevated tone with its assured riff pedigree and demeanor that impresses of the enlivening.  Drummer Tony Velazquez puts on a literal clinic with his technical abilities, the kind of which helps him to rate with my favorite timekeepers of the period. 

“Evil Lurks” is this reviewer’s choice track.  The song ups the heaviness in reflecting a darker ambience, even from how it flows through its thickly done verses to decided bass but also precise in terms of the palatial feel to its intricately woven refrain.  Guitarist Bruce Swift proves aptly names from the fleet soloing he cuts loose with at the midway point and over the final minute.

Albums most aggressive cut is “Bound In Chains”, a heavy hitter that further heightens the guitar driven impetus and aligns it with the forceful low-end presence to match.  Despite the emphatic ardor at hand - I can see thrash fans finding “Bound In Chains” of interest - the song avoid repetitive territory from its creative technical underpinnings (a Sacred Warrior staple).  Instrumentally, the group continues to put its intricate flair on full display.

Master’s Command takes a lighter tone for ballad “Unfailing Love”.  Starting tranquilly to clashing symbols, the song serenely drifts to affable acoustic guitars and Parra’s genial delivery until it breaks out at the three-minute mark as bluesy guitars step forward to adorn the cordial scene.  Added bluesy soloing carries the final seconds.  Whereas “Unfailing Love” is very good as far as ballads go, I rate “He Died” slightly higher with its heartfelt emotion and dramatic renderings.

Also of a melodic nature is “Paradise”.  The song proves up-tempo manifest, with a rollicking momentum carrying it front to back in trending carefree territory as Steve Watkins provides the melodic bass focus and Rick Macias an airy keyboard essence.  Despite trending mellower territory - the group puts its generous vocal melodies on full display - “Paradise” is not afraid to up the heaviness at key moments.

Back to a heavier form with “Uncontrolled”, a bottom heavy mauler that hits hard as it gets with its contentious drum inclining and pummeling riff action throughout.  A light progressive facet manifests for occasional calmer passages lightened by acoustic guitar.  Swift tops things off with one of his more assertive lead guitar runs.

The guitar heavy momentum carries over onto “Many Will Come”.  The song proves galloping in capacity, yielding a muscular form suggesting of the unsparing and swarthy overtures that lend a haunting if not bottom heavy feel.  Accordingly, Velazquez sets the standard as it pertains to complex (if not jaw dropping) timekeeping abilities.

Sacred Warrior delivers the first and only instrumental of its career in “Onward Warriors”.  The song reinforces its share of variety, starting to eerie keyboards and doom-like guitars prior to kicking into high gear for the unflinching tempo that carries its remaining distance.  Yes, a bit short at just over three minutes but by no means a filler instrumental either.

Album reaches its aggressive apex on “The Flood” as Parra trades off with Vengeance Rising vocalist Roger Martinez.  As expected, the song pushes the intrusive boundaries, as Martinez leads the way with his caustic delivery, only occasionally giving way to wailing sirens as Parra lends a contrasting feel with his fitting angelic style.  Larry Farkas (also Vengeance Rising) provides the combative lead guitar. 

Closing things out is a melodic hard rock cover of the classic hymn “Holy Holy Holy”.  Sacred Warrior imbues its signature sublime flavorings to the song, placing emphasis on ample polished vocal melodies but not forsaking its forward aspects as found in the distinct guitars that assert themselves.  The upshot is a setting that speaks of the grand and stately.

Bassist Steve Watkins handles re-mastering, which proves a significant upgrade over the original.  Everything receives a much-needed facelift, with low-end standing out in the fuller and warmer manner and guitars coming across better defined.  In fact, I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that the Master’s Command re-master is among the best I have heard, ranking alongside Saint’s Too Late For Living (J. Powell of Steinhaus), Daniel Band’s Running Out Of Time (also Steinhaus) and Deliverance’s What A Joke (Ysidro Garcia).

The next logical step would be for Watkins to re-master the three remaining albums in the groups repertoire and then for Sacred Warrior to release a career retrospective box set (in similar fashion to what Leviticus did last year with its back catalog).  I would not complain if they included a fifth disc made up of demo tracks, outtakes, unreleased material, live recordings, etc.

In terms of packaging, cover art has been revised (courtesy of Scott Waters) while staying true to the original.  That said, instead of a 4-panel digi-pak I wish 6-panels had been used instead to include liner notes written by the band about the Master’s Command era of its career or at the very least the promo picture on the back of the CD to the original Intense version (lyrics are available at Metal Archives).

Lyrics leave little doubt as to how Sacred Warrior might be better described as a ‘Ryche influenced Christian power metal band’ (emphasis added).  The ‘command’ in the albums title track is to love one another:

How can you say to me that you love me
Yet have so much hate for your brother?
Don't you know that the law says we're murderers
If we hate one another?

Why can't we forgive one another
And learn to be just like I AM
Why don't we just love one another
And do as the Master commands?

“Beyond The Mountain” talks of persevering in the faith:

So many times you feel
You're left alone just standing
Well let me say that's nothing new!
The righteousness displayed
By Christ they all rejected
They hated Him and they'll hate you!

So count it joy
When you are headed for the wall
And just remember He's the meaning of it all

Beyond the mountain, is the place for you and me

The meaning behind “Paradise” is self-explanatory:

For the kingdom of heaven shall dazzle the faithful
It's walls made of jasmines and gold
With sounds of singing angels
Giving praise to His name

And we won't need the sun or the moon
To shine on us
The glory of God gives us light
And the Lamb is our lamp
No darkness will enter our lives

“Many Will Come” focuses on the source of salvation:

If you believe
That He has come
Back from the dead
To save the souls of everyone
He'll give you life abundantly
And in the Father's hands
That's where we all will be

We will see Him standing
When the rest are gone
He'll be dressed in white
And He will shine

Call me a ‘fan boy’, but Sacred Warrior rates with my all time favorite bands.  This much becomes obvious when referencing my already noted 95% grade to Rebellion and how fourth Sacred Warrior full length Obsessions also scored 90% (if Wicked Generation, the groups third offering, received proper re-release I would give it 85%).  To say that I have a soft spot in my heart for power metal bands with high-end vocalists would be an understatement, noting how I maintain a similar affinity for Recon, The Sacrificed, early Jacobs Dream and Faith Factor.  If you share similar musical tastes then the Roxx Records re-release of Master’s Command comes highly recommended, particularly if you are a vinyl aficionado.  Even if you own the original, I strongly suggest picking up the re-issue due to the significant improvements from the re-mastering.

Review by Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “Master’s Command” (4:53), “Beyond The Mountain” (4:25), “Evil Lurks” (4:26), “Bound In Chains” (3:45), “Unfailing Love” (5:31), “Paradise” (5:21), “Uncontrolled” (3:47), “Many Will Come” (3:53), “Onward Warriors” (3:13), “The Flood” (4:15), “Holy, Holy, Holy” (4:27)

Musicians
Rey Parra - Lead Vocals
Bruce Swift - Guitars
Rick Macias - Keyboards
Steve Watkins - Bass
Tony Velazquez - Drums

Additional Musicians
Roger Martinez - Lead Vocals
Larry Farkas - Guitars

 

Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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