|Musical Style: Power Metal||Produced By: Harry Witz|
|Record Label: Intense||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1991||Artist Website: Sacred Warrior|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 90%|
|Running Time: 42:34|
I would like to challenge anyone reading this to name a band that had a better four year run than Chicago, Illinois based Sacred Warrior between 1988 and 1991. Putting out such critically acclaimed albums as Rebellion (1988), one of the finest debut releases this reviewer has heard, Masters Command (1989), the dark concept album Wicked Generation (1990) and Obsessions (1991), Sacred Warrior represented the mark of consistency from the late eighties to the early nineties.
Obsessions found Sacred Warrior hitting its stride in peak form. The album maintains the group’s penchant for power metal with touches of the progressive but this time blending in the occasional commercial element. As a matter of fact, I cannot help but agree with Joey Knight (Stryken), who wrote the following in his review of Obsessions from Heaven’s Metal 25 (1991): “The album has a more melodic overtone than the previous albums, but maintains the hard edge Sacred Warrior is known for”.1
Those “melodic overtones” stand out best on the melodic metal of album opener “Wings Of A Dream” and the two classy ballads that follow, “Sweet Memories” and “Turning Back”. That “hard edge” in question, of course, also comes into play, best demonstrated on the technical power metal of “Obsessions” and “Kamakazi” in addition to straightforward barn burners “Fire From Heaven” and “Temples On Fire”. The stylish “Mad Man” reflects the progressive side to the bands songwriting skills while “Remember Me” combines facets of the heavy and the commercial.
Vocalist Rey Parra, with his penchant for the high end and the operatic, helps lend to the groups comparisons to old Queensryche, Fates Warning, Recon, Jacobs Dream (David Taylor era) and Faith Factor. Knight goes on to describe Parra’s performance as “not only powerful, but now (with) a more smoother flow, which he controls very nicely”.2 The ballads “Sweet Memories” and “Turning Back” find Parra exhibiting a smoother side to his delivery while he cuts loose in more powerful fashion on rousing numbers “Temples On Fire” and “Mad Man”.
The guitar team of Bruce Swift and newcomer John Johnson (Zeal) perform capably as well, laying down an abundance of riffs and melodies, some hard hitting and aggressive and others reflecting those previously referenced melodic tendencies, but shine in the soloing department as well. “Wings Of A Dream” brings some fast paced guitar leads while the two cut loose in grittier fashion on “Obsessions” but it is on “Mad Man” – with its extended instrumental moments – that the bands musicianship shines.
Tony Velasquez, ranking with the better drummer of his era, puts in an admirable performance (he really shows off on the albums title track) as does bassist Steve Watkins.
Production values are competent if not unremarkable. A step up in comparison to Sacred Warrior’s previous work Wicked Generation, Obsessions brings the cleaner sound overall, although the rhythm guitar could have been beefed up a bit more.
“Wings Of A Dream” brings a polished melodic metal based sound. One of the more commercial numbers in Sacred Warrior’s repertoire, the song takes an inviting chorus and joins it with an upbeat – almost infectious – momentum and the bands penchant for the instrumentally driven. Bruce Swift and John Johnson shine with their tight harmonies and deft lead work.
Whenever a band places two ballads on a nine song album they are taking a risk- and even more so when they are said albums second and third tracks. But Sacred Warrior pulls it off in that “Sweet Memories” and “Turning Back” both represent top of the line efforts.
“Sweet Memories” proves the more haunting of the two. The song starts calmly to some quietly played guitar before slowly and gradually building impetus, not picking up in pace until the rhythm guitar steps forward to drive its emotionally charged chorus. Keyboards play a prominent but complementary role while Parra stands out with his silky, smooth vocal delivery. “Sweet Memories” reflects upon the loss of a loved one:
I remember all the things
You used to say
The times we shared together
The many tears we’ve shed
Bt now it seems as though
I talk to barren walls
I know someday I’ll see you again
But till then
Oh, sweet memories
“Turning Back” heads in the slower direction in reflecting the more heartfelt if not blues based feel. An acoustic guitar makes its presence felt throughout the song – as does accentuating keyboards and traces of rhythm guitar – while polished backing vocals shore up its impassioned chorus.
Now, at just the moment you are beginning to think that Sacred Warrior are turning soft or losing its trademark muscle, the group delvers into three classic power/progressive numbers in “Obsessions”, “Kamakazi” and “Remember Me”.
The albums title track proves a slugfest, five minutes of in your face riffing, pulsating drums and technical time changes- all the while distant vocal harmonies help even out the unrelenting environs. An aggressively delivered chorus - “Binding obsessions! Binding obsessions!” – gives way to a span of gutsy lead guitar. Velasquez steps to the plate during the songs final seconds with some pounding double bass. “Obsessions” talks about the many types of obsessions in the world:
It’s all a competition
To see who will get
The bigger bite
Men driven by obsessions
The more they get the more
To have it all, they gotta see
They’re plaques upon the wall
“Kamakazi” showcases the darker and swarthier sound. Bottom heavy in feel but still giving prominence to quite the pronounced melody, the song finds itself compelled by a galloping guitar riff while the bouncing rhythm will have you returning time and again. Put this on Jacobs Dream’s Theater Of War and it would sound right at home.
“Remember Me” brings some of the commercial touches represented on the albums first three tracks but with a greater guitar driven proclivity. Moving in the more subdued – if not ethereal – direction in comparison to the two preceding it, the song stands out with a catchy chorus bordering on the mesmerizing and lyrical direction written from the standpoint of the thief on the cross:
You’re a man who’s done no wrong
Yet everyone despises You
Yes, crucify the King of the Jews
For my crimes I’ll do my time
I dared to cross forbidden lines
When You leave here let me follow
Please remember me
Please remember me
I tell you the truth
Today you’ll be with me in paradise
On “Fire From Heaven” and “Temples On Fire” Sacred Warrior strips away some of its progressiveness and takes a more straightforward and aggressive heading.
I might describe “Fire From Heaven” as the albums fastest composition. No, this one might not bring the catchiest of hooks but it does not need to when taking into consideration its powerful aura and relentless guitar assaults. Snarling its full distance, the song stands out with a sweeping chorus proclaiming God’s judgment is at hand:
Fire, fire from Heaven
Burning up everything
Sea to sea
Nothing can stand in the way
Of the judgment
When it begins with Godly desire
Fire, fire righteous and holy
Wiping out all the intended disease
Will you be part of this
Or will you be saved
From this terrible siege?
“Temples On Fire” proves every bit as unremitting. Introduced to a drum solo, the song rushes through its first and second verses in full fury only to culminate for a rollicking chorus aligning itself with the all out brazen momentum. A blistering run of lead guitar proves every bit as complementary.
If I were to compile a list of Sacred Warrior’s better songs I would place “Mad Man” at or near the top. Six minutes of progressive power metal, the song highlights acoustic bases passages, others held sway by a dominant rhythm guitar, cacophonies of chilling vocal harmonies and nothing less than a brilliantly executed chorus. I enjoy how “Mad Man” slows near its end to an acoustic guitar as Parra – his voice placed at the back of the mix – encourages the listener to serve God:
Deep inside you can find the answer
And He can wipe your tears away
Your tears away
Receive Him now don’t reject Him
Oh, He’s God, oh don’t you dare?
From there isn’t a holiday
You might not even understand
Of watching you throwing
Your life away
Obsessions does an excellent job standing the test of time. The album, if anything, brings an element of accessibility and consistency that was not always present on the groups earlier efforts- at least Masters Command and Wicked Generation (Rebellion, in my opinion, is a classic). The only constructive comment to offer is some slight thinness in the area of production (at least in terms of the rhythm guitar) but otherwise this is solid from the ground up.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Wings Of A Dream” (4:48), “Sweet Memories” (4:31), “Turning Back” (4:11), “Obsessions” (4:46), “Kamakazi” (4:49), “Remember Me” (4:40), “Fire From Heaven” (4:16), “Temples On Fire” (4:03), “Mad Man” (6:13)
Rey Parra – Lead Vocals
Bruce Swift – Guitars
John Johnson – Guitars
Steve Watkins – Bass & Keyboards
Tony Velasquez - Drums
Knight, Joey. “Obsessions review.” Heaven’s Metal 25 (1991): 36.
1. Joey Knight, “Obsessions review”, Heaven’s Metal 25 (1991): 36
2. Joey Knight, “Obsessions review”, Heaven’s Metal 25 (1991): 36