Release DetailsLABEL Cruz Del Sur Music
RELEASED ON 2/16/2013
...both a grand example of power metal done with spark and Sacred Steel’s best work to date.
The Bloodshed Summoning
Germany’s Sacred Steel comes from that uniquely European school of corny power metal, but up to now, they’ve usually managed to overcome all but one of their cliché-ridden faults through sheer enthusiasm. Sure, they exhibit Manowar-ian levels of goofiness – we’re talking songs about metal and swords and metal swords and witches and battles between witches and metal swords... But there’s something endearing (or at least, not abhorrent) about those well-worn topics to those listeners pre-disposed to enjoy this type of speedy, soaring, sing-along power.
But you’ll notice that I said “all but one” of their faults. Because, traditionally, across their twenty-five-year career, Sacred Steel has fallen short in one area: vocals. About three-quarters of the time, Gerrit P. Mutz’s voice is great – he’s a man of multiple voices, actually, alternating between a thrashy, almost death-ish growl, and a clean mid-range more typical of power metal. But he was also very prone to tossing in a few of these awful screams, the kind of wimpy high-pitched squeals your buddies make when they’re drunkenly attempting to sound like King Diamond. (I say “your buddies” because we all know that you don’t drunkenly attempt to imitate King Diamond, and anyway, if you did, you’d do it better than this.) In those screams, what appeal Sacred Steel had built up through the rest of their formula would evaporate, and the whole thing would cross the fine line from “power metal cheesery” into “ridiculous power metal cheesery.”
Somewhere between 2009’s Carnage Victory and now, Mutz must’ve decided to start listening to his critics, because The Bloodshed Summoning leaves those thin falsetto wails behind, and Sacred Steel is truly all the better for it. Add to that improvement a solid set of thrash-leaning power metal tunes, and Bloodshed is both a grand example of power metal done with spark and Sacred Steel’s best work to date.
With Mutz’ vocal woes thus resolved, it’s those tunes that really sell Bloodshed. Though this is nominally and mostly power metal, it’s angrier than most. A large part of The Bloodshed Summoning is flat-out thrashing, at times sounding almost like a slightly lesser Kreator. In the absence of wailing, Mutz further explores his growls and snarls, adding yet another thrash trope to the mix. Lyrically, Sacred Steel has shifted the focus from those chest-beating metal anthems and fantasy themes towards equally well-covered anti-religious sentiments (“No God No Religion,” “Under The Banner Of Blasphemy”), and that fist in the eye of God (vs. a fist in the air for meTAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL) is a further nod toward this heavier, less traditionally power-ful attack.
Sacred Steel wastes no time in summoning the bloodshed – there’s merely a quick drum fill to start, and then the band hits the ground at full speed with “Storm Of Fire 1916,” a fitting opening track and one of the best on hand. From there, Sacred Steel rips through twelve more fiery power/thrash tunes, with no duds and further highlights in “When The Siren Calls,” “Black Towers,” and “Under The Banner Of Blasphemy.” For the dedicated, there are three bonus tracks appended to the album itself, including a fun-but-unnecessary cover of The Misfits’ 1997 single “Dig Up Her Bones.” Honestly, about the only criticism I could truly level at Bloodshed is that, at fifteen total songs of epic melothrashpower in just over an hour, it does run a bit long and start to kind of wear itself out towards the end. Still, that’s something of an empty complaint, since I’m aware I can stop the music at any time, and too much of something good is certainly better than not enough.
For twenty-plus years, Sacred Steel has had the potential to make this type of record, but they’ve stubbornly refused, for whatever reason. Finally, they make the necessary adjustments to move themselves forward, and they (and we) are rewarded with their best record. By pushing themselves past those “true metal” clichés that seemed destined to define them, Sacred Steel has managed to be no less metal, and yet get a hell of a lot better.
All improvements notwithstanding, I’m sure the guys in Rigor Mortis would like to talk about the appropriation of their skull-and-axes mascot on the cover...