Review: Sacred Steel - Heavy Metal Sacrifice

Label: Cruz del Sur Music
Runtime: 47 Minutes
Released: October 14th, 2016

German power metal. There, now that we've weeded out the lactose intolerant, it's time to dig into Heavy Metal Sacrifice, the latest release by Sacred Steel, fronted by the 'siren of metal' himself: the incorrigible Gerrit P. Mutz. Heavy Metal Sacrifice is Sacred Steel's ninth full length album since their debut almost twenty years ago and their second for Cruz del Sur Music. One of power metal's undeniable workhorses, Sacred Steel have achieved admirable consistency of output over the years while never quite attaining the recognition afforded their peers. Will Heavy Metal Sacrifice break the cycle and usher Mutz and company into the gates of Valhalla?

It's impossible to discuss Sacred Steel without touching on the elephant in the room: Mutz's vocals. So let's get the obvious out of the way first. While they have been honed and refined over the years, the core of Gerrit P. Mutz's vocal stylings remains relatively unchanged over the past several albums. But would it still be Sacred Steel without the high-pitched nasal vocal attack? What Mutz lacks in range he more than makes up for in uniqueness, which has lent the band more than its fair share of fame and notoriety over the years. From time to time the vocals take a dive into growl territory, which are actually quite well done, but these passages are the exception rather than the rule. The bottom line is that if you couldn’t get past the vocals before, you'll likely find that little has changed.

Sacred Steel have always worn their influences on their collective sleeves, and never has this been more evident than on Heavy Metal Sacrifice. From the tongue firmly in cheek groan-inducing pun of the Manowar nod "Intro (Glory Ride)" to an homage to Agent Steel's "Bleed for the Godz" on the track "Hail the Godz of War", these German power thrashers aren't afraid to play tribute to their godz (of steel). It's a form of referential self-aware parody unseen since the days of Fredrik Nordström's cheddar-infused Dream Evil, and it works well here, lending the album an undercurrent of playfulness that surfaces from time to time to poke at the listener and remind them not to take all this swords n' sorcery stuff too seriously; it's all in good fun. So raise your tankard and wave a plastic sword in the air while belting out some battlefield anthems!

"(Intro) Glory Ride" ramps up the album with a short melodic gallop into the title track, a straight forward loincloth-clad romp through the battlefield that is pure classic Heavy Metal. The production here is top notch, the guitars punchy and the bass just audible enough to drive the rhythms along with the rumble of the war drums. From there the album stumbles on the mid-paced "The Sign of the Skull", a ponderous six-plus minute cut that grinds things to a halt before they ramp up again in "Hail the Godz of War".

The highlight of the album by far is the lead single "Let There Be Steel" which rips out of the gates with speed metal riffing and a catchy self-referential chorus. The true surprise, however, comes at 3:30, when the song breaks into a blues-y solo that somehow feels both completely out of place and just right at the same time followed by a slowly building vocal lament turned final call to battle reminiscent of classic Manowar. Other standout tracks include "Children of the Sky", a thrashy riff-fest that contains some of the record's only growled vocals, and "Vulture Priest", an inspired song taking cues from everything from classic power metal to modern melodic death metal guitar phrasing.

Heavy Metal Sacrifice doesn't break much new ground, but it is nonetheless a highly enjoyable slab of well produced power-thrash that will please long-time fans of Sacred Steel and newcomers alike provided they can wrap their heads around the unconventional vocals.



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