Technical Thrash / Speed / Power Metal from Greece
Greece – the land of ancient history, deep natural beauty, delicious food, and most importantly – a heavy metal scene virtually untouched by mainstream trends. The Hellenic metal scene has always fascinated me because of its sheer intensity and passion despite not being an early hotbed for heavy metal. The Greek scene developed a bit later and has some of the biggest die-hards around with few bands following what’s popular in the scene. Even in an environment like this Sacral Rage stand out to me as a band who are very intent on doing their own damn thing. Illusions of Infinite Void brought on a barrage of top-notch, Helstar-influenced speed metal that very few bands are pursuing these days. These Greeks are back at it again with their second full length album, titled Beyond Celestial Echoes, out just last week on Cruz Del Sur Records.
Illusions of Infinite Void was one of my absolute favorite releases of 2015. It was a completely unexpected surprise to be sure – here was this young band who just put out what is essentially the best Helstar type album since Destiny’s End – Breathe Deep the Dark. However, to say that Sacral Rage’s last effort was influenced only by Helstar would be egregious and dismissive of the band’s array of sounds. They blended a wide range of influences on top of that Helstar base including other US power/speed acts such as Agent Steel and Liege Lord in addition to technical thrash metal outfits like Watchtower, Toxik, and Annihilator. Sacral Rage’s newest effort shifts the gears a bit. Instead of a US power / speed metal base, the music’s core sound is rooted in technical thrash metal. The Helstar is still there, but more as an accent than anything else.
Beyond Celestial Echoes takes Sacral Rage to the extremities of their sound. The songs are as cutthroat and complex as they ever have been. The closest comparison for this album is perhaps Deadly Blessing and Realm – bands who took a very technical approach to thrash metal and blended it with the more aggressive side of US power. There’s a little more going on with Beyond Celestial Echoes than Illusions of Infinite Void. I pick up hints of influence from death and black metal that weren’t nearly as present on the debut. For example, “Samsara (L.C.E.)” closes out with an absolutely chilling and nefarious tremolo picked riff topped off by fast-paced blast beats. While not always as blatant as one minute of blasting, the extreme metal touches are present throughout the rest of the album as well. Sacral Rage have really stretched their creative muscles with this record and made something entirely their own.
There’s a clear shift in songwriting and album structure displayed on Beyond Celestial Echoes that shows off the band’s creativity. The songs themselves are a lot more technical and thrashy in nature, but Sacral Rage are also more ambitious overall. There are a number of longer songs and a monstrous fifteen minute epic that closes the album out. I couldn’t have imagined this working on the debut, but Sacral Rage execute it here tastefully. Make no mistake about it though, despite a new direction in sound and structure the band nails it. The instrumentation coming out of Spyros, Vagelis, and Marios is tighter and more varied than ever. Vocalist Dimitris always preferred to use his highs, but it’s taken to the next level on the new album. He does his best impression of “Greek Thrasher meets King Diamond” as he utilizes his falsetto for virtually the entire duration of the record. His vocals are great but this is the one area on the album that lacks diversity – the vocal lines themselves are too similar and uniform for my liking on an otherwise incredibly varied album.
To me, there are really no glaring flaws on this album. With that said, Sacral Rage’s sound is pretty intense. There’s a lot going on here and this technical, riff-fiesta, style certainly doesn’t click for everyone. I found myself a tiny bit overwhelmed on my first few listens, but after giving the album some time to properly digest I’m in love. It doesn’t quite hit the same spots for me as the debut. US power metal is near and dear to my heart and the stronger USPM influence on the debut really did it for me, but Beyond Celestial Echoes is a more than worthy successor.
It’s rare to find a young band like this. Sacral Rage have an absurd amount of chops and really understand how to write a killer riffs. Both of their efforts have been tremendous and Beyond Celestial Echoes is shaping up to be one of the year’s best albums. The future is here and Sacral Rage are there to guide us.
Album Rating: 93/100
Favorite Track: Samsara (L.C.E.)