True American heavy metal!
In 1988 the Christian metal movement was really beginning to grow. Bands like Bloodgood and Stryper were already very popular on the scene. However, most new bands were either moving towards the popular thrash or pop metal sounds. There were very few Christian bands exploring the melodic and progressive style of bands like Queensryche, Crimson Glory and Fates Warning. Sacred Warrior were one of the very first notable bands on the scene with "Rebellion" being their debut to the world. Sacred Warrior fused the melodic, progressive metal sound with a heavy American power metal style. Songs like "Children of the Light" and "The Heavens Are Calling" are pure American power metal that would rival Metal
Church, while the title track, "Stay Away from Evil" and "Day of the Lord" are more melodic. Of course, what really makes or breaks a band of this style is the vocalist. Sacred Warrior vocalist Rey Parra is often compared to one of heavy metal's elite singers, Geoff Tate of Queensryche. While the comparison is valid, Parra also has a style and charisma all his own. His high, soaring, glass-shattering voice is the catalyst of Sacred Warrior's sound, combined with a tight rhythm section, amazing guitar solos, searing riffs and memorable songs. The band's lyrical direction stood in direct opposition to the many bands out there using "evil" as a shock tactic to sell records. Their message was a direct attempt to infiltrate the dark heavy metal scene with a message of hope and faith in Jesus. In retrospect, some of the lyrics on "Rebellion" are a bit corny, but certainly no more-so than the hordes of bands promoting a dark, negative message at the time.
Sacred Warrior get a bit more aggressive in their songwriting while at the same time sounding more progressive and melodic. "Are You Ready" and "Minister by Night" both push the boundaries of speed metal. The rest of the album is mid to slow paced progressive metal with great vocals. This is somewhat of a concept album with a story about a young person struggling through life and finally finding hope in Christ. The liner notes state, "They're not children of Satan, they're who we make them." If there is one thing you can't accuse Sacred Warrior of it's writing wimpy lyrics. They are very upfront about their Christianity.
Sacred Warrior - Obsessions (Intense) 1991
1. "Wings of a Dream"
This is the best Sacred Warrior disc and unfortunately the last. "Obsessions" is melodic, heavy, and full of emotion. Longtime keyboardist Rick Macias left the band at this point and was replaced by a second guitar player, John Johnson.
Intense released a best of compilation after this CD but it contains no new material thus negating my need to buy it. Sacred Warrior have also been on several compilations, but never anything that hasn't already been released.
Sacred Warrior - Live at Cornerstone 2001 (M8) 2001
1. "Intro" (1:10)
Man these guys have not lost one ounce of their energy. The band is tight, their performance is excellent and Rey Perra sounds as good as he did in the early 90's. Of all the simultaneously released Cornerstone 2001 discs, this one impressed me the most. Considering some of the others were by favorites of mine like Deliverance and Recon, that is saying a lot. Not only does the band sound great, but they bring a real spirit of worship and reverence to the Almighty. Of course this has always been a strong point of Sacred Warrior. The new tracks "Day by Day" sounds good and gives hope for a new release from these guys in the future. My only real complaint here is that the packaging, like most M8 releases is very cheap and generic looking. Also, the set is short. Would have loved to have heard more from this classic band.
1. Desperately Wicked (5:29)
It's been over two decades since Sacred Warrior has released a studio release. In that time the band has continued to play dates here and there and even released a raw live album from Cornerstone that previewed a couple of new songs. Neither of those songs made it onto this 2013 independent release. Of course the biggest surprise for many fans will be the absence of vocalist Ray Parra, who was always the voice of Sacred Warrior. Ray has been replaced by the very capable Eli Prinsen of The Sacrificed. Prinsen is not a Parra sound-alike but he can hit all the high notes, the siren screams and is certainly capable of a similar clean, soaring power metal attack. However, because Eli is different, this new Sacred Warrior sometimes sounds more like The Sacrificed than classic Sacred Warrior. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if someone is expecting "Masters Command Part II" they will be disappointed.
What is most surprising is that this album is heavy metal, with emphasis on the word heavy. There is nothing wimpy about this album whatsoever, despite the presence of two tracks I would describe as ballads. The album opens with the sheer heaviness of "Desperately Wicked". Unlike the current trend to rely on down-tuning to get a heavy sound, Sacred Warrior write heavy riffs. The follow-up track is slightly more progressive and melodic, with layered background vocals and a killer hook. "Sinking Sand" really has the classic Sacred Warrior sound. This song could have been written and recorded for "Obsessions". "Long Live the King" is one of the more immediately catchy songs on the album and is driven by a crunchy, groove-based riff. "Fallen Hero" and "Jealous Love" are the two mellower tracks on the album are both packed full of emotion, the later being a full-blown worship song. The entire album is peppered with some nice guitar work, including some of Bruce Swift's finest solos. The album ends with the band re-recording two older tracks, "Day of the Lord" from the debut and "Temples on Fire" from their last, "Obsessions". Thankfully Sacred Warrior have chose the route of traditional heavy metal and power metal, as opposed to something more trendy. This is an album that will please their new fans and has just enough of a modern edge to pull in the younger fans of power and progressive metal as well.