SACRED REICH were the either the laziest band on earth or the worst sufferers of writer's block in history. They stormed out of the gate with a minor thrash classic in 1987's "Ignorance", but the subsequent years-long waits between their albums effectively killed off any momentum they'd built up on the previous disc. By the time they'd react to shifts in the scene and put something else out, the adjustments they made to their sound would come off as a day late and a dollar short. So why did they last so long? They had this ability to pull a couple AMAZING songs out of their hat every few years, the kind of singles good enough to make us tolerate some mediocre crap and not take the lag time personally, and let them back into our lives again. Put it this way — in 1990, we all dug the title track from "The American Way" enough that even the painful, rappy, horn-infused "31 Flavors" — possibly one of the most embarrassing moments in metal — didn't ruin the record for us.
"Independent", originally released in 1993, came along when thrash was already on the morgue slab, kicked to the curb on one side by the higher-stakes brutality of death metal, and PANTERA's rapidly-ascending brand of groove metal on the other. It's not surprising, then, that "Independent" is more or less a ham-fisted retake on your basic cowboys-from-hell approach. But damned if they didn't do it again, with the title track again, no less — the song "Independent" is a caffeinated call to arms that's insanely catchy and uncontrollably headbangable, and even if it's the best song PANTERA didn't write, that makes it no less awesome. Hell, even rewriting it later in the record and calling it "Pressure" doesn't dilute its strength.
So what about the rest of the record? Well, as always, Phil Rind had a unique, charismatic, quasi-melodic voice that drew the listener in. The riffing ranged from forgettable to cool, while the songs muddled along in their groovy, grown-up-thrash way, falling victim to that early-1990s trap of being way the hell too long for their own good (see also: almost everything on ANTHRAX's "Persistence of Time" and D.R.I.'s "Thrash Zone"). Nevertheless, there's good stuff in "Just Like That" and the stoner-y groove of "Crawling". The semi-ballad "I Never Said Goodbye" drags on forever and goes nowhere, really, while "Product" and "Supremacy" fail due to lack of character and energy.
Basically, SACRED REICH did it again on "Independent" — a few undeniably stellar tracks, surrounded by a bunch of filler. It went down smoother thanks to the excellent guitar tone and overall solid Dave Jerden production, but — aside from the aforementioned gems — it just doesn't age well.
The reissue adds tracks from the "A Question" EP, over-earnest anti-censorship anthem "Who's to Blame" and a cover of SUBHUMANS' "The Big Picture". That, and their blazing take on FEAR's "Let's Have a War" (from "A Question"), edge this reissue closer to the "buy" column... but if we're being honest with ourselves, even the most retro-minded thrash fan would have to admit that SACRED REICH were pretty minor-league to start with, and they hit the 1990's sinking into a mire of their own irrelevance. Perhaps metal's ultimate band in need of a greatest-hits collection.