Another '80s heavy metal band finding a new legion of (primarily) European fans, Connecticut's SACRED OATH has released a self-titled album of tough American power metal that drips with iron 'n steel spirit, some moments of uneven output notwithstanding. The album follows comeback effort "Darkness Visible" and the live "Till Death Do Us Part" after vocalist/guitarist Rob Thorne reformed the band in 2007. Prior to that SACRED OATH was responsible for the release of what has been referred to as an underground classic in 1987's "A Crystal Vision", but as so often happened in those days, the group never quite got off the ground due to label squabbles. The album was re-recorded in 1998 as "A Crystal Revision".
Now that the history lesson is complete, the question is "has SACRED OATH sealed the deal with a self-titled heavy metal album in 2009?" The answer is "for the most part". At damn near 73 minutes, the disc is an awful lot to swallow. However, because this first pressing contains four bonus tracks, it's not really fair to bitch too much about the length. Still, dropping a handful of the lukewarm songs, including "Mistress of the Setting Sun" (one of the bonus cuts), "High and Mighty" (a weak chorus) and the seven-minute "Counting Zeroes", would have made for a better listen.
But tracks like "Caught in the Arc" (one of several with a thrashy edge and gang shouts), "Blood Storm", "Order of the System Lords" (bonus track)", "Sacred Oath", "Wings of Salvation" (bonus track), "Paradise Lost", and "Buried Alive" are stone cold blazers with hot riffs/solos and strong melodies. Thorne delivers his vocals in a classic heavy metal upper range and is adept at patterning, while the overall approach to some extent reminds of early QUEENSRŸCHE (as in the self-titled EP) with a vaguely vintage FATES WARNING feel. But mainly the music is built on a solid rhythmic foundation with meaty riffs and a distinct lack of cheese, making one think more of traditional heavy metal than power metal excess.
Overall, SACRED OATH still has a lot to offer and the songwriting tank is not empty yet. The fire in the belly burns hot and in the world of heavy metal, that goes a long way. Toss out the mediocre cuts and this is an even better release.