SACRED STEEL
"The Bloodshed Summoning"

(Cruz Del Sur Music)

01. Storm of Fire 1916
02. No God / No Religion
03. When the Siren Calls
04. The Darkness of Angels
05. The Bloodshed Summoning
06. Under the Banner of Blasphemy
07. Black Towers
08. Crypts of the Fallen
09. The Night They Came to Kill
10. Join the Congregation
11. Journey into Purgatory
12. Doomed to Eternal Hell
13. Perversions of the Scriptures
14. Unbinding the Chains
15. Dig Up Her Bones

RATING: 7.5/10

Because SACRED STEEL has been around so long and because they're fundamentally adept at thrash and power metal, they've been able to keep a steady course despite having one of the most bizarre and frequently off-putting vocalists the genre's ever seen. When Gerrit P. Mutz sticks to his harried death growls in the key of DESTRUCTION's Schmier, SACRED STEEL is as fearsome a band as they come. When he sweeps into his madcap quasi-clean pitches like a seriously weird mash-up of Messiah Marcolin and Johnny Rotten, then, well, SACRED STEEL becomes farcical.

Still, SACRED STEEL has been well-supported over the years and their latest effort, "The Bloodshed Summoning" is a slam-dunk for their diehards. For everyone else, at least there's tons of thrash to hang onto. The barefaced Satanism and anti-religion proselytizing is so VENOM-esque the album rings as tongue-in-cheek as Mutz's outlandish vocal caricatures.

Only on one of "The Bloodshed Summoning"'s bonus tracks, "Perversions of the Scriptures", does Mutz stick to a strict snarl and it's the only cut to be taken seriously. The rest of the album does rock, make no mistake, but it all feels so silly. The rad Berni Wrightson-peppered artwork in the packaging by Peter Sallai gives SACRED STEEL fans a lot to play with while the band rips and tears at a near perpetual blitz. Fellow German crushers DESTRUCTION, HOLY MOSES and SODOM (recall SACRED STEEL's 2006 effort "Hammer of Destruction" was helmed by SODOM producer Harris Johns) are felt all over "The Bloodshed Summoning" in the speed department and in the devil-daring lyrical content.

As they've done in the past, SACRED STEEL calls out the atrocities of war on "Storm of Fire 1916" (albeit MOT?RHEAD hit upon the same topic in 1991 with far more poignancy) and "When the Siren Calls". For most of the ride on "The Bloodshed Summoning", it's shout-outs to Lucifer and jeering thumb bites at Jesus to the point it surpasses monotony. It feels like an overcooked roast and not so much in a pure hellfire sense. "No God/No Religion", "Under the Banner of Blasphemy", "The Night They Came to Kill" and the prolonged "Journey Into Purgatory" need no further explanation. With Gerrit P. Mutz shifting vocal lines like he lays down his tracks not in a studio but a rubber room, then "The Bloodshed Summoning" becomes just plain nutty. It shreds, but it also grates if you can't hack Mutz's schizophrenic devices.

Like classic thrash albums of old, "The Bloodshed Summoning" throws in a couple of eloquent acoustic intervals, "Join the Congregation" and "Doomed to Eternal Hell". Hard to take either too seriously despite their graceful execution, but give Jens Sonnenberg and Jonas Khalil their due for acting as SACRED STEEL's focused spirits of conscience amidst all of the button-pushing mayhem surrounding them.

Join the congregation if you must, the punch line will come later.

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