Sacred Reich Headlines The Whisky

By Andrew Bansal

May 29th 2014, The Whisky-A-Go-Go, West Hollywood CA: As a precursor to their tour of Germany, Arizona thrash veterans Sacred Reich announced two West Coast headline shows in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and they took the stage at the Whisky-A-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip last night for the first of these back-to-back shows. Having never seen this band live but hearing so many great things about them from others who have, this was an eagerly awaited show from my personal point of view, and another occasion wherein the Whisky would play host to the horde of Los Angeles’ loyal thrash metal fans.

Usually, for shows of this nature at the Whisky, there’s a long line of kids waiting outside the box office to purchase tickets in the early evening while the local pay-to-play openers hustle and scamper to get rid of their quota of tickets, underage kids ask me to buy them beer, and the venue gets packed soon after doors open. But much to my bewilderment, none of that was happening this time and the atmosphere around the Whisky was surprisingly dull when I got there at 7 PM. I missed the first band, and the second band was a no-show which resulted in a lull in proceedings and dampened spirits further. On top of that, the third and fourth band failed to impress, and it was turning out to be a depressing evening, so much so that exited the Whisky and wandered up and down the Strip to find other things to do in the meanwhile, but upon discovering that nothing interesting was transpiring at the Roxy, Viper Room, Rainbow or anywhere else nearby, I subjected myself to some binge eating instead and ate a sandwich for no reason whatsoever. I then returned to the Whisky in the hope that the fifth band of the lineup Velosity would give me and my fellow attendees something to cheer about, and thank goodness they did, as otherwise I was close to losing my mind.

Velosity‘s three-piece technical/progressive thrash attack succeeded in getting the crowd going as circle pits rolled at full tilt with banging heads and air-guitar fingers seen in plenty. The band has existed for five years with a very stable lineup, as is evident from the ease and smoothness with which the trio of Oscar Castillo (guitar/vocals), Omar (bass) and Abimael Cruz (drums) gels together on stage to deliver scorching tunes filled with Megadeth/Coroner-inspired intelligent thrash consisting of long instrumental passages and some very creative work on each instrument. They played songs off of their ‘Deadly Ritual’, ‘Wide-Spread Devastation’ and ‘Spiritual Encounter’ demo EPs along with a couple of newer, unreleased tunes. ‘211’ stood out as the best song of the set and treated the audience to some highly enjoyable musical patterns as sparks flew from the bass and guitar harmony between Oscar and Omar. I stood nearer to Omar’s side of the stage to absorb the enormity of his bass amplification to the fullest extent possible, and his bass sound was even tastier than that sandwich I had consumed earlier. Velosity ended with a new instrumental jam called ‘Cursed Till Death’ which was also equally compelling. Their 30-minute set seemed much too short for their calibre and the level of reception they got from this crowd, and after the set, people were walking up to each member to thank and congratulate them. Because of the venue’s pay-to-play setup, literally any band can open for any headliner and (contrary to what some of these bands believe) there is no real accolade that comes from doing so, but with their level of performance here last night, Velosity showed that they’re truly worthy of supporting a band like Sacred Reich and provided as much enjoyment to the audience as the headline act itself.

Velosity links:

Set List:
01. Illumination
02. Wide-Spread Devastation
03. Infested Bodies
04. 211
05. D.T.A. (Don’t Trust Anyone)
06. Cursed Till Death (Instrumental)

Next up was LA death metal outfit Unsanctified, who put on a decent show when opening for Possessed on the same stage two months ago, but on this occasion they didn’t quite succeed in their endeavor. With their straight-up old-school death metal style they weren’t perhaps as much of a fit with the Sacred Reich crowd as they were with Possessed, and the thrash kids in this crowd looked largely uninterested. But surprisingly, even as the main support act Unsanctified played only a little over 20 minutes in total and quickly exited the stage to make way for Sacred Reich.

Promptly at 11 PM, the four members of Sacred Reich took their positions on the Whisky stage but as it took them longer than expected to set up Jason Rainey’s guitar amp on stage left, vocalist/bassist Phil Rind started singing some Dio, Ozzy and Van Halen covers to kill time in the meanwhile and seemed to be in a really good mood. Finally ten minutes later, they were ready to start their set proper and once DJ Will, an influential in Sacred Reich’s history in his Metal Blade days, gave the crowd a formal introduction to the band, they laid straight into it with the title track off of their 1993 album ‘Independent’. Sacred Reich then delved into an assortment of material representing their 80s and early 90s releases and gave the Whisky plenty to shout about. The fans loved every minute of it and gave the band a tremendous response, with songs like ‘Love… Hate’, ‘Death Squad’ and ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ turning out to be some of the highlights of the 70-minute set. Towards the end, they played a medley of Black Sabbath’s ‘Sweet Leaf’ and ‘Paranoid’ followed by a full rendition of ‘War Pigs’, as the crowd’s singing voices were heard at full volumes during this segment. Then they played ‘The American Way’ and exited the stage, only to return for a much-demanded encore of ‘Surf Nicaragua’.

Performance-wise, Phil Rind and his band mates Greg Hall (drums), Jason Rainey and Wiley Arnett (guitars) were at the peak of their individual and collective powers, and by all means lived up to the expectations I had built in my head based on what I heard about their past shows from other people. Besides turning back the clock with his vocals and bass play, Phil Rind addressed the crowd with jokes and stories between songs several times during the set. While I’m sure he has valid reasons for not wanting or planning to write and record any new material for Sacred Reich, judging by the quality of the band’s live musicianship and the response from their loyal fans, a new album wouldn’t be such a bad idea. When it comes to veteran bands such as Sacred Reich, while I appreciate the classic material as much as anyone else, I also like to hear new music and would certainly welcome a new Sacred Reich album.

Overall, this was a strange show in many ways, and it was ironic to note that the turnout wasn’t nearly as good as it was for Whisky shows headlined by the likes of Possessed, Destruction and Deicide which catered to a similar audience demographic, because quite frankly Sacred Reich put on a better show than all of those bands and will hopefully get a more deserving turnout the next time they play here.

Sacred Reich links: 

Set List:
01. Independent
02. One Nation
03. Love… Hate
04. Ignorance
05. State Of Emergency
06. Death Squad
07. Crimes Against Humanity
08. Who’s To Blame
09. Rest In Peace / Draining You Of Life
10. Free
11. Sweet Leaf / Paranoid (Black Sabbath covers)
12. War Pigs (Black Sabbath cover)
13. The American Way
14. Surf Nicaragua

The Whisky-A-Go-Go links: