Sacred Reich @ O2 Academy 2, Birmingham – 27 July 2017

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of their classic album ‘Ignorance’, Arizona thrashers Sacred Reich bring their aptly titled ’30 Years of Ignorance’ tour to the second city.

To find your musical heroes at the merch stand, happy to chat, sign autographs and have photos taken is a pretty cool thing. Sacred Reich do exactly that, from doors open until shortly before show time. I can’t not take advantage and say “hi” to guitarist Wiley Arnett – who’s monster riffage on that immense debut album blew the socks off this eighteen year old. It may only be a brief meet and greet, but a concept which a few more bands making the most of long-term fan loyalty could take note of.

The second room at the O2 Academy is brimming with nostalgic anticipation as Phil Rind leads out his troops to power through set openers ‘Ignorance’ and ‘Administrative Decisions’. It’s a fine way to fire up a room of middle-aged moshers, as well as any younger, less familiar metalheads who are along for the ride.

Rind’s introduction includes an apology for Trump and the White House, a current trend among American bands visiting our shores. He also lets the crowd know that his expectation of them is high – after all this is Birmingham, the hometown of Black Sabbath, and he duly pays respects before the band launch into ‘One Nation’ from the ‘Surf Nicaragua’ EP.

Sacred Reich’s archive of material speaks out on war, racism, political oppression and other evils, which is no less relevant today than when it was released. Tonight it’s a crushing, riff-mongering wall of sound from these old school masters, potent as ever thirty years down the line.  ‘Victim of Demise’ and ‘Violent Solutions’ are the only other tracks from the first album, before the likes of  ‘State of Emergency’, ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ and ‘I Don’t Know’ come from the more musically progressive ‘The American Way’.

Phil Rind hammers out thundering bass lines with a vocal that retains a perfect blend of melody and power. Guitar duo Wiley Arnett and Jason Rainey serve up track after track of delish lead work and sick rhythms respectively. While hidden at the back is their time keeper extraordinaire, Greg Hall – professional window cleaner and the guy asked to join Slayer before Dave Lombardo made his return in 1987!

Together this quartet produce an insanely tight performance and the crowd lap it up, not least during ‘Who’s to Blame’ with its memorable lyrics about the flawed logic of those in search of scapegoats during the 80’s. The Birmingham crowd sing-along in agreement – the music we love has never been, and never will be a cause of death.

The title track from the third album ‘Independent’ with its slight departure into groove metal cues up the finale and the bands all-time great cover of Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’. It’s the perfect place for them to be playing it and the crowd show their appreciation in voice. Not that Rind has stopped smiling like a Cheshire cat the entire night, but this is certainly a pleasure for him.

Back out for ‘The American Way’ and a brutal version of ‘Surf Nicaragua’, I’m absolutely gutted the band choose not to play ‘Death Squad’ on this occasion. That aside, the Sacred Reich live experience is as awesome and flawless as I remember it being all those years ago.

Review & Photography: Steve Johnston

Sacred Reich