Sacred Oath - s/t 3.5/5
1. Paradise lost
2. Blood storm
3. Voodoo dolls
4. Counting zeros
5. Hight and mighty
6. Sacred Oath
7. Caught in the arc
8. Buried alive
9. What the dark will undo
10. Hunt for the fallen angel
With the Sentinel Steel label temporarily inactive (owner Denis Gulbey deciding to concentrate on his mail-order and distribution business until the economy picks up), Sacred Oath was eager to make the jump to a label with wider distribution. Instead of approaching the usual labels (Century Media, Nuclear Blast, Metal Blade, etc.), the group, led by Rob Thorne, signed to WorldSound, a "World" music company specializing in native Hawaiian music. There must be a catch, right? Well, WorldSound is owned by none other than Warren Wyatt, former manager of Crimson Glory. So it's a non-metal label owned by a man with a background in metal, seeking a return to metal. And he couldn't have picked a better, more active band than Sacred Oath.
I'm not sure this 's/t' CD, the band's 3rd CD proper, is their best work (prior CD 'Darkness visible' is more consistent and catchier overall), but it's a strong display of Sacred Oath's wide ranging talents, from the classic metal of "Blood storm" to the Iron Maiden meets Megadeth gallops of "Buried alive".
There are some tracks that drag (first video single "Counting zeros") and others that just don't measure up ("Caught in the arc") but the majority of the CD is good to great. One misstep may have been the band's own song "Sacred Oath", which, while not bad, simply does not bring the necessary excitement to be named after the band. A band song needs to be something special and "Sacred Oath" simply does not sound like the mighty anthem it should be.
I do get the sense that the CD was written and recorded spontaneously, as it seems a bit looser in comparison to the sharper, more focused songwriting on 'Darkness visible'. I do like the energy of this 's/t' CD, but one gets the sense that the band could have taken the melodies and choruses to a higher level with more time.
There's been some confusion over the 3 different versions of this CD, so I will clear that up. This 'Sacred Oath' CD was released as a 10-song download edition through iTunes, which was followed by a 14-song deluxe digipack CD limited edition from the band directly. WorldSound just released a 10-song version (tracklist slightly resequenced) in a more humble digipack edition. The 14-song edition is no longer available.
Are the 4 missing songs worthwhile? My take:
"Mistress of the setting sun" = with nu-metal trappings and voicebox vocal effects, this song is to be avoided. Its only redeeming feature is the chorus, which is just "ok" by Sacred Oath standards.
"Wings of salvation" = beyond a galloping middle section, this song also features voicebox vocal effects, and is in the style of Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots. What was the band thinking?
"Order of the system lords" = very much in the Metallica meets Testament style, and with a nice chorus; I was kinda sorry to see this one left off. Having said that, the song never seemed to end, and the band probably realized that.
"Scourge of sin" = all right, here we have a problem. This is an amazing song, and perhaps the BEST track on the 14-song edition. I can't believe the band left it off. Definitely find an alternate way to score this track.
So despite the glaring omission of "Scourge of sin", Sacred Oath's 2009 offering 'Sacred Oath' is, with its 10-song edition, a quality slab of traditional U.S. power metal (with occasional forays into classic metal and thrash). Definitely more exciting than what the dull cover clip art and monochromatic color scheme suggests!
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