Sacred Blood - The battle of Thermopylae: The chronicle 4/5

Reviewed: 8-8-08


1. The defenders of Thermopylae
2. Land of the braves
3. Hordes of evil
4. Oracle
5. Spartan warlord
6. Sacred Blood
7. Heroic spirit
8. Blades in the night
9. Warrior's song
10. Gates of fire

This may be Sacred Blood's debut full-length CD recording, but it should be readily apparent to anyone paying even a modicum of attention what their musical style is, even without hearing a note. The band hail from Greece, the cradle of epic power metal. The superb J.P. Fournier cover art depicts a lone Spartan warrior standing tall, even as he is surrounded by the fog, chaos and gore of the battle raging around him. The CD title correctly insinuates that Sacred Blood have written a concept album about the famous Battle of Thermopylae of 480 B.C., in which a small force led by King Leonidas I of Sparta fended off the vastly larger army of King Xerxes I of Persia for 3 days at the pass of Thermopylae in central Greece. Xerxes ultimately seized control of the pass and vanquished the Spartans, but only after sustaining heavy losses and losing precious time that enabled the other Greek city-states to unite and muster an army through which they liberated Greece and crushed the Persian invaders. Stirring stuff (unless you were rooting for the Persians, of course). Put it all together and Sacred Blood have marshaled all the necessary elements for a fine slab of epic power metal, in the style of Battleroar, Doomsword, Wotan, Ironsword, and very early Manowar.

Even better news is that Sacred Blood pull off this epic metal style extremely well. The guitar riffs of Polydeykis and Aiantas are powerful, sturdy and melodic. Well-traveled journeyman vocalist Iason (who has also appeared in Wolfcry, Airged L'Amh, Phantom Lord and Vice Human) delivers perhaps his finest performance ever on this CD, demonstrating remarkable versatility as he shifts between a gritty rasp akin to Morgana Lefay's Charles Rytkonen and a clean voice not unlike Battleroar's Marco Concoreggi. The CD starts off a bit slowly, as 2 of the first 4 tracks include extensive spoken-word narration in heavily-accented English. I understand the need to provide context and background to the story, and to use a female speaker for the Oracle, but this is an occasion where plot development interferes with the flow of the CD. Fortunately, things ascend to a superb level in the mid-section of the CD. "Spartan warlord" and "Blades in the night" are epic metal at its best, and "Sacred Blood" may be a nominee for anthem of the year, with its ridiculously catchy, soul-cleaving chorus "Ride through the storm that is coming / Seethe with anger of sacred blood / March toward the hordes of evil / Sense the call of sacred blood." This song ought to be mandatory on the iPod playlists of all athletes (well, maybe not the Persian ones) at the upcoming Beijing Olympic games to pump them up for achievements of greatness. "Heroic spirit" deserves mention, as well, as it showcases a quiet side of Sacred Blood, with acoustic guitars, violins, flutes, and somber lyrics as the Spartan warriors bid farewell to their families and homeland for the last time, knowing that certain death awaits them. Iason sounds a bit outmatched on this song, but he relies on heart and courage to compensate for what he may lack in pure ability here. Last but not least, the 11-minute closer "Gates of fire" brings a suitably grandiose conclusion to these dramatic and epic proceedings.

Make no mistake: This is a highly impressive debut from a bright new hope in the Greek metal underground. Sacred Blood have the chops, the songwriting ability, and the inspiration to rise to the top of the European epic metal heap. Let's hope there are many more historical Greek epic tales in this band's future. Hail brave sons of Sparta!




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