Sacred Guardian - s/t 3.5/5

Reviewed: 7-1-13


1. Intro
2. The last writes
3. Sacred Guardian
4. Dark ages
5. Ancient prophecy
6. The truth within the lies
7. Knights of the moonlight
8. Majesty
9. Ulises
10. Alma inmortal
11. Norseman

One doesn’t typically think of Puerto Rico as a hotbed of traditional heavy metal. But perhaps one should. Long-running mystical, operatic doomsters Dantesco hail from the tiny island, and a stable of quality acts (Narval, Alas Negras, Sacrilegio, Solvo Animus) from there has attracted attention in the metal underground recently. By all means, add Sacred Guardian to the short list of Puerto Rican bands deserving of your support. Their 's/t' debut CD (featuring beautiful cover art from metal artist extraordinaire Dimitar Nikolov) saw the light of day a few months ago on Stormspell Records.

Stormspell’s packaging and promotional materials classify Sacred Guardian as a “New Wave of Classic Power Metal” band, with comparisons to the likes of the legendary Dio and Jag Panzer. As usual, Stormspell’s descriptions hit the mark. Sacred Guardian indeed have all the hallmarks of an old-fashioned traditional heavy metal band, with mostly midtempo songs constructed on sturdy riffs courtesy of guitarist Jose Angel Blondet, leaving plenty of room for vocalist Gustavo A.L. Rodriguez to strut his stuff and spread his wings. In a welcome move, sometimes the band kicks up the intensity and speed a notch (a la the fine namesake song “Sacred Guardian” or the awesome “Knights of the moonlight”, probably my favorite tune on display). When they do, Omen is the most obvious point of reference, all the way down to Rodriguez’s J.D. Kimball-style tone. Most of the lyrics are sung effectively in clear, confident English, but interestingly Rodriguez reverts to Spanish for a pair of killer faster-paced tunes (“Ulises” and “Alma inmortal”) late in the running order. “Ulises,” in particular, had me thinking of the mighty Tierra Santa, which is a very good thing. Production values are more than adequate for this sort of thing. It doesn’t sound garage-y and demo-level, but it’s not buffed and polished all to hell either. There’s just enough grime to give the CD an authentic underground vibe.

This is a really easy CD to like. Sacred Guardian have studied the book of heavy metal well and have succeeded in delivering a strong batch of 10 songs (plus intro) steeped in those time-honored, classic traditions. I dig the band’s occasional sense of adventure, too, as evidenced by the all-out galloping speed burst they abruptly toss into “Ancient prophecy”, the gentle acoustic intro to “Majesty”, and their dalliance with progressive Egyptian-sounding motifs on “The truth within the lies”, all while remaining solidly entrenched in their framework of pounding traditional metal. Rodriguez’s screams can be a touch overbearing at times, and not all of the songs sound fresh and exciting, but these minor flaws can be forgiven given how enjoyable the effort is overall.

If 80s-style U.S. heavy metal is your thing, and especially if you worship at the altar of ‘Warning of danger’ and its ilk, then Sacred Guardian comes enthusiastically recommended. They’re not revolutionizing the genre, but the Puerto Rican quartet have made a worthy contribution to the timeless, magical canon of heavy metal. Sacred Guardian will be making their continental U.S. live debut at the end of June at the Warriors of Metal VI Festival in Pataskala, Ohio. Best of all, this Fest will be a Puerto Rican invasion of sorts, with 3 other bands from that island and even a documentary film crew on hand to record the Puerto Rican ass-kicking that is certain to be disbursed. Can’t wait!




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