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Sacred Warrior | Waiting in Darkness

by Mark Allen
– Senior Columnist —

Sacred Warrior Waiting in DarknessIt is intriguing that in a year that witnessed the release of two divisive Queensryche creations under divergent incarnations, the most Queensryche-sounding album of 2013 has been issued by resurrected white-metal band Sacred Warrior, who have returned to the God-rock game after going dark (figuratively, not spiritually) for over twenty years.

Sacred Warrior never gained mainstream notoriety, but in the burgeoning ‘80s Christian metal movement, they were a force to be reckoned with alongside Deliverance, Saint, Barren Cross, and all the other renegades who were rockin’ for the Rock, moshin’ for the Master, and headbangin’ for the Holy One. Fronted by the soaring Geoff Tate-esque vocals of Rey Parra and sporting a crunchy melodic metal sound reminiscent of Queensryche, Sacred Warrior swiftly became mandatory inclusion in any respectable Christian rocker’s cassette collection.

Waiting in Darkness is everything craved in a Sacred Warrior comeback … save for Rey Parra. Instead, we are graced with new vocalist Eric Prinsen, who more than holds his own, singing in the same Tate/Parra vein that is vital to Sacred Warrior’s sound, ensuring the band’s formula does not fragment like Humpy Dumpty doing a suicide dive off the Sears Tower. In fact, it could be argued the band has never sounded better. Granted, the new songs have the disadvantage of not being filtered through nostalgia, but when evaluated without bias against the Sacred Warrior discography of old, several of these new tracks give the classics a run for their money.

So yeah, the band is still firing on all cylinders, with only a couple blemishes minimally marring what is a mostly masterful album. One of those missteps is the opener, “Desperately Wicked,” which hurtles out of the gate with the bludgeoning heaviness of blunt force trauma but is hampered by subpar production that overpowers Prinsen’s vocals in a quest to crush the listener. The other error is the sore-thumb ballad “Jealous Love,” which feels woefully out of place and brings the album to a screeching halt.

But the pros far outweigh the cons, and those pros are a plethora of raging metal tracks. “Fear Me” is the highlight, a fiercer-than-a-pack-of-pissed-off-angels anthem that slams your ears like sonic bullets, cherry-topped by a chorus that defines metal perfection by being catchy without resorting to cred-bleeding commercialism. Also demanding attention is “Living Sacrifice,” which earns rank as a new Sacred Warrior classic, it’s so bad to the bone. The snarl in Prinsen’s voice is worth the price of admission alone and the pounding riff and fist-pumping rhythms ensure body-slamming satisfaction.

Skepticism is natural when a decades-dormant band rises from slumber, but Sacred Warrior have released an album that should silence skeptics as surely as a cutthroat razor across both carotids. Unless they are obsessively devoted to Rey Parra and refuse to listen to the band without him wielding the microphone, it’s hard to imagine any Sacred Warrior fan being disappointed with Waiting in Darkness. Maybe somebody should send Queensryche a copy to remind them how they’re supposed to sound.

Genre: Christian Metal

Eli Prinsen (vocals)
Bruce Swift (guitar)
Steve Watkins (bass)
Tony Velasquez (drums)
Joe Petit (keyboards)

Track Listing
1. Desperately Wicked
2. Waiting in Darkness
3. Sinking Sand
4. In Dust and Ashes
5. Fallen Hero
6. Fear Me
7. Long Live the King
8. Jealous Love
9. Living Sacrifice
10. Day of the Lord
11. Temples on Fire

Label: Independent


Hardrock Haven rating: 8/10