Sacred Leather - Ultimate Force

Sacred Leather Ultimate Force cover
Sacred Leather
Ultimate Force
Cruz Del Sur Music
In spite of what I implied on the Forum/Reviews Discussion thread, Indianapolis’ Sacred Leather isn’t that bad – that is, if mid-tempo Judas Priest meets Ivory Tiger (welcome to the safari!) inspired chutzpah is what you’re in for. Signed with the irreproachable Cruz del Sur Music record label, the Hoosier trad metal twin-guitar quintet released its first actual full-length CD (following a handful of sneak-previews i.e. a split venture with Kvlthammer as well as an EP cassette, live album and a couple of singles, one of which is raucously titled “Love Me Like A Reptile”!), “Ultimate Force”, topping out at forty-odd minutes and comprised of seven rather extensive tracks ranging between four and ten minutes.
Except for on its paltry and overblown, meekly pawing ballad (unpardonably situated smack dab in the middle between the two best tracks) where it sounds like he’s strangling a cat, Skeletonwitch’s Dee Wrathchild, thanks to his wraith-like upper-ranged vocals, is a dead-ringer for Metalian’s front man – especially on the lead-choked titular opener – while even evoking Portrait’s first crier on the succeeding “Watcher”, notably before the gang shouted chorus amidst a slap-jack style drum beat and revolving staccato guitar patter. One thing in particular Sacred Leather has going for it is its 1980s style lo-fi level of production, which allows Magnus LeGrand’s steady-handed bass and “Jailhouse”’s locked-in and boxy, Ambush-like drums to pronouncedly resound. Speaking of which, the guitarists, JJ Highway and Carloff Blitz (great job on the metal monikers!), adhere to windmill-ing power chords and stocky palm-muted riffing as well as languidly, if not sordidly, drawn-out leads which bring to mind said modern-day Swedes while their guitar tones proper smack of “Screaming for Vengeance” era Priest. (Hence, I take back the rude public statement I made the other day in regards to the band’s appeal)…
Dig the festively unfolding gate-crasher of a guitar solo ripping open the title track or the cool as fuck, commanding with a capital “C” manner in which Wrathchild kicks off his vocal lines – and thus for the song’s duration, discounting further ambitious and choral backing shouts – on the deadly, slightly-below-mid tempo pressure cooker “Power Thrust”:
“I am the chill that twists your spine
Piercing your soul now it's all mine
Dripping lust between your thighs
Fate and desire in your cries!”
I can just picture him predatorily eyeing the crowd, while extending his arm and pointing out in a semi-circle, Rob Halford/Axl Rose style! Good stuff! I’m now ready to forgive him and the band for their lackluster performance on the eight-minute saccharine turd, “Dream Searcher” (the less said the better in its regards). Another track which compels me to crush an empty can of Coors against my forehead and loudly yell “Bring it on!” is the bass heavy and triplet-based “Master is Calling” thanks to its incepting, Priest-y warp drive/cosmic synthesizer embellishment and above all, glorious lead trade-off section which homes in from all directions while giving the impression of being greeted by a rabidly overjoyed and excited, tail-wagging puppy when coming home from a long day’s work (pun more or less intended!).
On this note, the big cats continue to play on the equally top-heavy albeit rampant and melodic “Prowling Sinner” as it forcefully lives up to its namesake (following a mellow acoustic build-up), whilst the closer and longest track, “The Lost Destructor/Priest of the Undoer”, constitutes somewhat of an atmospheric, rattle propelled tour-de-force, which makes the most of its nine and a half minutes of incremental drum fills, spark-plug harmonics, jabbing mini-leads and overall mind-bending vocal pirouettes, a highly expressive and potent, multi-sectioned lead break withstanding. Suffice to say, had the band wisely bowdlerized the inept ballad sitting at the fourth spot in the rotation and solely heralded this captivating finale as its token “epic”, I’d have surely rated “Ultimate Force” higher.
Nevertheless, Sacred Leather is considerably worth checking out, and maybe even sticking around for, if you dig no-frills traditional heavy metal such as the bands mentioned above, as well as further chock-rockers in the vein of Savage Master, Bullet and Stallion. As far as a potential sophomore release is concerned, I can only hope these guys tighten their belts and avoid unnecessary filler, while keeping to what they do best – namely, pumping out hard-driving humdingers like the ones making up the better part of this album.