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Sacred Oath

The name Sacred Oath probably won't say much to the younger generation. But the name shall most probably ring a bell by the elderly among us. This American heavy metal band released the great 'A Crystal Vision' album in 1985 to fall apart quickly after that in1988. in 1998 they re-released the debut album to release a successor with 'Darkness Visible' almost two decades after the original recording. Singer, guitarist and bandleader Rob Thorne explains about how, what and why.

By: Nima | Archive under heavy / power metal

band imageSacred Oath's history of course goes back to the eighties. The band had a quick rise in 1985, but also a quick fall three years later! Let's go back in time a little bit so you can tell us what happened. Why did the band break up so quickly after the release of the first album?
It is true, the band had a very quick rise, and a quick fall. But when you're seventeen years old, a year is an eternity. And one year is how long Mercenary Records sat on our debut CD. Unbeknownst to us, the label was rapidly descending into bankruptcy and dissolution and they kept postponing the release of 'A Crystal Vision' without ever giving us an explanation. We began to lose confidence in the label, and then in ourselves. Then they sent us on an under-funded tour here in the States and we just got fed up. When the album was finally released, they had drastically changed the cover art without ever consulting us and removed one of our favourite songs 'The End'! We were very pissed off of course. Our morale was way down and we didn't have the maturity to weather the storm. Before long, Pete (Altieri, the band's original bass player – Nima) and I were arguing about the direction of the band, our new songs, our sound… Our final show was in November 1988. I quit right after that.

What did you do during the years that you weren't active with Sacred Oath?
I've always been very busy as a working musician. It's what I love to do. First I went to college and got a four year degree. Then I wrote and released two rock operas as a solo artist: 'America The Beautiful' and 'Lago', recorded two albums with Soundscape ('Discovery' and 'Grave New World') and recorded an album called 'Rock Mass'. I also have a music studio here in Connecticut that teaches about eighty students per week.

In 1998 the band got together again to re-record 'A Crystal Vision' and released the reissue in 2001! What was the reason to re-record the entire debut? I mean, weren't you able to use the original recordings for a new mix?
Well, we didn't get together to re-record the entire album but just a few songs as a bonus for the re-issue, like 'The End' and 'The Invocation'. But we we're having such a good time being together again that we just kept going! We didn't release most of those recordings until 2005, and only then because our fans really enjoyed the four songs that made it onto the re-issue. So we “bootlegged” it out there as 'A Crystal Revision' and the people seemed to like it. The original 2” masters for 'A Crystal Vision' are long gone. No one knows where those recordings are. I think Mercenary Records never paid their bill to the studio so the tapes probably ended up in the trash. The re-issue is just a remaster of the original mix, and even that had to be done using a vinyl LP from the first pressing!

When you got back together in 1998, was it the intention to resurrect the band and start being active again or was it a matter of “the magical moment”?
It was certainly a matter of the timing being right. But even then I was absorbed with the solo work I was doing with my rock operas and Soundscape. I wasn't able to focus on Sacred Oath as a living breathing entity until 2005. When Sentinel Steel approached me about doing a re-issue of 'A Crystal Vision' I was extremely busy with two other projects and just kind of squeezed it in somehow. But I'm glad I did, because that seed was planted and eventually led to 'Darkness Visible' and I am very proud of that album.

b]Twenty years after the release of the debut album the second full-length 'Darkness Visible' is indeed a fact. Despite the fact that the band wasn't around for so long, the sound has remained very eighties. Was that the intention to keep the sound old school?[/b]
Absolutely. We believe in melody and singing. We're from that school. If you want to call it eighties, that's ok.

However, there are also modern influences to be recognized in the new songs, which will surely also apply to the younger generation of fans. They also show that Sacred Oath is not only a band that wants to relive its glory days, but proves that we're dealing with a present-day band. Was bringing modern influences in the music planned or a natural process? I mean, a lot of people might think that Sacred Oath is a new band.
Making the entire recording was a natural process. It is what it is and it is what we felt it should be, as Sacred Oath. What you hear on the new CD is what we do naturally when we play together, which is to say that when we play with other musicians that isn't necessarily so. Sacred Oath is something that happens when Kenny (Evans, drums – Nima), Pete and I start thinking creatively about music.

If I'm correct you have recorded the songs 'Battle Cry' and 'Prophecy', which are from the band's demo-days. Especially these songs sound (naturally) more old school than the new material and sound one hundred percent eighties! Was there a particular reason to choose these songs for the new album?
As a tribute to our fans from way back. We always felt they were good songs and we wanted to remind ourselves and our fans of where we started from. I wrote 'Prophecy' when I was fifteen years old, the same time I wrote 'The Ferryman's Lair'.

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On the lyrical matter I personally think that Sacred Oath is not only concentrating on the metal clichés and deals with serious subjects as well! In how far can you agree on this? Is there a message that the band wants to bring with the music or do you see it as pure entertainment?
Oh certainly our songs carry a message. The whole idea of the band is a message: good versus evil is an eternal struggle that creates the spiritual world we inhabit as humans. Some of the songs are metaphoric, others are explicit. 'Unholy Man' is pretty obvious, 'Beyond The Edge of the Flame' not that much. But there is always a message. I can't imagine investing this much energy into singing about nothing!

Although the band got together in the original line-up and now you have a new bass player (Lou Liotta), in how far do you thing the current Sacred Oath differs from the Sacred Oath in the eighties?
Listen to the CD, it sounds like the same fucking band to me! I went to great lengths to make sure the CD sounded like the follow-up to 'A Crystal Vision'.

By the way, it's good to hear that there are still bands from the States that are not infected by the nu-metal and crossover virus. In the years of absence the rock and metal scene developed a lot and many trends came and went. How do you look at the scene now compared to the band's early days?
The big difference now is all of these stupid fucking sub-genres of metal I keep hearing about. “Melodic death thrash core” or whatever! We're a metal band, maybe even a rock-n-roll band. If a band needs four words to describe its genre then the music must really not stand on its own. That really pisses me off. But I suppose its because we are so overrun with bands in the underground now. Each wants to define its own niche.

Have you ever though what might have become of the band if you didn't decide to split up? I mean, there weren't as many bands back there are nowadays, so the standards are higher now and it's harder for a band to get the recognition it deserves.
I think Sacred Oath is in a better position now than we've ever been to get the recognition I always felt we deserved. But ultimately that isn't up to us, it either happens or it doesn't. You always put your work out there and hope for the best. Obviously 1988 wasn't our time, though many people thought it should have been. But here we are now doing very well with the new CD and we're a much stronger band live than ever before. And we're getting national airplay on satellite radio in North America, which is a big deal for us. We never got that kind of support in the eighties. We have also just finished our first video. We never got that far the first time around, so I believe that NOW is the right time for Sacred Oath, for whatever reason.

The attitude towards old bands coming together is rather diverse. Some say that old bands that were great in their early days now come back together because the see an opportunity to make some quick money. But seeing that you just came up with a new album, that surely isn't the case with Sacred Oath! How do you look at this reunion?
Sacred Oath had a lot of unfinished business. We all felt that the band had somehow denied its own fate when we broke up. 'Darkness Visible' had to be recorded and had to be heard. The fans really seem to love it and the fans have always been a strong motivating force for us too. And now it appears we're coming to Europe in the fall. Fate again…

Seeing that Sacred Oath is living a second youth, what are your plans for the future? As you mentioned you're coming for the first time to Europe in November to play at the German Keep It True festival, but is there anything planned for a small European tour or some summer festivals?
We won't be touring until the fall, so this summer we are actually writing material for the next CD if you can believe it. In November we'll be indeed at KIT in Germany and we are negotiating with a couple of other festivals that are happening around the same time but nothing is concrete yet. We certainly hope to do a small European tour, but we're not going to force the issue. When the fans want us, we'll come! Here in the States we're doing some shows with Attacker, Anvil, and Beyond Fallen (now that's what I call a line-up – Nima). We'll see what else develops as the CD gains momentum. Fans can expect more from Sacred Oath than they have in the past though. We're committed to getting back in the game.

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