Smart, sarcastic, funny, very political, whiplash fast and tight as a duck’s chuff – how on earth did it take me until 2014 to buy a Sacred Reich record? I went for Surf Nicaragua, of course, their 1988 EP. I remember liking the art and the approving of the politics when I read about them in Kerrang! Although they became figures of fun after bassist/vocalist Phil Rind was thrown through a window in Bradford for serenading a biker’s girlfriend*, come on – who amongst us can put hand on heart and say that’s never happened to them?
Surf Nicaragua is four tracks and 17:28 of, mostly, furious furry frash frills. The title track is by far the best track here, a speeding slab of righteous anger at US involvement in Nicaragua, the mounting prospects of US military intervention there and the bloody insurgency that was being funded by the dollar**.
But now it’s too late
You’re entering Managua
If you had brought your surfboard
You could surf Nicaragua
Lessons we have learned
Are easy to forget
Hints of Vietnam
How soon we all forget
Which is one thing, add in a great lolloping tune and the wit to chuck in snatches of ‘Wipeout’ and the theme to ‘Hawaii 5-0’ and you’ve got a real winner in my book. I appreciate the way Sacred Reich ignore the temptations to write about demons, ghouls and nuclear vagaries and hit the politics head-on, a definite nod to the hardcore punk origins of thrash right there – it’s easy to hear the likes of Conflict, or Discharge using these same lyrics^.
Then we hit, the rather topical ‘One Nation’ a plea for American unity, tolerance and humanity particularly as it pertains to foreign policy. I like the structure of this track, the way it has slow verses before accelerating wildly into the chorus every time. Okay, so it isn’t quite Dylan but, naïve or not, it could have/should have been written today.
Our world is divided, the boundaries have been drawn
Ideas are decided by where you have been born
You can’t judge people by the government of their land
They’re flesh and blood like us – why don’t you understand?
The future is our burden, we can’t stand and watch
As the world around crumbles, opposing armies march
We work towards our goal: one nation – unity
And you must be the convert who works towards world peace
The cover of ‘War Pigs’ is pretty superfluous as the band play it as straight as they can, in their defence I suppose you could say that it came from a time when Sabbath certainly weren’t venerated the way they are now. Maybe it’s just the case that Alice Donut’s cover of ‘War Pigs’ (with Ozzy’s vocals done by a trombone!) just rendered anyone else’s versions pointless, for ever^^. Closing track ‘Draining You Of Life’ is precisely where Sacred Reich do give in to the temptation to write about demons and ghouls, to good effect too – smashing out a real thrasher that made me mosh wildly at traffic lights on my drive to the station this morning, for all the world probably looking just like I’d had some kind of seizure.
Overall Surf Nicaraga is a very good shot of late 80’s thrash metal, really well-packaged and played. They do get 1537 bonus points for showing their punk roots too.
Now all this left-wing politicking and thrashing put me in mind of a series of six comics I collected called Third World War back in 1990. It was a 2000AD off-shoot written by (the ever-excellent) Pat Mills and illustrated by Carlos Ezquerra, dealing with issues like government-sponsored insurgency, corporate political power and injustice in the, then seemingly far-off, year 2000. There are lots of interesting quotes, Dead Kennedys lyrics and Napalm Death ones are used in the text too. It’s a little of its time perhaps but it felt important to me then and fits in neatly here, I enjoyed re-reading them.
*it was a bit more involved than that, check out this account from their manager, on her really rather interesting blog.
**I won’t go on but US intervention in South America and proxy wars in the 80’s has always been an abiding interest and hatred of mine.
^pinko illiberal liberal that I am, I acknowledge my hypocrisy entirely. I love Surf Nicaragua for its’ politics whilst Ted Nugent’s assertion of his, makes him all but unlistenable to me.
^^but don’t take my word for it – from the wonderfully titled Revenge Fantasies Of the Impotent: