SACRED WARRIOR - Master's Command
2017 has been a banner year for our scene with reissues of classic metal and rock in both vinyl (many for the first time even on vinyl) and CD. Bill Bafford (Roxx Productions) and Matt Hunt (Bombworks/Retroactive/Boone’s Overstock) are committed to bringing these classics to life with new artwork, improved sound and previously unavailable formats … and much more to come in 2018! As I look back over the 2017 releases certainly one of the highlights would have to be Sacred Warrior’s Master’s Command (1989) which had not previously been given proper full reissue treatment on CD (the budget 2 for 1 KMG version didn’t add anything compared to the original Intense release) and has never been released on vinyl.
Master’s Command was of course the band’s second release, the follow up to the brilliant debut Rebellion. I remember when I heard this album for the first time I was a bit disappointed because there was a more commercial quality to the songs, largely because of the heavier inclusion of keyboards in the overall mix. More significantly, the recording just lacked the beefy, full metal sound of the debut – a significant change in how the drums were recorded and a lack of low end punch. Those negatives aside, these songs have stood the test of time (for the most part) and the riffs and intensity of songs like “Bound in Chains,” “Evil Lurks,” “Uncontrolled” and “The Flood” still sound very intricate and powerful in 2017. The band took some chances this time around – the full instrumental “Onward Warriors,” the growling vocals of Roger Martinez on “The Flood” and the metal praise-infused “Holy, Holy, Holy” - and it paid off. I think the only miss step was to create another ballad amidst all the other changes as “Unfailing Love” has always been my least favorite track here – the song pales in comparison to the wonderful “He Died” from the debut.
For those interested in this kind of thing, the CD has been remastered by Steve Watkins himself. It comes packaged in a double gate-fold digi with all new artwork (see pictures of the original below for comparison) on the cover and the disc itself, but surprisingly lyrics are not included. I A/B compared the new recording to the old and there is a significant difference in the sound quality. Many reissues just simply over compress and make the volumes louder so that at low volume it sounds good but when you crank it up listener fatigue ensues. Fortunately this new version of Master’s Command has a brighter overall sound but there is a nice warm bass vibe and punch – particularly the kick drum deficiency of the original has here been remedied. This is even more noticeable on the vinyl version. Finally, it may be worth noting that the annoying separate 34 second intro (on the original) to the opening track has been fused on to the front end of the title track so this disc truly only has 11 tracks (whereas the original had 12 tracks even though not listed that way on the original release back cover).
All of the improvements made to the original translate even more readily onto the vinyl format where this album becomes truly breathtaking. There is quite a shuffling of the song order (see below), however, presumably to accommodate the space limitations of getting these 11 tracks on the 2 sides of the record. Unfortunately, the song order on the back of the record doesn’t correspond to the list on my record (see below).
Bound in Chains
Beyond the Mountain
Many Will Come
Holy, Holy, Holy
While it is certainly not a deal killer, it detracts some from the nostalgia factor. While the CD version didn’t come with lyrics, the vinyl version has a single sheet with lyrics on one side. The other side contains the artwork (pictured below) that was intended to go on the Intense Millennium (now defunct) reissue that never happened a few years ago. My only complaint about the physical product is that the outer jackets are a bit tight so it can be hard to get the record and the lyric insert back in the jacket, especially if you replace the paper record sleeves with higher quality, anti-static, non-scratch sleeves (I definitely recommend this, by the way). The vinyl is available in clear blue (above) and black versions (both limited), but this late in the year you may be hard-pressed to find a blue disc. [Roxx]