Metal Blade Records 40th Anniversary Party featuring Sacred Reich
with Don Jamieson
Las Vegas, Nevada • September 17, 2022
by Anna-Marie O’Brien
I am a middle-aged mother of two teenagers and a former librarian, and I love heavy metal and hard rock music. So much so, that I drove five hours to Las Vegas recently to see one of my favorite bands from my thrash metal days: Sacred Reich.
I last saw Sacred Reich on their Awakening tour in 2019, playing with the reunited Violence at a slightly questionable venue in a suburb of Phoenix, Sacred Reich’s hometown. I had a blast revisiting their old songs and enjoying material from their newest album. It was a rowdy and proper metal show—I always feel at home amongst my people.
But the drive to Vegas recently wasn’t just for any old metal show.
Sacred Reich were playing at The Space in Las Vegas to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Metal Blade Records.
Founded in 1982 by Brian Slagel, Metal Blade has been pivotal in the careers of SO many bands: Metallica, Slayer, GWAR, Cannibal Corpse, Armored Saint, Fates Warning, Amon Amarth, and Black Dahlia Murder, just to name a few. Sacred Reich put out their first album on Metal Blade in 1987 when it was still a fairly new label.
Metal Blade’s catalog of music in 2022 is absolutely legendary. Quite simply, they never sold out to a larger corporate agenda. Metal Blade are, and will probably always remain, an independent record label.
Because of all this, Metal Blade has massive amounts of credibility amongst metalheads.
They have 40 solid years of bringing the heaviest, grooviest, darkest, and scariest metal acts to a market that most record companies completely ignored. Metal Blade has remained lean, agile, and forward thinking, able to embrace technology and resources much faster than the big labels, while also being able to turn a profit at times when others in the industry struggled.
And in the interests of full disclosure, I am a Metal Blade alumnus. I worked at the label in 1991-92, and have kept in touch with my Metal Blade friends over the years, attending shows, parties, and events as they’ve come up. You can read all about my early metal antics in my book, Adventures of a Metalhead Librarian, if you’re curious.
My chaperone for this particular evening was my good friend, Lonn M. Friend, former editor of the legendary RIP Magazine, the rag responsible for so many of my teenage rock ‘n roll dreams. When I told Lonn that I was thinking about coming to Vegas for the show, it was a done deal. He’s known Brian Slagel and the Metal Blade people for even longer than I have, and it’s always a delight to hang with Lonn and hear his rock n’ roll stories.
Brian Slagel opened the evening to welcome and thank everyone for coming out and to introduce Don Jamieson, former host of That Metal Show and also on the Metal Blade roster with his comedy albums. Jamieson did a ten-minute warm up, and then Sacred Reich took the stage for a solid 45-minute set.
They sounded great. Tight, heavy, comfortable. Sacred Reich is a working-class thrash band, with no frippery or finery, just solid and chunky metal riffs, tight drums, a meaty bass, socially conscious lyrics, and smokin’ hot guitars.
The lineup includes original frontman and bassist Phil Rind, long-time guitarist Wiley Arnett, drummist Dave McClain, who rejoined Sacred Reich after playing with them in the early ’90s, and the newest member and guitar ace, Joey Radziwell. What a bunch of nice guys.
For as heavy as the riffs are, Phil Rind has an easy, peaceful stage presence and wasn’t fazed at all, in fact, was quite gracious when he told a, uh, “loud talker” (i.e. drunk heckler) to stop yelling at him while he was speaking. He was especially thoughtful as he introduced and talked about the songs “Awakening,” “Salvation,” and “Manifest Reality.”
The thing I love about watching more mature metal bands is their mastery of the craft and the sure-handed way they deliver the songs. There seems to be a natural chemistry with this lineup that really is a joy to watch.
The setlist for the evening also included “The American Way,” “Independent,” “Revolution,” “Who’s to Blame,” and “Divide & Conquer.”
While on a quick break, I ran into Don Jamieson in the lobby and stopped to chat with him for a few minutes, so I missed two songs of the set, but I made it back in front of the stage for Sacred Reich to close with their most famous anthem, “Surf Nicaragua.”
I’ve been going to metal shows since I was 15, and I started listening to Sacred Reich, Slayer, Metallica, and Armored Saint in high school. I worked at Metal Blade as a young adult. I went on to get a college degree, start a family, have a career, and write a book.
But being part of the Metal Blade family and watching Sacred Reich deliver a masterful set amongst fans and friends that I’ve known for 30+ years is something truly special. Metalheads are a small clan, and at this point, I’m an elder.
But despite the passage of time and my long gray hair, metal keeps me young at heart. The feelings of joy I experience when I’m at a metal show never get old.
Congratulations to Metal Blade on 40 years of heavy excellence, and thank you, Sacred Reich!