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Thursday, March 18, 2010

REVIEW: Sacred Blade (CAN) - Of The Sun + Moon (1986, remastered)

Sacred Blade Of The Sun Moon 1986

Sacred Blade was Canadian band formed in 1981 by Jeff Ulmer (guitars, vocals [later also bass and keyboards]) and Will Rascan (guitars) - later on known as Othryworld in the new millennium. Initially the band played more standard heavy metal with US metal and early Judas Priest influences, but after several years of releasing demos, one appearance in Metal Massacre IV compilation, and still not getting full length out, the band's style matured (in a good way) to something different. By the time they released their first album Of The Sun + Moon under Black Dragon Records label, five years after the formation, Sacred Blade had found pinnacle of their sound: mysterious, beautiful, containing "dreaming in space"-like progressive elements - yet maintaining part of that rough energy and "kick" featured in their earlier demos.

Of The Sun + Moon's songs are generally more complex than in your average-80s-heavy metal record, and production is very clear and crisp for it's age, although could be bit heavier. The band plays US sounding heavy metal with quite atmospheric progressive edge within. Combine something like Crimson Glory (guitar leads) and Judas Priest (rhythm guitar), but add more progressive metal edge to the music in flavor of Queensryche, and you know the roughly what this album is about. Of The Sun + Moon manages to capture a magical and unique feel with it's melodies, and is one of my definite all time favorite heavy metal records.

The only band I know along Sacred Blade (with this record) playing "so traditional heavy metal", yet still capturing that dream-like magical feel with progressive elements, is Crimson Glory. Of course we don't quite have another "Midnight" with those piercing insanely high screams on vocals in this record. Instead we have man called Jeff Ulmer, who plays another of the guitars and also on vocals. He doesn't sound as quite exceptional or professional singer than Midnight, but he manages to do good job nevertheless. Ulmer has quite catchy clean mid-range, combining some Halford'ish high screams, but with more shrieking edge. He's not most memorable singer around, but holds his own well, and is at least quite versatile with his range, although he has toned high screams and shrieks to the minimum compared to the early demos by the band. 

The guitar playing by Jeff Ulmer and Will Rascan is the most memorable thing in this album. Melodies in Of The Sun + Moon are ever as brilliant as in first two Crimson Glory records, if not even more mind-blowing. Compared to Crimson Glory, Sacred Blade has slightly more progressive approach to their music, leaving heavy / power metal elements bit more to the background, although the style is still audible in their playing. Of The Sun + Moon's melodies are very versatile, without really never boring the listener. This album paints a picture of wandering in endless alien lands under glowing stars and moon - sometimes broken by aggression with songs like Salem.

The album consists of total twelve songs of which there are three instrumentals, or interludes to the actual vocal-backed songs, and nine are actual full tracks. While I many times consider too many intros and interludes to be filler, in Of The Sun + Moon they are executed perfectly well fitting into the complex and beautiful mood of this album, bringing rather epic feel to the album, especially by acoustic guitar parts which are mostly used in these instrumental songs. Of The Sun + Moon is one of those particular albums, where acoustic guitar parts are played so well they are nearing perfection. They just take atmosphere of this album to the another level without never making things sound boring or too wimpy. Acoustic guitar parts complete the magical feel of the sound along with great versatile prog-like bass-work of James Channing. The three instrumentals don't weaken the actual album either, but are instead the finishing touch to the album. You will notice this surely when you listen the whole album through-out from first to the last song.

Of The Sun + Moon is one of those albums with many faces, ranging from straight forward aggressive heavy metal tracks like Salem and Master Of The Sun into more slower tranquil space-drifting Moon, which is superb by the way, and to more gloomy ones such as The Pressing and Legacy. Hybrids of these previous two styles such as priest-laden Fieldz Of Sunshrine work perfectly as well. The album is generally dominated with mystical, mysterious and strange atmosphere, that's truly unique, yet part of the album is filled with fair amount of head-bang material too. But asking the best track out of this album would make the rest look worse than they are. Why? Because they're all great! Out of nine actual tracks there's no single weakling to be found, making this album one of the best 80s heavy metal records, which, anyone who digs traditional heavy metal or progressive heavy metal, should hear. I insist! 

For the fans of bands like Crimson Glory, Fates Warning, Queensryche, and.. what the hell.. for anyone enjoying some of the best bits of 80s heavy metal. You MUST hear this one! Pinnacle moment of dream-like 80s early progressive heavy metal, that was ahead of it's time, yet remained unknown for the mainstream... this one will blow our mind! KULT metal at it's finest.

Note: The album was remastered some years ago and released as limited edition by the band members themselves. If it's still available, and you're interested in getting one (you should), check the link below! (re-written 28.11.2012)

96 | reviewer: dungeoncrawler

You can order Of The Sun + Moon directly from the band by clicking here

  • Jeff "The Pilot" Ulmer Vocals, Lead & Rhythm Guitars
  • Paul "Pol" Davis Drums
  • Will "Nascar" Rascan Rhythm Guitars
  • James "Zed" Channing Bass
  • 1. Ayltuthus I 00:38
  • 2. Of The Sun + Moon 04:26
  • 3. Fieldz The Sunshrine 04:28
  • 4. Salem 04:27
  • 5. The Reign Of Night Rainz 01:27
  • 6. Legacy 04:27
  • 7. To Lunar Windz... 04:24
  • 8. The Enlightenment 03:29
  • 9. Master Of The Sun 06:55
  • 10. The Pressing 03:10
  • 11. In Light Of The Moon 03:08
  • 12. Moon 08:10
    • Total playing time 49:09

For Collectors:
(Following prices have raised since ’99 but will give you direction)
Used album price @ Martin Popoff’s Heavy Metal Record Price Guide (1999):

Label – Black Dragon/BD015
Type – LP/US/86 (gatefold)
Near Mint – $22
Very Good+ - $12

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