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Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Old School Strikes Back - Tales From the Underground Pt.2: Sacred Blade (CAN)

"The Old School Strikes Back - Tales From the Underground" is series of short stories about eighties heavy metal bands, which never hit big into the fame in the eighties, and disappeared afterwards of making music, but have recently returned in the business with either a new EP or full-length album. The meaning of the series is to bring the word about bands reformation into metal fans knowledge. I will try my best to pick reliable information of the bands (internet sources, and books such as Malc Macmillan's N.W.O.B.H.M. Encyclopedia, combined with my personal opinions), but if you (especially, if you're a member of the band and know the facts for sure) find any errors in the information provided by me which bother you, please let me know and e-mail correction to!

In part two we take a look into Canadian band Sacred Blade:

Sacred Blade was a Canadian heavy metal band that is very easy for an old school heavy metal fan to miss out, since their career was so shattered with only two full-length albums released almost three decades apart (another under a different band name), and their main creative force, Jeff Ulmer, passed away recently. However, Sacred Blade is not a band one should miss out! They weren't your most typical heavy metal band, and had more diverse musical presentation style-wise, with their share of traditional heavy metal, combined with early progressive metal. At times of the "new era" after the silent period, when they returned with lead of Jeff Ulmer, the band used a different name instead of Sacred Blade, which was Othyrworld. It's no question, though, that this was the very same band under different name, since they were re-working with old Sacred Blade material for the new album, as well as some fresh material, and the style remained the same since the eighties. Want to know more? Read on!

Sacred Blade was formed in 1978 by guitar-duo Jeff Ulmer and Will Rascan in Canada. It was the same year when the soon-to-become prime Canadian heavy metal act Anvil were formed, who would later on succeed to become quite popular heavy metal act internationally, and "some dude" named Dan Beehler formed Hell Razor, which would later on become a cult speed metal favorite called Exciter. Drummer Paul Davis joined Sacred Blade few years later in 1980 (source: Of The Sun + Moon booklet. CD Reissue by the band.). Within next few years band rehearsed a lot, and came up with material worth of two full-length albums. For some reason, this material was never used for recordings at the time, and when the band finally hit studio in 1982, they recorded totally new and fresh material pushing out two (2) self-published demos. The first demo (1982) contained songs "Salem", "Crystal", and "Hammerhead". The first song out of the three was featured in their first full-length debut album soon to come. The second demo (1983, also known as "Demo II") contained songs "The Enlightment / Master of the Sun", "The Alien", and "Moon". The first and the last of the aforementioned three songs were featured in the soon to come first full-length album. Song called "The Alien" could be heard on "Metal Massacre IV" compilation by Metal Blade Records, the compilation which also featured bands such as Trouble, Abattoir, and Lizzy Borden. The two demos along with being featured in the compilation were good publicity for the band at the time. Especially, as noted in official Sacred Blade/Othyrworld website, the second demo from 1983 (aka "Demo II") really gave the band international recognition, earning "Best New Band", and "Best Demo" awards from New Jersey's WMSC radio, as well as gathering interest from metal press (source:

I should also state, that the aforementioned demos featured much more rawer overall presentation and style, than found on more refined and bit more mellow upcoming debut album. However, those were the events that granted the band their first record contract and cult following. In 1983 bassist James Channing joined Sacred Blade line-up, and the band was now ready to shake the heavy metal masses and start recording the first full-length album. Recordings in the studio for the debut album "Of The Sun + Moon" began in 1984. Somewhere in between those recordings, in 1985, came out also demo preceding the full-length, containing four (4) songs of the upcoming full-length release: "Of the sun + Moon", "In the light of the moon", "Fieldz of Sunshine", and "Legacy". Studio recordings of the full-length release were, for some reasons, long ride, since it took eighteen (18) months to complete the recordings, until "Of The Sun + Moon" finally hit stores at October of 1986, pressed by legendary French Black Dragon Records label (Read my review of the album). The album's original Vinyl release is quite rare these days and also rather valuable, if you happen to come across it! The reasons behind prolonged recordings and release may well have been about negotiations with several different record companies, as there were a few additional companies that the band were in touch with at the time: Roadrunner Records and Enigma Records. However, the record deal was sealed with Black Dragon in the end.

(Picture from the remastered Of The Sun + Moon CD booklet)

"Of the Sun + Moon" can be described many different ways, for unique album as it is, but I would like to throw in my own humble poor-english-description (as it isn't my native language for me being Finnish). I think, that the album sounds a mixture of traditional heavy metal like Judas Priest, combined with very early progressive heavy metal (which didn't really become popular until the 90s), and epic power metal like Crimson Glory (first one to come to my mind. Call me crazy, but I feel that Crimson Glory and Sacred Blade have something in common style-wise). I always had feeling that "Of the Sun + Moon"'s quality matched the great first two albums by Crimson Glory, speaking of epic magical melodies that were just so damn catchy and mysterious. Yet, "Of The Sun + Moon" also had it's share of more rocking edge (songs like "In the Light of the Moon", for example), and it sort of preceded the upcoming progressive heavy metal-era, in a way, at the same time. It had the speed, priest-like powerful riffs, melodic laid back interludes, mystical melodies, and high pitched vocals combined with shrieking. A very diverse record. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you check out if Othyrworld's official website "Moonwatch Command Module" still has any remastered "Of The Sun + Moon" albums left. It was remastered by Jeff Ulmer some years back from original master tapes! Well, the booklet says "Othyrworld Recordings", but was very likely Jeff's own company with his own studio. They still might have them, so check it out.

(Remastered Of The Sun + Moon CD)

Perhaps "Of The Sun + Moon" didn't really sell that well, or whatever the reason was, after the debut album Black Dragon Records did not grant the band a contract for another release. Or, perhaps the band had some internal problems, since at least Will Rascan and Paul Daves weren't featured on the self-released demo year later in 1987. Rest of the band continued as trio after the debut album, recording demos in 1987 (Untitled demo, songs: "The Transient", "Odyssey of Light", "Neckz in the Woodz", "Til Death do us Part"), 1988 (Seven Moon of Xercez demo, songs: "IC Eyes", "The Transient", "Perpetual Movements", "Til Death Do us Part"), and finally also in 1990 (Advance Mix 1990 demo, songs: "IC Eyes", "Cathedral Forest"), all self-released.  The last one featured unknown Randy Robertson as second guitarist, and the demo was supposed to be recorded preceding the upcoming second full-length album. The band's former musical style remained the same throughout the line, unlike what many other bands did at the time in the late 80s/early 90s, but the band still hadn't managed to seal a new record deal for the planned second full-length album at the beginning of the 90s, and then, total silence...

Sidenote: Seven Moonz of Xercez Demo artwork was later on stolen and used in Reborn Classics (known of many other bootlegs also) records, who used the artwork in their "Seven Moonz of Xercez Bootleg Bootleg CD" featuring low-quality material from several Sacred Blade demos across the different years (

(Beyond Into The Night Of Day CD)

During this silent era which lasted from the early nineties far to the new millennium, over a decade so to speak, the band was silently working with new material for a new album (named later as ""Beyond Into The Night of The Day"), which would feature re-recordings of the old songs, as well as some new songs. According to Jeff's own words (see the picture below), recording for the album began as early as at the summer of 1994, but the recording process eventually took over a decade to be finished!

After one and half decades later since releasing the latest official material, the demo at 1990, Jeff Ulmer returned with former drummer Ted Zawadzki in 2005, and finished up the recordings for the new album "Beyond Into The Night of The Day" (quite progressive-influenced name eh?) under the band name of Othyrworld, which was finally released by Othyr World Recordingz (most likely Jeff's own record label / indenpendent release?). The music was actually 100% Sacred Blade, and the songs were mostly re-recordings of the debut album material with few exceptions: "Odyssey of Light", "Right Ascension", and "Ethereal Skyline" were never featured before. It's not explained whether these were material prior to first two demos, which never ended up for any recording, or were they fresh songs. Nevertheless, while usually re-recordings decades later come out stale and spiritless, "Beyond Into The Night of The Day" is actually a very good album that manages to capture the old spirit with newer studio equipment, and updated sound (with a good taste). The sound is perhaps a bit thicker and more progressive metal influenced, than on the original record, but keeps the original spirit up perfectly. The album is highly recommended by me.

There was never second release at Othyrworld-era, nor any official demos. Obviously, old Sacred Blade demos were meant to be remastered and released as a special collector's edition CD by Jeff Ulmer, but these plans to my knowledge never happened, and for quite obvious reasons I don't believe it will happen in the future either (since Jeff passed away). I, for one, would had definitely bought the planned remastered Demo Compilation: "Moonwatch Command Module plans to release the entire demo catalogue, digitally remastered from the original tapes on a collector's edition CD complete with extensive liner notes, lyrics and pictures from the era that the recordings were made. Stay tuned for details on this collector's edition CD, available only through the Moonwatch Command Module. (" 

The story of Sacred Blade is rather depressing, because of the humongous talent the band - especially Jeff Ulmer - had. He was quite a visionnaire when it comes to composing music. He was a fine guitar player who could come up with unique melodies, though, his vocals might not have been up to par with the best singers in heavy metal scene. Jeff and Sacred Blade were part of the Canadian heavy metal scene for very long time, from the late seventies to the early nineties, and then returning with a new record much later. Yet the band was criminally overlooked, only got a record deal for one full-length album, and three decades later managed to release another one by their own record label (under Othyrworld name). They released several demos from early eighties to early nineties, which despite attracting cult following from heavy metal fans, didn't interest record companies much. Their premiere, "Of the Sun + Moon", remains one of the most overlooked classic heavy metal records of all times, being not only creative and powerful effort, but also ahead of it's time musically.

The second coming under the name Othyrworld with "Beyond Into The Night of The Day" album, on the other hand, is a prime example how the talent and passion for performing heavy metal music decades later since the last official release, can still be present. "The old school" did truly strike back successfully with  "Beyond Into The Night of The Day" in 2005 with lead of Jeff Ulmer, after a long silence, but for whatever the reason, there was no continuity for the album in form of another release. It seems that even with a successful returning-album quality and material-wise, the band still didn't manage to establish a decent "foothold" into Canadian heavy metal scene at the new millennium. A true shame, indeed. And whether there were plans to come out with another album in the future, the hope for the fans of the band to ever hear new material died with Jeff passing away in 2013. That's the time when fate stepped into the picture, preventing chances for a new record all together. Thus, the band's promising "return" remained a short one. If Jeff owned all rights for his and the bands past recordings and music (and in case Othyr World Recordingz was a record label solely owned by himself), then I doubt that the material will ever be re-released in the future, either. So, if you come across any of their albums or demos second hand, just grab it while you can!

In memory of Jeff Ulmer, who passed away in 2013 after having a stroke. May your music be inspiration to us few who ever heard it!

(Sacred Blade - The Enlightenment/Master of the Sun - Of the Sun + Moon (1986))

Additional notes: " Of The Sun + Moon CD" was initially only released as vinyl by Black Dragon Records, and then re-released in CD format as limited edition by Othyr World Recordinz in 1999 (cat#: OWRCD 001).

Sources: Othyrworld official website (aka Sacred Blade (; Metal-Archives (; Sacred Blade ‎– Of The Sun + Moon CD, sheet (Othyr World Recordingz ‎– OWRCD 001).

Read also: 
REVIEW: Sacred Blade (CAN) - Of The Sun + Moon (1986, remastered), by (Thursday, March 18, 2010). 
Jeff Ulmer (ex- Sacred Blade / Othyrworld) has died - paying my respects by (Wednesday, June 19, 2013). | Tane Norther

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