Sacred Heart // The Vision
Rating: 1.5/5.0 – Nothing sacred
Label: Pure Underground Records
Release Dates: Out Now
As the metal community continues the slow journey up it’s own ass, one noticeable side effect has been the shunning of any and all bands that have achieved even a minimal amount of success and/or popularity. The inverse is also true—headbangers have been known to glorify bands that are ridiculously obscure, in the hopes of sounding more knowledgeable and “underground” than the next guy. The obvious endgame of this scenario would be a band that literally no one has heard of. Well, Pure Underground Records has got you covered, with the release of The Vision a 1989 demo/EP by Sacred Heart.
Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio (the Armpit of America! [No, that’s New Jersey. – AMG]), Sacred Heart‘s entire recorded output apparently consisted of exactly 5 songs — three from the original The Vision demo, and two others from various comps that are included with this reissue. The band plays traditional/power metal in the vein of Iron Maiden and/or early Queensrÿche, with a little bit of ‘80s butt-rock thrown into the mix. Y’know, the stuff that used to just be called “heavy metal.” Keep in mind that in 1989, almost everybody was in a band like this. Someone in your life—it could be your boss, or your uncle with the mustache, or the guy that installed your cable—was in a band remarkably similar to Sacred Heart.
From the second the acapella vocals kick in on “We’ll Hold on till Tomorrow”, you know exactly what you’re getting into here. Galloping riffs, meedly-meedly lead guitars, and high-pitched vocals that will make you clench your sphincter tight. The band is solid, and the songs are fairly decent, if not groundbreaking. The emphasis here is on hooks moreso than technique, so while there’s no shortage of guitar solos, there’s no Michael Angelo-style virtuosity on display either. Regardless, this is total fist-in-the-air shit, cheesier than smegma and metall-er than Robocop. You can practically smell the sweat, hairspray and cheap beer coming out of your speakers.
But wait, there’s more! After Sacred Heart called it quits in 1991, guitarist Byron Nemeth formed a new band, modestly dubbed the Byron Nemeth Group, whose six-song EP is tacked onto this reissue as bonus material. Nemeth must have heard Dream Theater‘s Images and Words at some point and attempted to go all-out prog. The result is more modern yet somehow infinitely cheesier than Sacred Heart. The vocalist here is lower-pitched and more aggressive, but this improvement is undone by the presence of a loud, overbearing keyboard player. Whatever songwriting chops Sacred Heart had are nowhere to be found here—this stuff sounds more like something you’d hear in a commercial for Guitar Center. Honestly, I would’ve given this CD a higher rating if these tracks weren’t on there.
Back to Sacred Heart: Perhaps their ultimate downfall was that they brought nothing new to the table. The Vision isn’t some unearthed ’80s metal treasure that belongs up there with The Warning or Hall of the Mountain King. It’s not even that great by demo standards. Rather, it’s a document of some young headbangers who clearly had their (sacred) hearts in the right place, but couldn’t possibly live up to their influences. Some of you may find this interesting as a historical document of what local bands sounded like in the late ’80s. More importantly, it’s the indisputable ending to the “more underground than thou” game. “Fuck (insert name of band), they’re posers. Ever hear of Sacred Heart?” Game over.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna call up Pure Underground and see if they have any interest in my old thrash band’s 2-song demo from 1996…