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[Review] Sacred Reich / Vio-Lence @ Manning Bar, Sydney 08/03/2023

I stand tonight in the heart of many happy metalheads. After multiple cancellations, delays, and pandemics; we blew the dust that had settled upon our tickets from 2019 for the Aussie Thrash Fest has arrived. Sydney is the second stop on the tour, which began in our nation’s capital. Before the grand finale in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide will also be decimated!

A double header of these thrash titans is sure to be a wild ride.  

Founded in 1985, at the height of the Bay Area thrash movement, Vio-lence came up alongside fellow Bay bashers as Testament, Exodus, Death Angel, Heathen, Forbidden, Laaz Rockit, Dark Angel, and of course Metallica. Tonight, we celebrate their very first visit down under. Aussie fans may have thought they’d never see Vio-Lence on our shores as they’ve had many stints together, only recently reforming in 2019 after their 2003 split. 

Sadly, guitarist and founding member Phil Demmel (ex-Machine Head) isn’t with them on this tour. One man down doesn’t stop remaining members storming the stage and throwing down Bay Area style! Red lighting creates a menacing atmosphere as they ferociously fire through many well known songs including Serial Killer, Calling In the Coroner and Kill on Command. Vocalist Sean Killian is a true professional, commanding the stage ensuring every punter who makes eye contact with him, he’s returning. A nice surprise was seeing Christian Olde Wolbers (ex Fear Factory) on bass duties. He’s been with Vio-lence since 2020 and is having a great time up on stage. He’s always had a wonderful stage presence and gives his everything, a great addition to an already solid line up. Vio-Lence have ignited the crowd with their merciless set, most songs coming from 1988’s Eternal Nightmare. As this is their first time to Australia, Vio-Lence fans have been waiting a long time to hear these tracks. There are smiles a plenty as their time is wrapped up with Phobophobia, Upon Their Cross and World in a World

As the sounds of Sacred Reich ride through the outdoor smoking area, fans are dropping everything to run inside. By the time I’ve rushed in with the masses, The American Way has kicked off with many fists in the air, singing along. Vocalist Phil Rind takes a moment to say hello to the crowd. When asked if anyone was born after 1994, a fair few hand rose. Rind chuckles and informs us all that 1994 was the last time Sacred Reich were on our shores with Sepultura. 

Most of the songs tonight come from their latest album, 2019’s Awakening. Including Divide & Conquer, Manifest Reality and Salvation. World renowned skinsman Dave McClain (ex Machine Head) is holding down the beat with precision and concentration. I’ve been seeing Dave play since I was a young teenager and I’ve always admired his style, tonight his bass drum emanate through each one of us bringing a whole new meaning to feeling the music! One confused crowd member may not know where he is as he screams for ‘Holy Wars!’ (of course, by Megadeth, not Sacred Reich.) Phil handles this well by giving his two cents on which albums he likes, because the one thing we all have in common tonight, is thrash metal!  

I can’t help but watch new blood Joey Radziwill, on rhythm guitar. He is pouring all his energy and enthusiasm into his axe tonight, headbanging at every moment, not missing a note. Free and Who’s to Blame garner great responses from the crowd. Sacred Reich have always been a little different to the rest, preferring to cover social and political issues than the more demonic elements of their peers but despite the intense subject matter and the furious riffing of the likes of Death Squad, frontman Phil Rind’s beaming smile, friendly on-stage demeanour and positive inter-song banter was at odds with those weighty topics. 

The night appeared to fly by after such a lengthy wait, which was testament to the band’s powerful, hugely entertaining performance. Long-time axeman Wiley Arnett kicks off Surf Nicaragua to close tonight’s set, igniting a small riot on the floor of the Manning Bar. 

As the punters saunter away from the stage, hungry for 1 more song, smiles are still wide on everyone’s faces. The merch table is many people deep while security attempt to clear the venue. To experience a bands first trip to Australia, and one almost 30 years in the making was truly special. Hardline Media proving once more they are a promotor for the people. 

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