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Rob Thorne (Sacred Oath)

Interview with Rob Thorne from Sacred Oath
by Grigoris Chronis at 04 November 2008, 8:10 AM

Listening to SACRED OATH's latest live album, 'Till Death Do Us Part, there stood a weird feeling of nostalgia. For old-school US Metal fans an album like A Crystal Vision (the band's debut back in 1987) is a definite must-have for any serious record collection. Enough with the past; the American Metal band's back in action and - while waiting for their next strike - it's mainman Rob Thorne who delivers various information regarding the band's past, present and future!

Hi Rob, greetings from Metal Temple mag!

All hail the gods of Metal Temple!

Well, to be honest, I never imagined we'd have the chance sometime to feature an interview for SACRED OATH. So, to the point: 'Till Death Do Us Part gives us the chance to ask - first of all - what's the status for SACRED OATH as we speak? Are you planning to be totally back in the Metal map?

Yes, we are totally back and busier than ever. We put out Revision in 2005, Darkness Visible in 2007, 'Till Death Do Us Part in 2008, and we have a new album coming in the spring of 2009.  We also did a European tour in 2007 and have been playing around the US all this year. I'd say that is an indication we're back and serious about our business, wouldn't you?

Is it still you and Kenny Evans the only old members in the band? How did you end up still playing with Kenny? In addition, what's the story for the rest of the lineup, Bill and Scott? Bill also played in the Darkness Visible album, right?

Yes, Kenny and I are the only original members still playing in SACRED OATH. We've been together since high school, where we first formed SACRED OATH, and we're still best friends if you can believe that. He's a great drummer and so much fun to play with. Scott was my bass player in SOUNDSCAPE, which was the band I played with in the 90's. He is a fantastic musician and fits in very well with the OATH. Bill, believe it or not, was a former guitar student of mine and was the best man for the job (to fill Glen Cruciani's shoes). I'm finding on the new album that we work very well together on the rhythm tracks because I taught him how to play and he is able to anticipate and double everything I do! But no, he did not play on Darkness Visible. The original guitarist Glen Cruciani is on that CD. That whole album is the original band, for the most part. Bassist Pete Altieri had complications from cancer halfway through and had to stop recording.  

I see…So, you did get invited to perform at Keep It True festival in Germany, right? What's the whole story? Did you enjoy the fest, in general? This year I'll travel over there, too, seems it's a great event for vintage Heavy Metal music.

Yes, we kicked off the European tour with opening night at Keep It True. That was a great night for us.  What a great festival! And a great opportunity for us to introduce ourselves in Europe. We had never played over there before. Oliver had called and asked if we would be willing to co-headline KIT and of course we said yes right away. We get so many emails from fans in Germany, we really wanted to go play for them! It was overwhelming to meet so many fans that had been following our music since 1987, and truly an honor to be with them that night.

Which bands did you have the chance to see onstage, while being there in the venue?

I saw LEATHERWOLF, STEEL ASSASSIN, PAGAN ALTAR, PORTRAIT and HIRAX.

Who's decision was it to record your performance in order to build up a live CD release? Are you satisfied from the result? In my opinion, the sound/mix is more than excellent; honestly, I'd not expect such a powerful metallic in-your-face sound to be captured on disc. Did you do any corrections afterward?

The promoters record the entire show every year. When I returned to the US, I asked Tarek Maghary if he would send me the master tapes so I could hear them. I thought they were pretty good and we decided to issue a live album since we weren't going to have a new studio album until 2009. I'm very satisfied with how it sounds, considering we weren't planning to record a live album at all! That CD is pure live SACRED OATH. It's like being right there at an OATH show. There weren't many corrections to be done in the mix. Maybe a cracked note here and there. We removed Darkness Visible from the setlist because there was an equipment malfunction in the beginning of the song. That was disappointing. But, all in all, it is an effective CD.

Bearing in mind most 'classic' Metal fans are aware of the A Crystal Vision album, I was expecting you'd perform this LP in its entirety. Still, you chose to play enough songs from the Darkness Visible CD, too. How did the audience respond in this 60%-40% tracklist?

The audience didn't seem to mind, in fact they were screaming for songs like Battle Cry all night!  There was no way we could travel to Europe and not play songs off Darkness Visible. We had great feedback on that album and knew that fans would be disappointed if we held back.

I was glad to see your voice is still in very good shape, indeed! Did you focus only in rhythm guitar stuff in the gig or you took hold of the solos too?

I always play solos. Always. That would be pretty shitty to record solos on the albums and then not play them live!

I have to admit I had a tough time trying to 'locate' the Darkness Visible CD when it was released. Really, did you have a hard time with the distribution of this album?

Yes, of course. Nobody wanted to believe we were back in action. It just sort of surprised everyone. But things are changing now for the better. I think you will be able to find our albums easier now.

Even if it's a great time gap between 1987 (A Crystal Vision) and 2007 (Darkness Visible), what kind of 'key' points would you put in each release, in order to attract the interest of a Metal fan not familiar with SACRED OATH in prior?

Well, it's funny, because back in 1987 there weren't 200 subgenres of Metal. You just played heavy music and hopefully it was unique and interesting. Now everyone wants to classify you right away. But you can hear in our music that we are old school in the sense that we value melody, and a range of emotion in our songs. It is not always one thing over and over. We have always been heavily influenced by masters like SABBATH, MAIDEN, PRIEST, RAINBOW, MERCYFUL FATE, QUEENSRYCHE, METALLICA…they saw music this way, and so do we. I have a hard time relating to bands like UNEARTH.

Truth is few meatheads are aware of the A Crystal Revision album. What's the story behind this set of re-recording stuff? You've been in a hiatus until then, right? What happened?

Yes, we broke up in 1988 after a horrible experience with our record label Mercenary Records. We were very young (I was 18) and not mature enough yet to deal with the kind of issues coming at us. So we each went our own ways and played in other bands for more than ten years. Little did we know we were honing our skills for the return of SACRED OATH! Sentinel Steel Records approached me about re-issuing A Crystal Vision and paid to have us get in the studio again to do a couple bonus tracks like The End and The Invocation. We had so much fun being together again we just kept playing through the rest of the album! When we officially reunited in 2005 we decided to release those recordings.

Rob, having in mind that 80s Metal bands performed a more guitar-oriented and high-pitched-singing kind of Metal music, what's your opinion on today's Metal(?) scene, featuring many many bands over-loaded with keyboards and too 'melodic' or 'atmospheric' (male or female) vocals? On the other hand, there's too much aggression in riffing in many 'new Metal' bands, anger and only anger. How do you see this development the last 10-15 years?

I'm not a big fan, especially of the guttural vocal style and the incessant anger. I'm just not THAT angry all the time, and I never felt Heavy Metal was just about anger anyway. But I do appreciate that it allows a band like us stand out now. We're definitely different from them! I wonder if the tide will turn again in our direction…

In the case of working for a new album, what should we expect from SACRED OATH in the (not so far, we hope) future?

We're almost finished with a new album that we expect will be released in the spring. Fourteen songs recorded by the same lineup as the live CD. Very melodic, yet thrashing. I think it's the best SACRED OATH effort yet!  We've got some really exciting songs like Paradise Lost and Hunt For The Fallen Angel.  Real, pure SACRED OATH songs. I think we may call the album SACRED OATH (self-titled).

Rob, thanks a lot for your precious time. Anything you'd like to add on?

Yeah, when are we coming to Greece? I hear great things about your country. I'm hopeful we can come and play there this summer!



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