Experience Sacred Reich’s Spine-Tingling Return in ‘Manifest Reality’
The building blocks of thrash were baked into Sacred Reich’s sound from their 1980s start. And the sonic results that striped their impressive first run — one that took the metal quartet from a tiny Phoenix club called the Mason Jar all the way to a brief appearance in 1992’s Encino Man — came with a visual story, often told through music videos by filmmaker Mark Pellington. He's the director behind Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy,” among many other videos, and movies such as The Mothman Prophecies and Arlington Road.
He also helmed Sacred Reich’s harrowing clip for “Manifest Reality,” a new song from the band’s upcoming album, Awakening, their first studio effort in 23 years. Watch it down toward the bottom of this post.
In fact, “Manifest Reality” was Pellington’s first choice for filming a new Sacred Reich video, although he also made one for the album’s title track, released last month. As singer and bassist Phil Rind recently laid out for Loudwire, the thematic boom of “Manifest Reality” seemed to reach the filmmaker in ways the other songs didn’t.
“That was the one he picked,” Rind explained. “He was the one who said, 'I really wanna do something for 'Manifest Reality.' It's speaking to me.' And we're like, 'Fuck yeah, let's do that.'”
The gritty video, shot by Ann Evelyn Lawford and featuring a troupe of dancers choreographed by Nina McNeely, represents a dichotomy, the singer said. "It shows the struggle we face day to day, moment to moment in overcoming the habits we have created that hold us back.The conflict between our best and worst instincts. Releasing grief and overcoming isolation. The yearning for something better."
Perhaps a perceived connection is mistaken, but the contorted figures in the clip could even call to mind a mud-covered caveman played by Brendan Fraser. Albeit one with more existential angst.
Pellington’s relationship with Sacred Reich goes way back. In 1993, once the group landed a deal with Disney subsidiary Hollywood Records (and after a formative period with Metal Blade, to which they return with Awakening), the rockers were introduced to the director around the time of their third album.
“We met him when we did Independent,” the musician recalled. “We were sitting in our A&R guy’s office at Hollywood Records, and this guy named Stu Cohen, who was in charge of videos there, he came up and he said, 'Hey, I have a friend who's interested in working with you.' We go, 'Well, what did he do?' He goes, 'He just did that Pearl Jam 'Jeremy' video.' And we’re sitting there watching MTV, and that video had come on, and we're like, 'Man, that video's so killer!' We're just like, 'Shut up. No way! That guy?’”
Pellington proved a compelling ally. He used his creative rein to pull for the band, even supporting them against corporate hive-mind as label interests interfered. Were the filmmaker not involved, that album’s opening track probably wouldn’t have been its introductory single, despite the band’s own wishes.
“We were fighting with Hollywood because we wanted to do 'Independent' as the first single and they wanted to do 'Crawling,’” Rind remembered. “We were in New York and Mark looked at them and said, 'I'm here to direct 'Independent.' If you wanna do another song, find another director.' And that was it, because he was such a big deal, you know? He stood up for us right away, and we've been friends ever since."
Making friends could be the very reason Sacred Reich is back after all this time. Along with returning drummer Dave McClain, who recently relinquished the drum stool in Machine Head, the group welcomes new rhythm guitarist Joey Radziwill alongside mainstays Rind and lead shredder Wiley Arnett. Should you happen to catch Sacred Reich onstage this year, don’t be surprised by the youngblood stage-left — Radziwill’s only 23.
“I have a friend named Tim, Joey's dad, and we were working together,” Rind explained of Awakening’s pre-production, which led to the young player’s participation. “He had a little studio, and I had a bunch of riffs recorded on my phone, just to get them down. We'd go to Tim's place and Joey would engineer, Tim would play drums. And then I’d play scratch tracks on guitar and just hand it over to Joey. He would watch me and learn it, and he wound up playing guitar on all the demos, even in their very early stages.”
Radziwill’s official induction was a foregone conclusion after founding member Jason Rainey bowed out. Once sessions began in earnest and the band required a guitarist, Sacred Reich’s latest incarnation found their missing piece in the junior rocker who looks born to play the part onstage.
Rind continued of the setup, “When Dave was done with Machine Head and came back on, and we worked on the songs together as a group, Joey already knew them. So when Jason wasn't feeling up to it, it’s like, what are we gonna do? Joey already knew the songs. I mean, he was the only other guy on the planet who knew the songs!”
All things seemingly aligned for 2019, it looks like Sacred Reich have arrived at primetime for a renaissance with avid thrashers. From a certain perspective, that could come as a surprise, considering their history. The band broke up in 2000, initially reuniting in 2006 with early drummer Greg Hall. But Rind remembered the uninspiring circumstances of the band's overall hiatus, which came after 1996’s Heal, their fourth album.
“It felt like we were winding down,” he described. “If you look at the arc of our career, we kind of peaked and came down the other side. It just felt like a transition to the next part of our lives. But, like, I dropped out of high school to make our first record. This is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do since I was 13. And I've done a lot of different things — whatever the situation is, put me in it and I can be fine at it. But being fine at something and being happy and feeling fulfilled, like you're doing what you're supposed to be doing, those are two different things."
Sacred Reich came to recognition with 1987’s Ignorance and the following year's Surf Nicaragua EP, each an arguable thrash landmark. 1990’s The American Way yielded the band’s crossover moment when, on film, the unthawed troglodyte happened upon the title tune’s video. The moment lasted a few seconds, and, like others of their ilk, the group soon experienced a downslide in popularity. Since resuming in 2006, only a live album saw release before April’s politically charged one-off “Don’t Do It Donnie” heralded Sacred Reich’s true return.
As for Rind — who recalled attending an Encino Man screening at a Disney lot around the time of the film's release — he’s now more centered than ever. An ongoing devotion to Tibetan Buddhism, a practice he’s held for 20 years, seems to keep the musician focused.
“It always in the background,” the musician explained. “When I was in college and I took a world religion class, Buddhism made the most sense. But I started really practicing when I was 30. The band had split up, my family was splitting up. I always knew that I loved playing music and loved being in a band, and I was really fucking depressed for a long time. It's like, 'You dummy, you did it all. Every action, every thought that led you to this place, it's karma. You have nobody to blame but yourself. And if you'd like to change things, you have to create different actions if you want different results.’ And that’s when I started practicing."
But don’t think the spiritual awakening means the Sacred Reich singer doesn’t struggle. Like many, he has experienced pronounced periods of depression.
"Only in the last couple years have I come out of that,” Rind said. “And I don't think I'm unique, I mean, we don't have to look any further than Chris Cornell. Here's a guy that's handsome, talented, a very successful guy. I think it's even harder when you're struggling with those feelings, but you have everything society tells you that you should have to be happy. But you're still not happy. Depression comes from feeling alone. The truth is that we're all interconnected in a very deep and meaningful way, but the opposite of understanding that truth is isolation. That's where depression comes from. That's what Awakening is about."
Living. Dying. Awakening. The metal act have checked each off their list. And Rind promised the Reich revival will continue. That is, if he has anything to say about it.
“I'm pretty sure it's not gonna be another 23 years,” the singer laughed. “We've always taken a lot of time between records, and I would like to not do that again. In my head, I'm already three songs into the next record.”
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