If the members of Greece’s Sacred Outcry had had their way, you’d have heard debut full length Damned For All Time about 17 years ago. They originally entered the studio to record it all the way back in 2001 (!) and ended up with a rough mix a couple years later. Fast forward to 2015: the band finally (!!) resumed work and finished it last year (!!!). Not exactly the quickest of production schedules, but as the old adage says, “good things come to those who wait.”
In the case of this album, that doesn’t just mean good things for the listener ‒ of which there are many ‒ but also for the performers. Damned For All Time has the sound of a band perfectly comfortable with the material. Nothing feels forced or the product of a band eager to impress, but rather the work of musicians that truly love the material and want to express it in the best possible way.
Each and every element has that feeling of being perfectly placed, even the extra flairs. If anything, the layered vocals and orchestral flourishes only add to the album’s understated quality by not being overused (there are still thankfully a ton of those “choir” passages and hits). The whole record is a masterclass of placement, of knowing when to throw in some sweeping keyboards and when to just let a soft acoustic guitar passage breathe. This is pure speculation, but perhaps all the extra years the band members spent with these songs helped them to arrive at such a refined approach to each little moment and ingredient.
That isn’t to say that it’s exactly a subtle record ‒ please refer back to the banshee wails ‒ just a meticulously crafted and dynamic one. Opener “Legion of the Fallen,” for example, stays somewhat subdued for most of its length, with Papadopoulos only unleashing those falsettos during the final verse. Tracks like “Where Ancient Gods Are Still Hailed” and “Crystal Tears” emphasize nuanced melody over massive impact, with the former riding a delightfully DeGarmo-ish main riff and the latter turning Manowar bombast into a deliberate but extremely effective emotional crescendo. As if to emphasize some of the “sophisticated Manowar” vibes, bassist George Apalodimas even tosses off the kinds of mid-song solos that Joey DeMaio wishes he’d had in him during the band’s 80s peak.
By contrast, sometimes the thunder is extremely overt. The eponymous track “Sacred Outcry” gets the blood pumping with heightened intensity in nearly every aspect, especially in terms of the double-kick drumming (add Stelios Darakis to the list of Everyone In This Band performing spectacularly) and extra edge on Papadopoulos’ voice; plus a perfectly executed big-hit-into-solo-section (yes, lead guitarist Dimitris Perros is also on that list). Its placement early in the album also gives things a “Get amped!” kick in the Nerfs that sticks with you even into the prettier material.
The nearly 15-minute title track, meanwhile, manages to do it all. It transforms from a soft beginning of acoustic guitars and choirs into a sprawling and epic sound that manages both the Blind Guardian drive and the proggy Long Iron Maiden Song feel, and then just keeps on building. (Also keep an ear out for Apalodimas’ relentless bass during all of this; dude is a beast.) The drop into nothing but violins ‒ and the eventual, inevitable rebuild ‒ feels like the album reflecting back on itself. Once it gets to the kind of nutty, intense theatricality that Iced Earth achieved at their peak (which ironically was about when this material was written), the listener ought to be completely rapt. There’s another (very good) song that follows, but “Damned For All Time” ices it.
Damned For All Time is a gem of a power metal record that was absolutely worth the wait, at least for someone who didn’t know he was waiting nearly 20 years for it. The members of Sacred Outcry might feel relief in finally having the record done more than anything else, but hopefully they also feel a good amount of pride in their accomplishment. Here’s hoping that Sacred Outcry doesn’t take so long to write and record the next part in what they call “The Sacred Chronicles,” because the first part flat rules.