SACRILEGE – The Court Of The Insane

Arriving on the scene in 1982 at the tail end of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Sacrilege were originally active as a gigging band for five years. Although they played London’s legendary Marquee at their peak, in many ways, they were just one of hundreds of bands at that time who never “made it” in the truest sense. During their original life-span, they never recorded an album, and so by the end of the nineties, they seemed destined to be all but forgotten.

Frontman Bill Beadle revived the band in 2007, first choosing to record old Sacrilege songs with different musicians and eventually returned to live performance in 2012, a quarter of a century after the original band called time on their career. Over the next six years, Sacrilege set about writing and recording brand new material. During that time, there were shifting line-ups (including one which briefly included Big River guitarist Damo Fawsett), but Beadle remained at the helm, more committed – more defiant, even – than ever.

2019’s ‘The Court of The Insane’ does its best to capture Bill’s original vision, reworking traditional metal lyrics and riffs in a way that is in firm tribute to Sacrilege’s 80s origins. Unfortunately, its best just isn’t good enough, since it’s a record that’s completely stuck in the past…and never in a good way. It’s almost impossible to take any of it seriously, but its biggest flaw is actually Bill Beadle himself: for all of his apparent self-belief, he’s got a terrible singing voice and his lyrical abilities are so entrenched within dated clichés, it’s just laughable.

The opening track ‘Celestial City’ quickly sets up a fairly bad impression, filling what feels like forever with stodgy riffs. The music, at its best, sounds like an idea that ‘Lionheart’ era Saxon would put on the back-burner and mark “unfinished”. The riffs are workmanlike, completely missing those extra flourishes that have the capabilities of making old-school metal soar, and the woeful keyboard playing is so high in the mix that it really jars. …And when Beadle sings, it’s even worse. Somewhere between a bad, booming metal voice and a prog metal croon is about the best he can manage; none of his vocals suggest he’s actually been doing this on and off for a thirty years or more. At best, this sounds like an average demo from an average band – and it is certainly not the sort of thing that should have pride of place at the front of an album. The title track has a better final mix bringing out Jeff Roland’s bass, but is let down by another plodding riff throughout. Since this number stretches to a full six minutes, it becomes quite boring. Lyrically, though, things look up momentarily, as Beadle drawls “Is this real or am I caught in time?” as an opening question, before telling the listener he’s sitting in a dock. The imagery that’ he’s quickly conjured might feel like a cheap recreation of Iron Maiden’s ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’, but that’s an obvious improvement on his norm. However, any feeling of narrative is then lost as he mumbles something inaudible, almost like he’s been dared by the drummer to do an impression of Geoff Tate after seventeen pints. Things never recover. The chorus consists of the title being repeated ad nauseum over bog standard 80s metal riffs and later lyrics trot out absolute howlers like “Am I guilty of these crimes of what they say? / Who are these people anyway?”. Even in the mid 80s, none of this would have been especially inspiring. By the time of this album’s release, it’s a wonder that Sacrilege are even bothering.

On ‘Bring Out Your Dead’ (which, naturally, opens with the sounds of a mediaeval corpse-collecting cart), any fears that ‘Court…’ is going to get worse aren’t unfounded. During these six minutes, Bill growls like a bad pub singer, which coupled with lyrics like “His law is gospel to the people, they will obey / Bring out your dead for collection, that is today!” just results in another unintentionally hysterical travesty. With a hook that just repeats “RISE! RISE! Bring out your dead, bring out your dead” in an unimaginative and overwrought fashion, it’s all rather sad. Somewhere between a really bad European band writing songs with English as a second language and something that might’ve been album filler for Bad News, this track reaches a new low for Sacrilege and, rather ironically, just a few songs in, this album is ready to be chucked on the cart…

Just as bad, ‘The Prophet’ kicks off with atonal, clean guitar work before cranking out riffs that sound like Scorpions’ ‘Make It Real’ played by a band who’ve only been together for three weeks, before ‘Unhinged Mind’ actually brings a brief feeling of hope. This number teases with a decent riff and has a genuine sense of punch. Between a strong guitar tone and great chug, Sacrilege finally suggest they’re capable of sounding a little more contemporary but – true to form – Beadle sweeps away any goodwill with a heavy hand as he bellows through lyrics like “Why is everything so painful? / You just know it can’t be right / There must be some other way to live, ’cause everything has to die.” That doesn’t even make sense. There’s bad metal…and then there’s Bill Beadle’s Sacrilege.

The album’s best track ‘Lies’ opens with a massive, chugging 80s metal riff and a vocal that rises from a deep croon to an unsure scream. From then on, even though you could probably pinpoint two or three Judas Priest tracks it brazenly “borrows influence” from, the music is fine enough. If you like trad metal, the guitar riffs bring some enjoyment in their homage to Glenn Tipton circa 1982 and the best efforts of drummer Neil Turnbull give the number a really solid backbone. There’s also an enthusiastic guitar solo, but much the same as ‘Unhinged Mind’, the lyrics are so bloody terrible – with Beadle trying to rhyme the word lies with anything that scans, whether it rhymes or not – that, again, it makes the music seem almost pointless. The fact that this is the best Sacrilege can muster between them is definitely a worry.

Had this album been released in 1982, it might have stood half a chance of finding an undemanding audience, even with its lack of flair and frankly laughable lyrics. In 2019, though, it’s never more than an archaic irrelevance. It’s hard to imagine that even those who love 80s metal will find much to enjoy here, especially when there are other bands playing retro metal with far more conviction, youthful energy – and, more importantly – much better material.

July 2019