On paper, The Reign of Terror sounds like it could wreak power-metal havoc on a universe already numb to the genre: Singer Mike Vescera (Yngwie Malmsteen and Loudness) and guitar shredder Joe Stump team with up-and-coming musicians – in the case of Sacred Ground, The Reign of Terror’s third album, those players are Matt Scurfield and Jay Rigney, the ass-tight rhythm section from Event, one of progressive-metal’s brightest new hopes -- to record a neoclassical album unlike any other. On CD, though, the concept gets weighed down a bit by musical, vocal and lyrical excess – much like the neoclassical heroes of yesteryear that Vescera and Stump are so obviously trying to emulate.
After opening Sacred Ground with a pair of by-the-numbers songs – “Save Me” and the title track – RoT (unfortunate initials, guys) slow down the tempo but not the intensity on “The Unknown,” one of the album’s best songs. Not coincidentally, it when Stump reins in his guitar playing to slower-than-light-speed that Sacred Ground truly becomes hallowed music. “Last Time,” “Still Holding On” and “When Will We Know” are prime examples of just how unstoppable Reign of Terror can be when it drops some of those 32nd notes. A pair of intriguingly titled instrumentals, “Paginini’s Purgatory” and “Dante’s Danza,” also demonstrate that Stump doesn’t have to be over the top to make decent music.
Any review of Sacred Ground would be remiss without giving a heap of credit to Scurfield and Rigney. The Berklee College of Music graduates maintain intricate time throughout the album without getting lost in the shadows of their better-known and more-experienced band mates.