Sacred Oath is an American heavy metal band from Bethel, Connecticut, United States. Sacred Oath was originally formed in 1985 by Rob Thorne and Pete Altieri while the two were classmates at Bethel High School. The band recorded their first demo in 1985 and quickly sold hundreds of them through local stores like Record Broker and Phoenix Records, developing a loyal following referred to as the “Oathbangers.” April 2nd, 2021 will see the release of their ninth full length “Return of the Dragon”.
How did you first get into music? Who or what turned you onto metal?
Rob Thorne: I was into music at a very early age … I can remember listening to Disney records on my Fisher Price turntable. The soundtrack to Robin Hood was one of my favorites. But it wasn’t until I was 12 and first heard Brian Johnson singing Back in Black on a boom box at the bus stop that I felt that metal sensation in my gut. You know, that feeling of being really excited and connected to the music on a deeper emotional level. His voice was so sinister. It was mesmerizing. Soon after that I heard Crazy Train and that was it for me. I’ve been a metalhead ever since.
What got you started playing music and how old were you? How did you become a guitarist?
RT: I took piano lessons for about a year when I was 8. My mother was a classical singer and she encouraged me to try it. I really enjoyed the piano, and it came easily to me. But I was also very athletic and so I quit lessons to spend more time in sports. Then, when I was 14, a friend of mine at school had a band and he mentioned they needed a singer. By that time I was obsessed with music and I quickly asked to audition. That became my first band and right away we were playing things like middle school dances and such. Lots of Police covers. Metal Health (Quiet Riot) was a big hit at the time, and so we were able to play dances and still get in a few heavier rock songs. Soon, I got noticed by some upper classmen who had a real metal band, and before I knew it I had joined and we were playing all metal covers. It was heaven. Eventually I would move forward with 3 members from that band to form Sacred Oath.
I taught myself the guitar when I was 15 because I envied the songwriting control that the guitarist had in the band. I wanted to be writing songs too. I took to that quickly as well. I became the singer/guitarist and we were recording the first Sacred Oath demo 6 months later.
What are your influences personally and the band’s influences musically? Which artist has inspired you the most?
RT: Boy, Judas Priest was a huge influence on me, then and now. I can remember spinning Screaming For Vengeance over and over and over again. And I loved, LOVED Ozzy, and Black Sabbath. Dio with them, Dio AFTER them. All of it. Mercyful Fate, Metallica and Megadeth and Queensryche, Iron Maiden. Those bands from the 70s and early 80s are probably the biggest influence on our sound, but we still listen to new music and there are modern bands that have also made an impression on us. Mastodon being one of them. Kenny is a huge Pantera fan and Vinnie’s drum style has a way of manifesting here and there on our recordings. At the end of the day though, I’ve been a huge Ozzy fan from the beginning and I’d have to say that his career has been a huge inspiration.
Are you proficient in any other instruments? Have you always been creative?
RT: Sure, I can play piano, bass, and drums. It’s been so many years of constantly being in the studio that I’ve just picked it all up. I spend a good part of my days teaching other people how to play on all of these instruments too, including guitar and singing and even songwriting and studio engineering.
The creative side of it has always been what engages me the most. Playing instruments has always been a tool for what I’m really after, which is writing and recording songs, and I can’t imagine that not being a part of my life. It’s a huge part of my purpose.
What was the local scene like where you’re from, was there a particular band you aspired to be like, favorite local bands back then, favorite local bands now? What do you think separates bands of today from bands of the past?
RT: The scene in CT, NY, and NJ, which is essentially where we’re from, was thriving in 1985. New York had L’Amours, Streets and The Chance, Connecticut had the Agora Ballroom and Toad’s. These were great venues to see bands and to play shows at. Fates Warning was a Connecticut band back then and they were heroes and also friends of ours. They were older than us, and Jim Matheos became a bit of a mentor and gave us the opportunity to open for them in Hartford when they were touring for Awaken the Guardian. Liege Lord and Obsession were also a part of the scene, so you could say it was vibrant. Those bands still have loyal followings today.
You know, these days it’s trickier to connect on a personal level with bands in the same way that we did back in the day. The scene has changed a bit, or maybe we’ve just gotten older and we’ve changed. It’s less of a social thing in the clubs now. Bands show up to do their sets and leave the club right after they’re finished. The camaraderie has waned. There is less time and opportunity to form friendships than there used to be.
How did Sacred Oath come about? Where did you develop the name? Where is it derived from? What other band names were considered? How would you best describe your sound?
RT: In ’85 Pete Altieri and I were discussing how excited we were about new bands like Metallica and Mercyful Fate and wouldn’t it be fun to start a new band in that style and call it Sacred Oath. The two of us had already been in a band together (Wulf Bane) and so we had that history. We set to writing some songs so that we could present a clear vision of what our sound would be to prospective new members. Those songs were The Ferryman’s Lair, Battle Cry, and Prophecy, and they were on the first Sacred Oath demo tape. I was 15 at the time.
I think the name came into Pete’s head from “Don’t Break the Oath.” We were obsessed with that album and ‘Fate in general at that time, and Sacred Oath seemed like a perfect name to capture that vibe. I don’t believe we ever considered any other name.
We’ve been described over the years in so many ways, but I think “power thrash” has always described our sound best, and it always comes down to those roots we evolved from, a combination of thrash like Metallica and Megadeth, and power in the style of Mercyful Fate and early Queensryche.
Who living or dead is in your dream 5 piece super group? Who would you like to interview and what would you ask them?
RT: I never think in terms of supergroups. I don’t even like the idea, actually. I’ve always been into bands that evolve out of school-age friendships, like Sabbath. Maybe it’s because that’s my experience with Sacred Oath. Supergroups are a turn-off for me. I would like to go back in time and get a chance to speak with Randy Rhoads though. I’d ask him if he was happy touring with Ozzy and making those two iconic albums.
What kind of gear is bringing us the Sacred Oath sound? New endorsements and dream endorsements?
RT: On this new album I’m using a Shecter 7 string that I’ve been playing since we recorded Ravensong. It’s got great bite and plays smooth for a 7 string. I did track all of my leads on my ’81 BC Rich Mockingbird though, because I needed the whammy bar and it’s my go-to guitar with a tremolo. Marshall Amplification and amp models for both myself and Damiano. Billy uses Blackstar and a PRS-7 string. Damiano plays a Bolt guitar that he just loves, and he also used a Jackson on this album. Brendan uses ESP and Peavey amps, and Kenny plays Pearl with Tama pedals. We’ve got Marshall and Ernie Ball endorsements to name a couple …
Name the one album that epitomizes your style of metal above all others? What’s your go to album for motivation? Why that album?
RT: I think whatever album we’ve just finished at the time would be that album. Here and now it’s “Return Of The Dragon.” I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out, it really captures everything I wanted to express, and in the style I wanted to do it. I realize that’s not what you’re asking me, but there isn’t one album from another artist that “sums it all up” for me.
I have found inspiration over the years from many different albums for different reasons in different times. Sometimes a band will have a new album that motivates me to get back into the studio, though I must say that is rare. “Crack the Sky” was one back when it was released. Other times I’ll be in a headspace where I’m finding inspiration in classic albums like “In Rock” or “Stained Class.” I couldn’t say there’s just one go-to album though.
You’re on a desert island and only have three albums to listen to for the rest of your life, what are they and why?
RT: Ugh, I never like answering this question because it’s usually changing all the time. Three? If my boat sank today and I washed up on shore I’d hope I had Melissa, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sin After Sin. No idea why. Tomorrow it would probably be something else.
What does heavy metal mean to you?
RT: Heavy metal is a place for me to express my discontent, my anger and rage, in a creative way that I find so fulfilling. That’s what it has been for me for almost 40 years and I don’t know that it will ever change. It’s a place for me to put all this energy I have boiling up inside me all of the time.