By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
BABYLON A.D. – NOTHING SACRED (1991)
It was more than five years ago when I wrote about the self-titled Babylon A.D. album. In that piece, I noted that while I liked the two big singles from the album, it wasn’t until I listened to the album while writing that article that I finally found a true appreciation for the rest of the album.
Now when it comes to the band’s follow up album Nothing Sacred, I couldn’t honestly say that I remember ever even hearing any of the songs on it before listening to it for this article. As I would go on to discover, that isn’t quite accurate…I think.
The cassette I have has been sitting in The Big Box of Cassettes for a good long while so when I pulled it out, I was surprised to discover that it was actually a promo copy of the album. Stamped with a “Promo Only” on the card insert and on the cassette itself, there’s no liner notes and the artwork that appears on the official release is nowhere to be found. You can check out of picture of what the promo copy looks like just below.
While the debut album had single success with “Hammer Swings Down” and “Bang Go The Bells”, I can’t recall if either of the songs released as singles for Nothing Sacred made any noise on the radio or the charts. But with both songs appearing on Side One of the album, the band did get things off to a damn good start. Singer Derek Davis (still billed as just “Derek” in the liner notes) helps propel the opening track “Take The Dog Off The Chain” off to a rollicking start. There’s an infectious energy to the music and I found myself buzzing as I listened to the track. I can definitely see why the song was picked as a single.
The second single is the song “So Savage The Heart”. The first thing to note about the song is that it has a killer title. It falls into a mid-to-uptempo groove musically and you can probably get away with calling it a “power ballad”, though that might be doing the song a bit of a disservice. In 1991, I’m guessing the formula of releasing a rocker and then a ballad as singles was still standard operating procedure. But in a nice twist in the narrative, I quite enjoyed the song.
As for the rest of the songs on the first side of the album, “Bad Blood” is a pretty darn good rocker and “Sacrifice Your Love” is pretty intense musically. As the song heads towards its end, the pace kicks into another gear and the guitar playing from Danny De La Rosa (who co-wrote this track as well as 8 others on the album) and Ron Freschi get amped up.
As I listened to “Redemption”, I wasn’t really into it the first time around. But the heavy drama that fills and fuels the lyrics ended up growing on me from the second listen onward. The vocals end up capturing the tone the lyrics set up and while it starts off a bit slower musically, it picks up that pacing when it needs to.
The side-ending song “Down The River Of No Return” is another one of those tracks with a great title. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with the track much at all. A ballad that is pretty much a soft delivery from start to finish, it just didn’t do a thing for me.
Remember how I said I hadn’t heard any of the songs before and that I would discover that I wasn’t exactly accurate in that belief? Well, that’s where the opening song on Side Two comes into play. The song “Psychedelic Sex Reaction” is the only song on Nothing Sacred where there are any outside writers. Derek Davis did co-write the track but three other names appear as well. But I’m only sure about one of them and that was Jack Ponti. While I didn’t remember the song from it’s title, once it started playing I distinctly remember the song’s chorus. It’s a massively catchy track that kind of makes you wonder why it wasn’t released as a single. Until you listen to the lyrics that is. Not that there’s anything overtly bad about them but you can see where they might’ve given someone pause in 1991. Anyway, I really got into the song but I have no idea where I might’ve heard it. Maybe I did hear it on the radio back in the day or something. But I think a more likely explanation is that I must’ve heard it on Dee Snider’s radio show “The House Of Hair”. Regardless of how and where I heard it before, the song has a great hook and that chorus is draws you in from the get-go.
The “Dream Train” track has a cool bluesy sound in the intro which goes on to recur throughout the song. But after that intro, the song does kick into more of a hard rocking number. I liked the song but will say that some of the vocals seem to get a bit lost in the mix at times.
The rocking “Blind Ambition” is another song with a catchy hook and chorus. That’s followed up with “Slave Your Body” which is an astoundingly killer song.
When I first saw “Of A Rose” on the album’s track listing, I thought that it had to be a ballad. But I was happy to see that while definitely on the softer side of things, it was instead a short but indelibly crafted instrumental. That song leads into the closing track “Pray For The Wicked” an amped-up rocker that leaves the listener on an adrenaline high as the final notes play.
It’s no secret that Babylon A.D. never quite broke through to superstar status in their initial heyday. But it wasn’t because they lacked the talent or the material. The Nothing Sacred album amply demonstrates that they had both in abundance. Much like with their debut album, it has taken me decades to come around to the album in full but I think anyone who listens to the album has to agree that Nothing Sacred album is yet another underappreciated gem of the hard rock genre.
NOTES OF INTEREST: When I wrote about the self-titled debut album, I noted that the band hadn’t released a new album since 2000. Well, five months after I wrote that article, Babylon A.D. released the album Revelation Highway. I got to review it for another website and summed it up by saying the album was indeed a hard rocking revelation. If you don’t have or hadn’t known about the album, I’d say go out and pick it up. You won’t regret it.
Eric Pacheco, the brother of drummer Jamey Pacheco who had joined the band on bass back in 2018, passed away in December 2020.
I have a CD edition of the album which oddly enough I bought a couple years back and still hadn’t gotten around to listening to that version either.