Formed in the mid-1980's, UK metal band Sacrilege's story is curious and inspiring. They rose to prominence as part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, only to disband just five years later. In 2012 the band was resurrected, albeit with a different line-up, and has, over the past five years, risen from its ashes to become a force to be reckoned with once again. Michael Bugeja spoke to Sacrilege's founding member Bill Beadle ahead of the band's performance at this year's Malta Doom Metal Festival.
What inspired you and Alex Cookson to form Sacrilege?
We were both massive Sabbath fans, and when Ozzy left, and punk was taking over, I thought of having a go at learning guitar. I convinced Alex it would be fun and he started learning lead guitar off his neighbour, who played in a metal band. I started to learn bass, but switched to rhythm guitar and started writing Sacrilege’s first songs.
What are your most treasured memories from the band's early years?
Our very first gig at the 101 club in London, which sold out, was awesome. All four of us couldn’t wait to play, but as the intro tape started, the reality of performing to a full house kicked in and the nerves started. A couple of bars in, the nerves left and the adrenalin kicked in and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment. Playing on the David Jensen show with U2 and the Stranglers was pretty awesome too even if they aren’t our genre.
In 2007 you re-recorded the band's older material and wrote a new album in 2011. What was your plan at the time, before Neil Abnett convinced you to perform live again?
After many years working different jobs, I wondered how good those songs I wrote in the 80s really were. I wanted to record them better too, so I built a studio in my garden and set about recording them. I enjoyed doing it for my own pleasure but, being no lead guitarist myself, I needed to find someone to put proper solos down. I came across Finnish guitarist Pekka Loikkanen while searching online. I sent him two songs and after hearing what he'd done with them, I was so thrilled with the result I wanted to record more, hence the speed in which the next 4 albums came out. Unfortunately Pekka was too busy to fully commit, so Neil Abnett, who lived closer to home came into the picture. He urged me to play live again, and it was a shame he was too busy with his business to be part of the live line-up. I advertised for musicians and finally got the line up I've always craved with Neil Turnbull (drums), Jeff Rolland (bass) and Tony Vanner (guitar).
When Sacrilege returned to the stage in 2012, what were your biggest fears and what did you think of the 'new' experience after you stepped off stage?
My biggest fear was of how the songs performed live would be received in relation to the feedback I was getting from everyone that had heard the albums, and how I would feel being back on stage after all these years. My daughters had never even seen me stand up and talk to a crowd let alone sing and play and they're in their 20s. There were old Sacrilege fans in the crowd and it was packed. For the first time in over 25 years, we blasted into our first track Ashes to Ashes, and it was superb. I didn’t realise how much I'd missed playing. The crowd went mad, dancing and singing any chorus! As I came off stage people were shaking my hand. girls kissing my cheek, so I guess they enjoyed it nearly as much as me.
How similar or different are your aspirations now compared to the 1980's?
In the 1980s everything was different - no camera phones, videos were rare, no internet - so NME, Melody Maker and Sounds were the places to advertise or look for gigs. I was stretching myself sending demos out, looking for and booking gigs, picking band members up for rehearsals and gigs, writing the songs, and it became a chore rather than the fun I thought it would be, which is why I quit. Back then I'd wanted us to be the next Sabbath, without copying the music, but keeping that Doom sound with maybe a few more choruses. I’ve kept the Sacrilege sound but now I'm doing it purely for pleasure and enjoying it more than ever.
These past two years have seen Sacrilege venture beyond the UK. What was it like facing your international fanbase after more than two decades?
This was something I'd always wanted to do as we do get a lot of record sales and fans from Europe, some of whom flew over to see us in the UK as we hadn’t played in Europe yet. Last year we played three big festivals in London and it was nice to meet people from France, Holland Belgium, etc who love our records. We've since played in Antwerp, Tilburg, Mons and Aalst amongst others, and the crowd response was fantastic.
Your latest album six6six picked up some good reviews too...
Yes, the response we got from fans and press was great. One quote I always enjoyed reading is "What I love about Sacrilege is there are never any filler songs on their albums, every song is as good as the first", which is something I have always tried to do as I'm very fussy when it comes to the final recording. The way music is now of course it’s easier to make contact with your fans but I still love picking up a magazine and reading gig reviews. In the 1980s I used to love getting Sounds and seeing our gig advertised, even if I’d paid to have that advert in the paper!
Further to your latest Lies, can you share some more details about the new record?
The new album will be called Court of the Insane, our 7th not including the 'Best of' and 'Ashes to Ashes' compilations. It's heavy - a mixture of the early Sacrilege sound with six6six undertones, but it's not a concept album, so I think it should appeal to Sacrilege fans who have followed us from the early days till now. We've played a few tracks off it live in the UK and the reaction has been very positive.
Ahead of your first performance ever in Malta, what are your expectations and what should the Malta Doom Metal Festival's audience expect from Sacrilege on the night?
We can't wait. I’ve been to Malta twice and love the island and the people. Our good friend Chris Galea, who has been helping me manage the band this past year or so, is from Malta and will be with us. We plan on giving a show to be remembered by everyone, a show that people talk about for years to come. We will be playing songs from our Doom album six6six as well as some classic Sacrilege tracks. I would also really like to thank Albert Bell for the opportunity.
Sacrilege will be performing at the Malta Doom Metal Festival 2017, which takes place at Chateau Buskett on 27-28 October. For more details and full line-up, visit maltadoom.com.
An edited version of this article was first published on The Sunday Timesof Malta on October 22, 2017