This is part of an ongoing series discovering and reviewing heavy metal bands in the order in which they appear in The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal by Daniel Bukszpan. Check out the rest of the series and stay tuned for new reviews each week. Until I finish this book, stay heavy, my friends.
Before I even fire up the first note of this band, I have some prejudices to disclose. Armored Saint, for me, was always on the list of “those bands whose T-shirts the bands I like wear” or “those bands whose members ended up playing with the bands I like” with other 80s staples like the Exodus, Mercyful Fate — we’ll get there, hoo boy, will we get there — and Flotsam and Jetsam. They also fell down to the list of “those bands whose albums I can’t justify buying on CD, but that I would probably like if all music is free to stream forever, but that’ll never happen!”
Just two short entries after Anthrax, I popped on a selection of this band, thinking I would hear a familiar sound — but not this familiar. My first thought was, wow, this singer sounds a lot like John Bush. I cracked the Encyclopedia and realized, oh, it sounds like John Bush because it is John Bush. The two have shared a frontman off-and-on since 1991.
But let’s get to the music, and let’s start in the early days, when the band played, according to Bukszpan, “Judas Priest–influenced Valhalla metal.” 1984’s March of the Saint, judging by its cover art, seems like a good place to start.
I wonder if John Bush knew in 1984 that he would one day be a thrash icon, as there is no evidence of it in the early offerings of Armored Saint, as easily heard in the mid-tempo “Mutiny on the World” — whatever the heck that is.
Saint is still channeling Judas Priest pretty heavily by 1987, in both sound and subject matter. “Saturday Night Special” might as well be “Living After Midnight.”
[If it’s after midnight where you are, and you want to check out the changing sounds of Armored Saint while supporting this project and me — at no extra cost — check out Amazon’s Saint offerings here.]
Whoa, now here’s a series of great riffs! Jumping forward to post-post-Bush-era Saint, the title track on 2010’s La Raza definitely shows the influence of the ‘Thrax rubbing off on the band.
And things keep getting heavier — and better — with “Mess” from 2015’s Win Hands Down. If this is what the future of Armored Saint sounds like, I’ll be on the lookout for the future of Armored Saint!
The bottom line
Armored Saint was a happy surprise (sort-of) discovery. First, I was floored by the sound of John Bush, then I listened with interest as the bands sound converged with the thrash of Anthrax. I don’t say this very often, so enjoy it while I do: I like their new stuff better than their old stuff. Even though I was a fantasy and power metal nerd during my tenure as a metal aficionado, something tells me that the band’s somewhat bland 80s offerings wouldn’t have gripped me — and they certainly didn’t today. If you’re also new to the Saint, listen backwards.
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