Armored Saint – March Of The Saint, Delirious Nomad & Raising Fear (Re-issues)

Armored Saint – March Of The Saint, Delirious Nomad & Raising Fear (Re-issues)
Metal Blade
Release Date: 15/04/22
Running Time: March Of The Saint 38:45
Running Time: Delirious Nomad 41:50
Running Time: Raising Fear 51:45
Review by Simon Black
March Of The Saint 7/10
Delirious Nomad 8/10
Raising Fear 9/10

Their story of a band formed in High School by brothers Phil and Gonzo Sandoval was common for bands forged in the early 80’s, although seems like another world now. Armored Saint are always a band who got good critical responses both live and on vinyl, yet somehow despite some good support slots back in those days they never became as globally successful as they could.

I came to the Armored Saint party quite late and despite being a keen proponent of them over the years, this is the first time I have actually had the chance to listen to their early days. This is probably because here in the UK almost no effort had been made to publicise and promote them in the 1980’s, and the first time I saw a physical copy of one of their albums was not until 1990’s landmark “Symbol of Salvation”. To be honest, it wasn’t much better in their native USA, as this band could have been way more successful in the homeland if they had stayed with Metal Blade (who had got them off the starting blocks and pressed their first EP) instead of getting lured to the first major label who came along. That major label was Chrysalis and these three reissues hail from that period, although Metal Blade now have the rights, which means someone might actually hear them this time round.

“March of the Saint” kicks things off and interestingly only recycles one track from their self-titled Metal Blade debut (‘False Alarm’, which had a great opening bass riff, but sounds like the band were trying to re-record something from Iron Maiden’s “Killers” period, so feel a little out of place). Although the strengths and soulfully charismatic delivery of John Bush’s vocals stand this out clearly as being Armored Saint, it feels almost like a prototype version of the band who haven’t quite found their feet in the song-writing department or full confidence in the technical abilities of the instrumentalists. This comes soon enough and it’s telling that only ‘Can U Deliver’ still crops up regularly in their live sets. It’s by far the strongest song on here and hints at the directions of things to come, although the soulful ‘Take A Turn’ shows how Mr Bush can turn out a Power Ballad of epic proportions when the need arises. It’s an interesting debut, with OK production values for the period, a couple of really strong tracks and no noticeable padding.

“Delirious Nomad” has noticeably stronger production values from the get go, a much sharper and cleaner overall sound, which benefits John Bush, enormously and who really hits his stride from here on in, having honed his performance and learnt how to use his considerable gifts. Where the album struggles is by this point founding guitarist Phil Sandoval has left the band (who continue as a four piece until after Chrysalis are out of the picture), but it leaves a big hole in their sound only having the one guitarist. That means despite some strong performance, that fat meaty sound that is so distinctively missing from Armored Saint at this point. It feels like one step forward and two steps back for now, as that twin guitar sound was a key strength and a backbone in the way they phrased their song writing.

“Raising Fear” sees Armored Saint well and truly upping their game. Whereas March was a straight-ahead Heavy Metal album and Nomad felt a bit rudderless, this sees the band firing on all cylinders. They’ve adjusted to their four piece status by taking a more edgy Rock ’n’ Roll feel to the writing and arrangements and it’s an element that will stay from here on in. Even when Phil Sandovil returns and adds some Power Metal heaviness to proceedings, that edginess remains and is still a part of their sound to this day and also suits Bush’s raw and soulful voice down to a tee. It’s one of the key reasons why American Power Metal is so distinct from it’s Euro counterpart, as although both started from the same root, Armored Saint forged a unique sound out of adversity. 

During the whole period these three albums were being recorded, newer bands were struggling with labels interested only in the burgeoning new fads of Thrash and Hair Metal, with Traditional Metal left to fend more or less for itself. The established bands did fine in general, but this Trad influenced act that would end up effectively forging the US version of Power Metal single-handed struggled to find their feet and with poor support from the label an no small amount of adversity it’s not surprising.

“Raising Fear” really feels like the first album of the band that I love and the starting point of their unique sound. It’s such a shame that it’s the final one from their original label, as with the poor support from them thrown in to the mix as well, it barely made a dent on original release. When I finally got around to discovering them on their next studio release (the seminal “Symbol of Salvation”) they were almost a different band. Phil Sandoval was back, but Dave Prichard who had helped forge the band’s guitar sound tragically passed away during the recording of the album. What came next was an absolute masterpiece, but that’s for another day….

TRACKLISTING:
March Of The Saint
01. March Of The Saint
02. Can U Deliver
03. Mad House
04. Take A Turn
05. Seducer
06. Mutiny On The World
07. Glory Hunter
08. Stricken By Fate
09. Envy
10. False Alarm

Delirious Nomad
01. Long Before I Die
02. Nervous Man
03. Over The Edge
04. The Laugh
05. Conqueror
06. For The Sake
07. Aftermath
08. In The Hole
09. You’re Never Alone
10. Released

Raising Fear
01. Raising Fear
02. Saturday Night Special
03. Out On A Limb
04. Isolation
05. Chemical Euphoria
06. Frozen Will/Legacy
07. Human Vulture
08. Book Of Blood
09. Terror
10. Underdogs

LINE-UP:
John Bush – Vocals
Phil Sandoval – Lead Guitar (“March of the Saint” only)
Dave Prichard – Lead Guitar
Joey Vera – Bass
Gonzo Sandoval – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

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