Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Saint - In The Battle
   
Musical Style: Classic Metal Produced By: Richard Lynch & Tom Nunes
Record Label: Retroactive Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 2004/2010 Artist Website: Saint
Tracks: 10 Rating: 85%
Running Time: 40:47

Saint - In The Battle

Salem, Oregon based Saint continues to be one of the leading players in the Christian metal scene.  The group is best known for its work from the eighties, including the classic metal of its independently released 6 song debut EP Warriors Of The Son (1984) and Pure Metal Records full length follow up efforts Time’s End (1986) and Too Late For Living (1988).  Warriors Of The Son had a few rough edges production wise; and while the same could be said for Time’s End, it also found Saint starting to come into its own from a songwriting standpoint.  Fans and critics alike attest that Saint reached its creative and artistic pinnacle on Too Late For Living by combining perhaps its best group of songs with nothing less than stellar production.

Saint broke up in 1989 only to reform ten years later to record the six song EP The Perfect Life, a disappointing work that featured a new vocalist (Tim Lamberson) and new musical direction (commercial metal).  After another five year hiatus, Saint rebounded again in 2004 by releasing its third full length album entitled In The Battle.  The good news is that In The Battle finds the group not only returning to its classic metal roots but bringing original vocalist Josh Kramer back into the fold.  Founding member Richard Lynch returns on bass while newcomer Jerry Johnson handles all guitar duties.  Guitarists John Mahan and Dee Harrington, who were part of Saint during its eighties heyday, do not appear on the album but receive songwriting credits.

At this point it must be noted that In The Battle was initially an independent release by the band on its own Armor Records label.  The summer of 2010, however, finds the album re-mastered and re-issued by Retroactive Records with new (better) album artwork.

In The Battle breaks down into 10 songs of Judas Priest influenced classic metal.  Standouts include “Sacrifice”, a dramatic piece dealing with Christ’s crucifixion, and “Ryders”, a superlative six minutes of inspired metal ranking with the finest in Saint’s repertoire.  The albums muscular title track deserves mention as does the non-stops hooks of “The Choice” and abundant energy characteristic to “Star Pilot Return”.  “Here We Are” and “When” represent quintessential Saint while “Acid Rain” and “Full Armor” bring elements of the acoustic and thrash driven.

The previously referenced Judas Priest influence, of course, comes about as a result of Josh Kramer’s commanding Halford-like vocal presence.  If anything, he has done nothing but improve over the years in terms of his power and range.  Guitarist Jerry Johnson proves a more than adequate replacement for his predecessors Mahan and Harrington, standing out with his radiant soloing abilities on “Star Pilot Return” and “Sacrifice”.  Bassist Richard Lynch and drummer Larry London anchor a fixed and firm low end.

Production values, already very good to begin with, improve as a result of the Retroactive re-mastering in that the rhythm guitar and low end now come across that much more clean and defined.  Even if you already own the original version of In The Battle the excellent re-mastering makes enough of a difference to makes purchasing a copy of the re-issue a necessity.

It also must be mentioned the new album artwork, which, appropriately, reflects a “medieval battle flair”.  Many have complained that the artwork to the original, in which the group’s portrait is placed over a nuclear explosion in the background, was cheesy.  To be honest, I kind of liked it.

Saint - In The Battle original artwork

A hulking slab of classic metal, the albums title track stands out with its knife edged guitar riffs and weighty as all get out rhythm section.  Harsh backing vocals buttress its caustically driven chorus while Johnson lets loose with a complementary stretch of radiant lead guitar.  As with many Saint tracks, “In The Battle” deals with the end times:

Hear the martyrs, hear them cry
White horse rider, with fire in his eye's
I hear the armies beat the drum
The end of time has just begun
The dragon wears a kingly crown
But his kingdoms going down

At the wailing wall
The witness they roam
From their mouths they devastate
With fire and brimstone
The beast, his throne of death
He calls himself the one
Abominations desecrate
His time is almost done

“Star Pilot Return”, the sequel to “Star Pilot Return” from Too Late For Living, is an older song Saint pulled from the vault.  This one picks up the pace, combining for an all out energetic tempo but underscored by some punchy bass lines and more of Johnson’s shredding guitar abilities.  “Star Pilot Return” touches upon the issues of science fiction and spiritual warfare:

Red alert star craft approaching, everyone put on your gear
All systems go, engines on standby
We are the one's that they fear, ace that you are
99 score from the next one you find,
Out into space search and destroy
Find one to blast from behind

In the flight heart beat racing
Cruising through space with a dare
Armored with truth out for the conquest
Fighting the prince of the air

From the curse to the cross
We will fight for the lost
Star pilot

“Here We Are” kicks in hard and heavy to a bludgeoning riff backed by a bit of lead guitar, giving prominence to a plethora of emotion as the person of Christ is detailed in its first verse:

You are the master
The mighty everlasting King
You are the Savior
Creator of all everything
You are the glory
The stripes You bare, You bare for me
You are the grace, Lord
That all of us have become free

The song gains in tempo upon obtaining a chorus in which a worshipful setting is established:

Here we are
All of us are shining stars
A cause to bring our praise to You
And there You are
Brighter than the brightest star
Lord, we bring our praise to You

The overall impression left is an inspired piece that would translate well in a live setting.

The theatrical “Sacrifice” details the events leading up to Christ’s crucifixion (it kind of reminds me of Bloodgood’s “Crucify” in this manner).  The song commences to narration between Pilate and the crowd from Mark 15:9-11 backed by a pounding riff, not gaining momentum until the start of its first verse as the life of Christ is portrayed:

Was born a virgin child, to fulfill prophecy
God in a human body, walked upon the sea
He preached and fed the thousands
He made the blind to see
As his own people turned away, their destiny

As “Sacrifice” reaches its powerful chorus, the focus is on Christ’s work on the cross:

He was born to be a sacrifice
A living curse upon a tree
He was born to be a sacrifice
A sacrifice for you and me

Narration follows from Mark 15:12-14 before “Sacrifice” arrives at its second verse and describes Christ’s victory:

A test of strength before Him, to test his majesty
Temptation called His name out
Watered down iniquity
The road He walked was narrow
He knew it had to be, He knew that in the end
His blood would claim His victory

Following a lengthy instrumental section, “Sacrifice” closes to narration from Galatians 3:10-13:

“Holy Rollin’” is the only track here to come across a bit flat.  Perhaps it is the clichéd feel to the title, but the song has never done anything for me, one of the few “skip buttons” in the group’s distinguished three decade career.  That said, “Holy Rollin’” does include an underpinning of crunchy rhythm guitar and some cool soloing stretches but it is difficult to see past the trite lyrics:

You got me holy rollin' now
You got my feet on the track
And your loves coming down
No I'm never going back
You got me holy rollin' now
You got my feet on the track
And your loves comin' down
You got me holy rollin' now

The awesome “Ryders” more than makes up for any misgivings characteristic to its predecessor.  The song gets off to an electrifying start, diving into some majestic guitar leads prior to decelerating to a staunch mid-paced clip for its first and second verses.  Regaining its momentum, “Ryders” moves on to a brilliantly executed chorus – by far the albums finest – in which the band makes its mission statement:

We are the ryders in the night
Commissioned from the cross
To bring the world the light
Ryders in the night
A mission for the lost
To bring the blind their sight

What most people do not know is that Josh Kramer handles all lead guitar duties on this one- and quite well at that!  This one ultimately touches upon the great commission:

From town to town we ryde, our message just and true
To reach out, to the lost, we ryde
And if you wish to find the perfect life for you
Just reach out, to the Christ, and ryde

Riding in the darkness, through the valley low
Lost and confused with hardened hearts
And don't know where to go
A mighty hand comes reaching, to lift you up on high
Upon your horse forgiven
Commissioned now to ryde

“The Choice” stands out with hook driven proclivity.  The song gradually fades in until a crunchy rhythm guitar steps forward, aggressively pummeling ahead – you will find the angst laden momentum contagious – until acquiring a catchy chorus reinforced by deep sounding backing vocals.  “The Choice” literally presents that:

In the midnight witching hour
The choice is to be made
A choice you make can change your life today
You can choose to follow darkness
Or you can choose to follow light
The choice you make it's foolish or it's right

God or the devil
Who will you betray?
God or the devil
To whom will you pray?
God or the devil
Who will you betray?
God or the devil

“When” opens to a hammering rhythm guitar only to evenly smooth out – the rhythm guitar fades to a diminished place in the mix – as it immediately launches into its melodic flavored chorus. Upon transitioning to its verses, however, “When” find the rhythm guitar returning to its previous place of prominence.  “When” pleas for the return of Christ:

When You coming down
When You coming down
When You coming down, again

What we have in “Acid Rain/Full Armor” is a two part song, with the first carried its brief (forty second) length by an acoustic guitar.  The second finds a thrash heavy guitar holding sway over its hard hitting verses and a forthright chorus providing a discourse on spiritual warfare:

Put all His righteousness salvation armor on
When we stand amidst the fray
His shield of faith will keep you save from arrows flown
Full armor on that final day

In The Battle proves a solid comeback effort in presenting with strengths in the areas of songwriting, production and performance.  It is great to have Saint back following an extended hiatus!  Once more, the re-mastering improves things to such an extent that purchasing a copy of the Retroactive re-issue is a necessity.  The upgraded album artwork is “icing on the cake”

Review by: Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: "In The Battle" (4:07), "Star Pilot Return" (3:48), "Here We Are" (3:59), "Sacrifice" (7:15), "Holy Rollin’" (4:02), "Ryders" (6:03), "The Choice" (3:38), "When" (4:35), "Acid Rain” (:39), “Full Armor" (2:38)

Musicians
Josh Kramer – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Jerry Johnson – Guitars
Richard Lynch – Bass
Drums – Larry London

 

Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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