|Musical Style: Classic Metal||Produced By: Richard Lynch|
|Record Label: Armor||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2005||Artist Website: Saint|
|Tracks: 13||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 53:00|
I would like to challenge anyone reading this to name one good thing to come out of Oregon. Seriously. The Jail Blazers? Unlikely. The weather? Not a chance. The rush hour traffic in Portland? Get real. But what about Bill Walton? Everyone loves the big redhead, right? Well, at least we are heading in the right direction. Which leads me to the lone bright spot – next to the Trail Blazers NBA championship in 1977 – when it comes to Oregon: the classic metal band Saint. Initially coming out of Salem in the early eighties, Saint was at the top of its game during the decade in question as it released three critically acclaimed albums – the EP Warriors Of The Son and the full length efforts Time’s End and Too Late For Living. Reforming in 1999 to put out the ill-fated EP The Perfect Life, the band stormed back in 2004 with its first full length album in fifteen years in In The Battle. Saint went on to re-record its debut Warriors Of The Son the same year before following up in 2005 with its first official live album Live 05. What else can you say except that this is serious business coming from a state whose lone major league professional sports franchise passed on Michael Jordan in favor of some center with one leg…
Recorded at the X-Fest on September 3, 2005, Live 05 is a 13 song outing showcasing material taken from the bands entire back catalog (with The Perfect Life being the lone exception). As with any compilation album, it is not possible to please everyone in regards to the song selection process and such is the case with Live 05. For example, while I am glad Saint chose to perform six tracks from In The Battle, it would have been nice to hear at least one or two more from Too Late For Living and perhaps one more from Time’s End as well. Irregardless, classics from the bands earlier days such as “Vicars” and “Primed And Ready” really come to life in a live setting as does newer material like “Ryders” and “In The Battle”.
Live 05 actually finds Saint in top classic metal form, combining the buzz-saw guitars of Dee Harrington and Jerry Johnson with Richard Lynch’s heavy duty bass lines and Tim Lamberson’s tight as a nail work on drums. Of course, Josh Kramer, who did not perform on The Perfect Life but who returned to the band in time to record In The Battle, comes through with a very fine performance with his Halford-like voice.
Production values are surprisingly strong in that all the instrumentation, particularly the lead guitar and bass, evenly stand out in the mix. In the end, Live 05 showcases just the right amount of polish but not enough to take away from the bands natural raw energy- which is what all good live albums should do. The only complaint worth mentioning, however, is that the audience ends up placed a bit too low in the mix. And while I am certain this was an oversight, but – with Dee Harrington being the lone exception – at no point are the members of the band introduced to the audience.
The seven minute “Sacrifice” is a very fine song but it might not have been the best choice to open I live album. I would probably have gone with something a bit more upbeat such as “Warriors Of The Son” or “In The Night”. Still, irregardless of its place in the set list, “Sacrifice” does a good job translating live as it details the events leading up to Christ’s crucifixion:
Was born a virgin child, to fulfill prophecy
God in a human body, walked upon the sea
He preached and fed the thousands
He caused the blind to see
As His own people turned away, their destiny
I really like how Lamberson’s rapid double bass following the songs dramatic chorus stands out perfectly in the mix.
“Vicars” (formerly know as “Vicars Of Fate”), my favorite track off the bands 1984 debut Warriors Of The Son, starts as Josh announces to the crowd, “We’re gonna take you all the way back to the Vicars of… fate!” Cool. What stands out most about the live rendition of the song – next to its superb melody – is the way it highlights the abundant energy generated when this band is in top form.
Speaking of abundant energy, Saint launches directly into the title track to its 2004 comeback album In The Battle. Give the band a great deal of credit for duplicating the deep sounding voice that stands in support of its muscular chorus and a rhythm guitar sound coming across with just the right amount of edge. The pull-out-all-the-stops guitar solo gracing its instrumental section, at the same time, is only icing on the cake.
“Holy Rollin” is the only selection here that I question. While certainly far from bad from a musical standpoint, one of the bands better compositions from Too Late For Living such as “Star Pilot” or “Through The Sky” might have made the better choice.
Since we are on the subject of Too Late For Living, Saint dives into “The Path”, one of my favorite tracks off that groundbreaking effort. I love how the song still combines a resounding low end with an atmosphere – is this the correct term to use here? – that almost comes across doom-like in feel. Upon reaching its instrumental section, however, when Josh introduces guitarist Dee Harrington, his subsequent solo ends all too briefly after only a couple of seconds. What gives? Let the guy cut loose and exhibit his talent. This IS a live album by the way.
At the start of “In The Night” Josh goes absolutely nuts as he lets loose with a series of crazy and ear piercing screams. As the song progresses, no detail – including the choppy rhythm guitar driving it ahead in addition to the “barking dog” backing vocals fortifying its chorus – has been overlooked. Saint makes amends with a much more extensive instrumental section.
A pounding militant drum beat kicks in to set “Warriors Of The Son” in motion. Josh sings in a lower key on this one, adding a bit of grit and gravel to his vocal delivery to help bring out the best in the songs anthem-like chorus. Once more, the band sounds right at home throughout a nice tasty instrumental section carried by a fiery guitar solo.
“He We Are”, the fourth track to make its way here from In The Battle, commences as Josh exclaims, “We are the children of the Almighty!” over a hard hitting riff. If anything, “Here We Are” comes across even heavier live as an emotional setting is created upon attaining its worshipful chorus:
And there You are
Brighter than the brightest star
Lord, we bring our praise to You
After “Too Late For Living” gets underway at a driving upbeat tempo, it settles down a bit as a crunchy rhythm guitar urges it forward to a sweeping chorus that begins to one of Josh’s trademark screams. Again, another very fine display by the band of its instrumental sound. Richard Lynch’s bass guitar really stands out in the mix here.
“Primed And Ready” is introduced as Josh twice asks the crowd, “Are you primed and ready?” That certainly is a no brainer as one of the stronger tracks from the bands sophomore effort Time’s End gets underway to a driving guitar riff that pushes it to a chorus with a huge catchy hook. A flashy guitar solo is allowed to stand out in the mix in a perfect crystal clear sounding manner.
Exciting, fast, emotional and just plain catchy, I can honestly say to “Ryders” is by far my favorite track in Saint’s repertoire. The live version of the song conveys a slightly more melodic feel in comparison to its studio counterpart in that the rhythm guitar takes a backseat in the mix during its verse portions. Once the song reaches its imposing chorus, however, the rhythm guitar steps forward with just the right amount of authority.
The brief (2:58) but hard hitting “Full Armor”, originally known as “Acid Rain/Full Armor” from In The Battle, opens to a quietly played guitar line. After forty-five seconds, a brief bass guitar solo takes over before the song rushes forward to its chorus with a plethora of all out thrash flavored energy.
Josh states, “This is going to take us all the way back to 1984 to the… plan number two!” “Plan 2”, the opening track off Warriors Of The Son, still begins to the same pounding riff that drives it ahead hard and heavy to an aggressively delivered chorus with a message every bit as powerful as the music:
Let's give glory to the King
He conquered death and hell to set His children free
Let's give glory to the King
He cleansed us from our sins
He tasted death for all to see
Similar to the studio version, Saint still carries “Plan 2” out past six satisfying minutes buy turning it into a virtual jam session as Harrington and Johnson combine for over a minute of blazing dual lead guitar work.
The best way to sum up would be to say I find the music here to be every bit as hot as the weather is rainy during an Oregon winter (or spring or fall or even parts of summer, for that matter.) Seriously, combining a strong production job with the bands trademark energy and high level of musicianship, Live 05 comes with a very high recommendation. Fans of classic metal will definitely find a home here.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Sacrifice” (6:59), “Vicar’s” (3:29), “In The Battle” (3:34), “Holy Rollin” (3:37), “The Path” (3:27), “In The Night” (3:30), “WOS” (3:30), “Here We Are” (3:33), “Too Late For Living” (3:30), “Primed And Ready” (3:27), “Ryders” (5:15), “Full Armor” (2:58), “Plan 2”(6:04)
Josh Kramer – Lead Vocals
Dee Harrington – Guitars
Jerry Johnson – Guitars
Richard Lynch – Bass
Tim Lamberson – Drums