|Musical Style: Classic Metal||Produced By: Jared Knowland|
|Record Label: Armor||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2012||Artist Website: Saint|
|Tracks: 13||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 42:59|
It isn’t a matter of the Angelic Warlord editorial staff not being into the whole stone shot from a sling into the forehead of the Philistine thing. But what makes Desperate Night, the seventh full length album from Salem, Oregon based Saint, such a Goliath beater lies in its ability to appease those into the traditional metal of the groups past while also attracting the crowd interested in something on the more accessible side of things.
Released in the summer of 2012, Desperate Night follows on the heals of Saints’ classic eighties material - including Time’s End (1986) and Too Late For Living (1988) - and its post turn of the century comeback work: In The Battle (2004), The Mark (2006), Crime Scene Earth (208) and Hell Blade (2010).
Now, do not be concerned about the “accessible” reference in that by no means is Saint “wimping out” on us. Rather, Desperate Night features some of the groups heaviest material ever but wrapped in the all around more hook based and catchier package- at least in comparison to what we have heard in the past (observation and not critique either way).
Essential pieces such as “Judgement” (raw power in its purest form), “The Key” (as assertive a bruiser as you will find) and “In The Fray” (with its seething mentality) dominate with their brash guitar walls and hooks to spare. Maintaining the aggressive but engaging qualities is the un-abating energy to “Inside Out” and near speed metal romp of “Escape From The Fire”.
At this point it must be noted the solid production, which puts corpulent guitars at the centerpiece of the mix while also reinforcing cleanly defined leads and a forthright low end.
On the more melodic side of things are “Crucified” and “Let It Rock”, choice examples of up-tempo metal in which catchy hooks prevail. “Desperate Night” and “End Of The World” maintain the melodic sensibilities but with the more dramatic and sublime aura, while “To Live Forever” is classic eighties metal all the way.
Please note that “To Live Forever” was slated as the title track to Saint’s fourth album to be recorded in follow up to Too Late For Living. That obviously fell through, at which point the song was resurrected for the groups 1999 EP The Perfect Life.
The only thing constructive to offer is that the discordant “Zombie Shuffle” is, well, a bit off beat (not a skip button, just different) while vocals are mixed a bit high in places (most notably “Crucified”). Some problems with the packaging as well: “Crucified” is misspelled in the track listing as “Crusified”, while a breakdown is not given in terms of what vocalist sings which song.
Speaking of which, Saint went with the vocalist by committee route this time: Long term front man Josh Kramer handles vocals on 8 songs, bassist Richard Lynch 2 others and newcomer Brian Miller the albums title track.
Yes, you heard that correctly in that Josh Kramer departed Saint (reportedly he moved out of state). Regardless, he puts in the type of passionate and gutsy performance one would expect with his Halford-like vocal presence. In particular, “End Of The World” finds him singing in a lower register, while he adds some sass and snarl to his delivery on “Let It Rock”. All in all he goes out on a strong note.
Lynch provides vocals on “The Key” and “Escape From The Fire” with his “gruffer” and “courser” vocal style. He complements the heavier nature of the material here, as he did on the original version of Crime Scene Earth in which he made his initial vocal appearance- keeping in mind that Josh is the stronger vocalist (I am surprised they did not let Josh handle everything since this is his swan song effort).
And then there is newcomer Miller, who brings significant range and power in not being that far removed from what Josh brings to the table. The main difference is that Miller offers a bit more of a high end register (check out 3:56 of “Desperate Night”). Two things stand out: a) he befits the classic Saint sound just fine; b) his abundant abilities should allow him to be a force for years to come.
Lynch’s subterranean bass lines and Jared Knowland’s rigorous timekeeping skills help establish what amounts quite the intimidating low-end presence (one of the best ever on a Saint album). Guitarist Jerry Johnson, at the same time, steps to the plate with several lengthy stretches of his trademark intricate lead guitar work, with “End Of The World” showcasing a good example of his abilities.
Desperate Night adds up to another very good album from Saint. While I hesitate to rank it with Too Late For Living and The Mark/Revelation (my two favorite from the group), it holds up quite well when placed alongside Time’s End, In The Battle and Hell Blade. Classic metal fans rejoice!
Track By Track
Opener “Crucified” hits hard and fast from the get go, three minutes of melodic traditional metal highlighted by bludgeoning riffs and an inspired as it gets chorus:
Was crucified for all to see
Was crucified for you and me
(Now crowned and on the judgment seat)
Staunch but accessible at the same time, the song brings to mind the Saint classic “In The Night” (off Time’s End). “Crucified” is aptly named:
He said “go teach the world
Of all that you have seen”
And to the end I reached for more
A vow to die like Him
No cock would crow again
And on a stake turned upside down
I was crowned
“The Key” stands out with its bruising riff action- bristling, nasty, upfront and in your face. The song, otherwise, proves up-tempo with its subtle catchiness and gruffer vocal qualities to Richard Lynch. A churning low end and incessant momentum add to the unbending scene.
Starting to a short drum solo, “End Of The World” decelerates to a contentious mid-paced slugfest as chugging guitars, Josh’s low-register vocals and an extended stretch of razor-edged soloing strive for supremacy. In other words, classic Saint all the way! The understated irony to the song title and lyrics bring to mind the Time’s End track “Destroyers Of The World”:
You’re calling judgment day
Oh heretic you say
He’s coming through the sky
No one knows where, when or why
It’s only the end of the world
The creatures and the Earth
Are groaning to the throne
All call to judge us all
Like nothing ever known
“Let It Rock” represents a return to a faster and more upbeat direction. With walls of guitars carrying things front to back, the song plays up what amounts a non-stop energy blast of heavy set riff laden metal. The commanding backing vocals of Lynch add an aggressive touch.
“In The Fray” allows Saint to showcase its musicianship, with Jared Knowland shining with his technical timekeeping skills and Johnson providing another over the top adept stretch of soloing. Musically, the song maintains the Saint trademark angst based mentality in joining an underlining guitar driven crunch with plenty of fury and emotion.
The “political” metal of “Inside Out” (the song includes narration from President Obama) features some harshly done backing vocals (for its forcefully done chorus) while placing an accompanying audience track in the backdrop. Things take a more mid-paced heading while still allowing for the albums overriding energy. Again, a political statement is made here:
We’ve seen the TV headlines
We’ve seen the outcome score
We’ve seen it all now
And I can’t take no more
They’re knocking at the door
And like the song it goes
They’ll tax us till there’s rich no more
The albums title track ranks with the albums best. The song services to showcase new vocalist Brian Miller, who complements what amounts a dramatic milieu with his soaring vocal style. A more melodic direction is taken as well, with the accessibility to the chorus contrasting with some darker and more lower-key aspects to the low-end. Second Coming is the subject at hand:
Long ago I heard the story
Of the day that waits in time
Untold stories on Earth were left behind
Like a thief at night, in the shadows wake
There was a sound, a flash in the night
Two gone before me
The terror starts today
“Zombie Shuffle”, the albums shortest at 2:40, is the lone Josh Kramer contribution. I have always seen it as more of an experiments track that works better in a video format (Josh put together a very well done video to the song) as opposed to casual listening. Not that it is bad musically - by far the contrary - it is just a bit offbeat with some discordant elements merging with guitar tones that almost have a thrash feel to them (at least that is what my ears are hearing).
“Judgement” represents another top of the line piece. Unadulterated power in the rawest form, the song ranks with the heaviest of the heavies as Johnson’s brawny riffs stand alongside nothing less than a pulse pounding rhythm section. But it is not all angst in that quite the catchy hook prevails as well. Lyrically, “Judgement” is aptly entitled:
Chosen before time
To show the way
Seeking God at night
To crush the day
The end game is in play
Come Lord Jesus, mercy
Purge the earth
“To Live Forever” is classic melodic metal all the way. Guitars might be toned down a bit - at least in comparison to some here - but that does not diminish the quality, as reflected in the strength to the songs chorus and lush guitar melodies and harmonies throughout.
Lynch returns on lead vocals on “Escape From The Fire”, a non-stop front to back barn burner that almost approaches speed metal territory. Yes, impetus is explosive and mercurial but hooks are not forsaken in the process: check out the underlining catchy elements to the harshly delivered chorus. Lynch’s caustic vocal approach fits the aggressive tone at hand. Lyrics focus on End Times themes:
Enemy below we rip through the sky
Pounding the earth with a judgment day cry
Witness the power from heaven up above
Gallant white horses and those who I love
Crushing the dragon a blow to his head
Stomped through the wine press now he is dead
All of his glory and all his desires
Judgment upon him thrown in the fire
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “The Crucible” (1:13), “Crucified” (3:17), “The Key” (3:35), “End Of The World” (4:12), “Let It Rock” (3:02), “In The Fray” (3:22), “Inside Out” (4:19), “Desperate Night” (4:23), “Zombie Shuffle” (2:40), “Judgement” (4:22), “To Live Forever” (4:40), “Escape From The Fire” (3:19), “The Crucible (Reprise)” (:28)
Josh Kramer - Lead Vocals
Brian Phyll Miller - Lead Vocals
Jerry Johnson - Guitars
Richard Lynch - Bass & Lead Vocals
Jared Knowland - Drums