|Musical Style: Classic Metal||Produced By: Richard Lynch|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2004/2014||Artist Website: Saint|
|Tracks: 8||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 30:00|
Makeovers can either accentuate the positive or simply cover over glaring faults. In the case of Salem, Oregon classic metal act Saint and the re-recorded version of its debut EP Warriors Of The Son it is a little bit of both. The album, as I am sure most of you are aware, has quite the storied history. Originally released independently by the band on Rotton Records in 1984, WOTS was re-issued later the same year with different album artwork by Morada Records. A subsequent re-issue on M8 Records in 2001 featured the four tracks off the (pre Saint) Gentiles demo from 1981, while a digitally re-mastered (courtesy of J Powell at Steinhaus) re-issue on Retroactive Records followed ten years later.
The original version to WOTS, recorded on eight tracks using mid-eighties technology, left much to be desired production wise. Hence, Saint made the wise decision in 2004 to re-record the album to take advantage of studio technology not available back in the day. The end result was Warriors Of The Son 04, in which much more polished versions of the six original WOTS tracks were joined by two previously unreleased songs, “Killers And The Destroyers” and “The Reaper”, written for the album but that could not be included due to budget constrains. Finally, in order to celebrate the 30th anniversary of WOTS, Retroactive Records re-mastered (again by Steinhaus) and re-issued WOTS 04 in the fall of 2014 with upgraded album artwork.
WOTS 04, obviously, covers over any glaring faults with production to the original. The Retroactive re-master improves upon things further with the better balance between highs and lows. Specifically, guitars now delivers greater edge and bite, while bass plays the weightier role and drums project added presence. The more accurate reproduction of the trademark Saint classic metal sound is the upshot.
Accentuated in the process is the WOTS positive of songwriting strength. Yes, Saint is widely regarded as not hitting its musical stride until Pure Metal follow up efforts Time’s End (1986) and Too Late For Living (1988), but WOTS is not to be overlooked (poor production to the original masked the quality of its material). It starts with “Plan II”, a bludgeoning traditional metal slab impelled by sledgehammer guitars and emphatic as it gets low end. The commanding, Halford influenced vocal presence of Josh Kramer lends to the songs decisive feel- and helps invite Saint’s comparison to Judas Priest accordingly.
“Legions of the Dead” proves every bit fervid, kicking up a relentless storm of angst through its astringent verses but slowing to a toiling doom-like tincture for its ploddingly dour refrain. Guitar team of Dee Harrington (who was part of Saint at the time of Too Late For Living) and Jerry Johnson (contributing the guitar leads to the groups 2004 comeback release In The Battle) tear it up with their assertive soloing. Note that this is the first time Saint has been a two-guitar team band since it headlined the His II festival in 1988 with Harrington and original WOTS guitarist John Mahan. In terms of comparison, Harrington and Johnson bring a more melodic style as opposed to the aggressive and acerbic playing of Mahan.
“Abyss” picks up the tempo with its dogged focus, staunchly driven front to back in yielding a perilous resolve while the no-nonsense refrain finds Kramer exhibiting the full range to his voice. Caustic and discordant is the feel at hand. Likewise, the albums title track takes an unremitting stance as militant guitar riffs join with an anthem-like milieu. Drummer Tim Lamberson stands out with his battering timekeeping skills not to mention melodic backing vocals.
“Vicars Of Fate” is this reviewers choice track from how it smoothly flows and grooves to a near mesmerizing melody and unflagging bass line of founding member Richard Lynch. Harrington and Johnson reassert themselves with more intense soloing. “Time’s Wasting” proves another straightforward and in your face maulers as trenchant guitars and vehement mid-paced focus play definitive roles. No, not the albums catchiest but it is powerful all the same.
“The Killers And The Destroyers” and “The Reaper” are shorter (both come in at under three minutes) numbers defined by their upbeat proclivities. Former pummels and snarls in high energy fashion in giving rise to a thrash aura, while latter rollicks at a furious tempo that almost approaches speed metal. The two are quite good and in no way fall under the ‘leftovers’ or second best ‘categories’ that can often characterize bonus tracks.
Saint has always stood out (at least in my opinion) for the depth of its lyrics- at least in comparison to what some of its contemporaries were doing (I still cannot believe that one reviewer of the time criticized Saint for ‘having little meat to its lyrics’). The victorious feel to “Plan II” proves this wrong - On that final day He'll rise above the clouds. All will see His wounds and sigh. It's plain for all to see He is the risen King. He has the keys to death and hell Attached on to His side – as does the spiritual warfare based “Warriors Of The Son”: By His strength the King of light starts pouring Out His rage. To slay the beast who has conquered the world at this stage. The sons of light they hear His call they know just what to do. Ten thousands and the mighty one They're coming to get you.
Saint has traditionally addressed End Times themes. This stands out on “Legions Of The Dead” - A sea of people drown in their sleep. Legions of the dead and the widows who weep. The lakes have turned to blood. And the mountains, they roar. The victims think in their minds. I've heard this some place before - and “The Reaper”: Are you worried about the evil wars. Are you worried about the times. Have you seen Israel and Egypt go. They’ve drawn it to the line. The world we’re living in today. It’s getting down and out. I can’t walk the streets at night. I want to scream and shout. The group best sums up its faith on “Time’s Wasting”: Christ remains in waiting Christ has paid the toll. He died for you, He broke the chains opened the prison doors. Why do you choose to run from Him? There's nowhere else to go. A sinless Priest, the awesome King I think you probably know.
I appreciate how WOTS 04 presents the original WOTS material in the much more listenable and enjoyable format. Nothing against said original, but I found it to be on the harsh side of things due to the limited production. Re-recording gives everything a much needed face lift, with the WOTS tracks shining in the manner they deserve. If disappointed with the production to WOTS (but like the songs) then make WOTS 04 a necessary purchase. If you already own WOTS 04 I would still encourage you to pick up the Retroactive re-issue due to improvements from the re-mastering.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Plan II" (5:35), "Legions Of The Dead" (3:39), "Abyss" (3:52), "Warriors Of The Son" (3:36), "Vicars Of Fate" (3:45), "Time’s Wasting" (4:06), "Killers And The Destroyers" (2:31), "The Reaper" (2:51)
Josh Kramer - Lead Vocals
Dee Harrington - Guitars
Jerry Johnson - Guitars
Richard Lynch - Bass
Tim Lamberson - Drums