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Planting the seeds for a great band - 80%

Tony Denis, December 10th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2012, 12" vinyl, Metal Blade Records (Limited Edition)

Here's a neat analogy: think of American heavy metal as a great big garden. The big four are separated as a flowerbed, with Metallica as roses, Megadeth as tulips, Anthrax as begonias and Slayer as columbines. Various thrash and death metal bands that are big enough are fruit and vegetable trees, and the most underrated, local or semi-popular ones. A few caretakers pop up to tend, ranging from the occasional blues musician to a jotted up Ted Nugent running around and firing his guns in the air, stomping the occasional plant here and there. Armored Saint was just a little potato plant, growing right in a small corner, with a Metal Church tomato plant next to it. The potatoes would get bigger, and would be happily sold to the public. In this case, the first potato had to be this EP.

For a first EP to a growing record label at the time, this was a pretty decent debut. Dated, but it's effective. Where there are only three tracks, they're all memorable in their own rights, and some would evolve into what they're known today. The first track, Lesson Well Learned, goes right up into your face. While not super thrashy or heavy, it goes to show the energy of the track itself alone. The second, False Alarm, shows slightly different composition but it is not without it's charm, and is slightly more faster paced than what is currently presented on March of the Saint. The last track, On the Way, is more melodic in it's vocals and composition, and is a departure from the sheer energy, but still remains regardless. All three tracks are solid in their own right. The composition from Dave Pritchard's guitar solos in all three tracks works like a fucking charm, and it shows through the fast pacing of Lesson Well Learned and the groove of On the Way. You can also feel John Bush's voice ripple through, and while not as gravelly as it is today, if you want to hear what they sounded like at first then look no further.

Perhaps, my biggest gripe with the EP, was the dating of the tracks' sound quality. It's old, but it's more of a nitpick on my end. Regardless, this little potato of an EP is a welcoming entry to a great, yet sadly underrated band, and is the tip of the Saint iceberg one must conquer, and hoo boy, there's going to be plenty more.

Saint's most harm-resistant release - 80%

Gutterscream, February 9th, 2008
Written based on this version: 1983, 12" vinyl, Metal Blade Records

“…battled and conquered, now I'm up front to sail through the dawn…”

Sometimes replaced by next year's March of the Saint as the five-piece’s legit debut, this little three humper is Metal Blade’s first thrust into medieval-minded metal, released simultaneously with Savage Grace’s debut ep and on the heels of Warlord’s darker Deliver Us. Lively and fairly ambitious, this tri-clops of tunes represents the plate mail they wore out of the gate during their short seating at Metal Blade’s growing round table, and when people speak of Armored Saint’s best period, very often they’re reminiscing about this narrow pocket in time.

While two or three other bands were gladly swinging wrecking balls at the boundaries in the summer of ‘83, Armored Saint weren’t, and it’s a short story told here. All things traditional and conventional up to that point in metal have no choice but show up; Bush’s clean, lightly rasp-infected vocals, the burst of frugal speed closing “False Alarm” (with the chorus’ rhythm sounding like one in Thor’s same year “Lightning Strikes”), “On the Way”’s Maiden-y main riff…well, you know what else was going on.

With equal appeal in brawn and brains, what Saint does here outweighs much of their Chrysalis tenure, songs that seemed to substitute strong battle dress for animal skins to better fit into accessibility’s army, though I really can’t blame them for jumping ship to a major. Had Bush taken up Metallica’s offer to front them around that time, he would’ve wore his boot out kicking himself, though we all know how that decision could’ve paid off (big time) in the end. As well, had they stayed as Slagel’s squires, their next three lps may have been made up of evenly capable stuff like this. They do return of course, almost past their prime in about five years.

But before I go, I have to unload accusations on what I’ve always thought was ill advertising, ‘cause as it would turn out, the band only ran into battle when the war was distant and no one was really watching. You’ve got the name - Armored Saint – that sounds damn promising, meanwhile some of them are putting their money where their mouths are by wearing banded mail or whatever in the back cover shot, so who wouldn’t get caught gearing up for some tragic tales in Manowarian Ungol reverie? The cover, while kinda boringly modest, winks and smiles as well. Everything’s golden until song titles as armored as Kenny Rogers come into view, and the apparition of disappointment becomes material with not a myth n’ magic lyric in the bunch save the passages boxing this review. Any dissatisfaction I feel toward this release (and the band itself) is a direct descendant of this, but it pales to my want to keelhaul them when the cover of March of the Saint stared back at me from the record rack. I’ll probably grow up and get over it someday.

“…yes, you're made of armor, and Saints will conquer…”