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A metal masterpiece - 100%

Tony Denis, December 16th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2012, 3CD, Metal Blade Records (Reissue, Remastered)

Symbol of Salvation was the band’s riskiest album put out to date. Not because it had their most complex material, but because of original guitarist Dave Pritchard tragically passing away from leukemia, but the show had to go on. Blood, sweat, tears were poured into this album, and the result would be this diamond gem, a masterpiece, a Picasso painting. This is one of my all-time favorite metal albums, and if any, one of the best heavy metal albums around. Ever. It’s so good, you could probably cure cancer with this thing. Hell, it inspired me to create a character for a comic based on John Bush because of this album...oh, I’m getting carried away.

Point is, Symbol of Salvation brings and utilizes much of what made the rest of the Saint’s albums so fresh and unique. Crushing riffs and solos, check. Different and uniquely sounding songs, check. Hard beating drums, check. Bass that’s enough to break glass, check. John Bush’s sultry voice giving orgasms to every living human female in existence? Check, but minus the orgasm part. In all seriousness, Symbol of Salvation has a diverse amount of songs that really make the album stand out from the rest of the crowd, or if any, get squeezed into the likes of Metallica’s Black Album in terms of differing songs.

Reign of Fire kicks off with fucking wicked…well, everything. Riffs, drums, vocals. No dragons, however, but there’s plenty of sex. Then in comes Dropping Like Flies, which you can’t help but bop your head to. Semi-ballad Last Train Home kicks in, being the most memorable track in the entire album. Tribal Dance makes mere mention of Pablo Escobar’s drug empire while providing a unique composition utilizing varying percussion instruments, then comes in the semi-mocking Truth Always Hurts, which feels very country like, but mocking in the sense of taunting some hapless bastard that “the truth always hurts”, hence the name. Half Drawn Bridge is an instrumental that just feels welcome at home too, then comes in Another Day, a slow and somber ballad, which I’ll admit, I kinda choked up at (I-I’m a man, okay!? A ma-diddily-an!). Then Symbol of Salvation comes in with a wrecking ball. Hanging Judge, Warzone and Burning Question fill the quota for being metal as hell to tie into the less emotional, but still complex guitars and bass. Lastly, Spineless closes the album off in a tirade of anger that would match Delirious Nomad’s paranoia.

Symbol of Salvation had lots, and I mean LOTS of things going for it – and they all succeeded. Grief echoes through the album’s pores, especially on tracks like Last Train Home, Another Day and Tainted Past. It’s melancholic in a sense, as it feels like much of the album’s more prominent lyrical material was written to vent their grief with Dave’s sudden passing (even though it was before he passed). Nevertheless, Symbol of Salvation is the more tragic album to come out of the Saints in a while, but that’s what makes it a masterpiece. While tragedy doesn’t equal brilliance in some cases, here, it does.

I should also note the remastered version includes the original 8-track demos, which sound just as good as their final versions, if not better. There’s also an interview segment with Brian Slagel about the production of the album, and it shows a lot of hidden details and history with the band. I won’t go into detail, but it’s still surprising nonetheless. No matter the cost, Symbol of Salvation is an amazing album, if not, important. Important in the sense that it brought the band to some prominence and the fact that it’s a true testament to what heavy metal is. You can’t miss this shit out. Just listen to it and you’ll see what I mean.

Now if you excuse me, comic character based on John Bush is waiting for me to tinker with.

Any minute the sparks will fly! - 90%

Diamhea, November 1st, 2014
Written based on this version: 1991, CD, Metal Blade Records

As much as I appreciate the late Dave Prichard's contributions and compositional touch concerning Armored Saint's first few records, this is just on a whole other level. Symbol of Salvation unequivocally wipes the floor with the first three records, which while appraised in isolation are all pretty consistent and enjoyable on their own. One can conceivably contrast the first three records courtesy of the old apples and oranges adage, but with Symbol of Salvation the comparison upgrades to apples and bowling balls. That said, Raising Fear always felt like a slight step down after the vibrant and crackling Delirious Nomad, so the extended downtime was well deserved and the Saints put it to good use. Tragedy struck in early 1990 though with Prichard's passing, and the band's future was rightfully put on the line with a cornerstone aggregate of their creative unit gone.

Thank goodness that Sandoval had the presence of mind to return to the group after his short hiatus, and Armored Saint's renewed vision was employed with stratospheric returns. Symbol of Salvation is a monumentally classic example of an '80s holdover adapting and thriving in the early '90s. Armored Saint have always boasted a keen proclivity for hooky, Judas Priest-styled riffs accentuated by Bush's idiosyncratic drawl. While the earlier albums all convincingly boasted of these advantages, Symbol of Salvation is a much more varied and comprehensive listen on the whole, and thus much more rewarding at the end of the day. The band attempts a multitude of styles here, and clears the ballpark with just about every one. From the borderline speed metal gesticulation of "Warzone" and "Spineless" to the clearly Savatage-inspired moody power ballad "Last Train Home," Armored Saint never fails to connect the dots in an enthralling manner.

To touch on John briefly, he is actually one of my favorite heavy metal vocalists and an incontrovertible class act. He single-handedly saved Anthrax's Sound of White Noise and is absolutely prime form during this point in the timeline. From the inventive, percussive wordplay on "Tribal Dance" (which touches on the drug culture of the '80s) to the languid chorus melody intertwined with slapshot leadwork on "Hanging Judge," he one-ups even his best work from March of the Saint and Delirious Nomad. Duncan and Sandoval execute an absolute clinic concerning pure, unadulterated Priest/Maiden worship driven to the logical extreme. "Burning Question" is the true highlight as far as the more animated crunchers are concerned, and just may be the band's greatest song of all time. The opening lead on this one along with the droning notes that open "Hanging Judge" are pure gold! I don't know how else to say it, and gushing is by no means my strong point from a narrative sense, but it has to be experienced.

The more ambitious and classically-textured "Tainted Past" serves as a bittersweet final farewell to Prichard, who makes his final studio appearance posthumously on some of the lead intervals. By the time "Spineless" kicks the listener to the curb in iniquitous fashion, one can't help but plead for more and experience the whole thing all over again. The remaining question that still rings truest in my mind's eye is why the hell Armored Saint never truly caught mainstream recognition with this album. The band received some ancillary attention by appearing in the otherwise underwhelming Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth but in the end it just seemed like empty words, and John's subsequent departure to Anthrax tolled the bell for Armored Saint as we knew them. All of these choruses glitter like gold, and the brash truth is that Symbol of Salvation fucking holds up. This material deserves to be heard, and well, that is why I am writing this review after all. Don't miss it!

Straight up classic metal - 90%

OlympicSharpshooter, September 20th, 2004

Armored Saint's crowning accomplishment and one of the finest pure metal records I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. Somehow this manages to sound both unique and classic at the same time, as Saint doesn't really sound truly like any other metal act (perhaps a toughened up version of a tough hair band I suppose) that I've ever heard. It's got great riffs, but it's not really a 'riff' album. It's got amazing vocals, but it's not a 'vocalist' album. It's just a heavy, catchy, purely metal album that, to use the vernacular of most positive reviews on this site, has a ton of balls.

At this point Armored Saint was in the same unfortunate situation AC/DC was in in 1980. They had just lost a bandmate in the incomparable Bon Scott, and they weren't sure if they should continue. They did, and ended up with Back in Black. Saint did something no less unbelievable, because guitarist Dave Pritchard was absolutely key to the formula. He has writing credits on eight tracks, usually sole writing credit for the music, and on the 4-track demos (included on the reissue) he has solos on eleven of twelve tracks (the twelfth was recorded after his death) and acts as producer. Luckily for Saint, Phil 'totally badass-looking' Sandoval was waiting in the wings.

The songs are uniformly catchy as hell (literally any chorus here can be easily recalled at will), and this is definitely a positive after hours of listening to unmemorable songwriting for hours on end (I'm looking at you Reign in Blood). A lot of this is due to the song-writing skills of one John Bush, my pick for the most bafflingly unsuccessful (commercially) vocalist of all times. The man looks great, writes better, and can sing virtually anything. The man's voice is just marvellous, really, ballsy, tuneful, metal, shrieky, growly... the guy has to be right up there with Sebastian Bach and Rob Halford as a versatile, top-flight vocalist of the highest calibre.

Supporting him is a band as solid as solid gets. I love the guitar sound on this thing, really thick and crunchy like "Slave to the Grind" or "Welcome to the Jungle". The melodic stuff is really done, particularly the moving bass-driven "Half Drawn Bridge" and the song is leads into, "Another Day".

There are many highlights on this thing, many of them the more speed metal oriented songs like "Reign of Fire", a song written by lyricist John Bush on the orders of Dave Pritchard, who was looking for a song about 'magic and girls'. "Symbol of Salvation" is absolutely kick-ass metal, somewhat sounding like mid-tempo Megadeth, "Warzone" is just explosive, and the Pritchard solo in "Tainted Past" (painstakingly lifted from the original demo) is mesmerizing. AllMusic called "Hanging Judge" venomous, and that description is forever linked in my mind with Bush's howl on the chorus. It's amazing that Slagel practically had to twist the Saint's arm to get them to include it. "The Truth Always Hurts" is a perfect bouncy, light riff and it's totally catchy... damn man, I could say much more about all of the above songs, and just as much about all the ones I didn't mention.

There are two songs I don't like here, so I guess I'll have to pause the love for a second. "Last Train Home" sounds like a crappy hair 'balla-rocker', one of those really wussy rockers that sounds like a ballad and gets schooled by both, as any number of songs in either category sounds better. One of those 'something for everyone' things that turns out to be less satisfying for both camps. Even the break is kinda lame, as a rocking riff dovetails into a little guitar doodle that sounds like something off of Hysteria.

The other tune is "Spineless", the only speedster here that could really be called thrash and could really be called disappointing. It seems a little underwritten and the anger a little forced. It's not like its bad, but it just isn't up to snuff.

Otherwise though, this stuff is almost godly. If you like metal in general, the classic traditional form, you owe it to yourself to grab this LP. It's virtually essential. Furthermore, the reasonably priced three-disc reissue features some interesting demos (with Pritchard) and a long interview with Metal Blade mastermind Brian Slagel and Armored Saint. You might not want to listen to them over and over, but they're fascinating if you want to know about what went into Symbol of Salvation. This is more than worth it.

Stand-Outs: "Burning Question", "Symbol of Salvation", "Warzone"

Fucking catchy!!! - 89%

Reaper, August 9th, 2004

Yes, this album is extremely catchy and memorable, and is a great representation of the band’s ability to catch the listener’s attention with very attractive choruses and melodies. Armored Saint has prevailed because of their remarkable ability to have almost every single song on their albums memorable and catchy. Songs such as these, are the type that might get stuck in your head and make you subconsciously hum the melody. Symbol of Salvation is a great album form start to finish.

The first track, “Reign of Fire,” is a great opener as it is a powerful upbeat song that sets the mood for the rest of the album. John Bush’s recognizable voice and the melody flow very well together. The guitar and drum work in this song are both excellent and are anything but repetitious.

The second song is just as catchy. "Dropping Like Flies" is a representation of the instrumental abilities of the band members. Going into an instrumental part about half way in the song, gives the listener an appreciation for the chorus that follows. "Dropping like Flies,” has a similar sound to many metal bands of this genre, except that it goes a step further, by bringing some energy to the song, which some bands fail to do.

The third song "Last Train Home" again offers great vocals by John Bush. Piercing vocals along with subtle melody in the background, and occasional instrumental parts make this song a diverse track in the album. Incorporating several techniques the band shows throughout their discography. The negative part of the song might be that it gets a bit repetitive towards the end, but it is well written nonetheless.

Now this fourth song, although it does flow within the limits of the bands sound, does sound a bit as an experimental song. “Tribal,” is an upbeat, energetic song with striking vocals and amazing guitar riffs. The closest thing I can compare this to, would be the "Matrix" tribal song in the third movie of the trilogy, except that various "screeching" guitars are used throughout. A different approach by Armored Saint that does not hinder the album’s quality, but instead offers variety to the overall sound and feel of the album.

The fifth song "The Truth Always Hurts," is similar to the previous song, with the apparent "tribal" influence in the background, except it is somewhat worse. The striking vocals are there, and the amazing guitars are there, but they don't fall in together, like they're supposed to. These types of songs are proclaimed to be what bands do when they try too hard, I'll just say that this isn't their best song. I was under the impression that this song was used as an album filler and was a bit overdone.

The sixth track entitled "Half Drawn Bridge" is an instrumental, which starts off with distorted bass guitars, sounding as if the track was being played backwards. This instrumental evolves into a screechy guitar sound towards the end. Changing from the bass solo, to the guitar solo is pretty good and opens the way for the next song that is coming up.

While having faster paced songs throughout the album might work to your advantage, showing differentiation in sound and approach is also wise. This next song combines both the slower characteristic of Armored Saint and the faster more instrumental characteristic. The song starts of as a slow ballad type song and develops into a great song with a smooth guitar solo and faster paced rhythm.

The title track "Symbol Of Salvation," again, is a fast paced song and provides great rhythm, melody, riffs, vocals and everything that makes this band strong. Symbol of Salvation does get a bit repetitive, but only for a while and does keep you interested with the tempo changes and Bush’s voice.

The ninth track "Hanging Judge” is probably my favorite from the whole album. I could listen to this album several times in a row, but I will probably stop several times with this song, playing it over and over again. Not only are the vocals amazingly incorporated into the song, along with the astonishing guitar work, but also the chorus and the melody is what this band should strive for. This song definitely is one of the best from this album. More songs should have sounded like this.

The heaviest and most instrumentally aggressive track of the album is the well-titled "Warzone." It provides a heavy drum bass in the background, while guitar riffs are being spurted out like crazy. Adding to the other great tracks in the album, it is similar to the "Tribal Dance" song, except that it has many more variations within the parts of the song. It is perhaps the only song on the album that has all of the aspects that make this band, a great band. Catchy chorus, great melody, fantastic guitar solos, great feel from the backing bass sound, and most of all, John's great voice. Song after song he provides the listener with a pleasurable experience.

The eleventh track "Burning Question," starts of heavy, and provides another great melody. This is certainly, the "hit" song of the album. It has the simplest chorus but the most memorable and catchy. "Bur...ning.... Que....stion” This is what you're going to sing over and over again, while trying to sleep or just waking up. Songs such as these deserve a separate review all by themselves. I cannot describe what kind of feeling this song arouses. It is somewhat simple, but extremely appealing and captivating. If you're unsure if you want to buy this album, do yourself a favor and download this song immediately. You can thank me later, or perhaps not, when you can't get chorus out of your head. :)

The twelfth track "Tainted Past" is similarly interesting as the previous song. The track goes form a fast paced song, to a more mellow sound and back to the fast tempo, while maintaining a good variation of speed. The song clocks in at 7:04 and is a bit weak when it comes to these lengths. When a song is long such as this, then one expects it to be tremendously filled with solos or whatnot. Whatever the band is good at doing this is what should be incorporated into the song. The previous songs used this recipe and therefore they were great tracks. This song, if it weren’t this long, would have been as great as the rest of the tracks. It is still a decent song, but it could have been more than it seems to be. It’s not necessarily a terrible thing, just not an "excellent" thing.

"Spineless” is a great way to end the album. It provides the listener with all of the great attributes of the album into one song. Riffage, melody and power are all great ways of describing this song. It is a great way of concluding a very praiseworthy album.

The next features are the enhanced videos. "Reign of Fire" and "Last Train Home” Apart form being great songs, as described before, these are also great videos.

The first video "Reign of Fire," starts of with black and yellow flames covering the screen. Then, just like in the song, the raw power of the guitars start, and John Bush's voice pierces through the air once more. The song alone is great, but the video adds even more to the feel. While John is singing, random pictures come up from the some renaissance painting by an Italian painter. I can't seem to remember the exact name now, but it is some kind of a painting, depicting Hell. Various scenes form the painting are shown in the video, while John Bush sings the chorus "... I've sold my soul...” The video ends with the same way that it began, with darkened yellow flames covering the entire screen.

The second video "Last Train Home," is a video for a great song, but the video itself is a bit weird. It starts of with a nail on the railroad tracks being hit by a sledgehammer. The song begins and the band members are playing in different locations throughout the railroad station.. The drummer is playing on the loading tray of a train, and the guitarists are playing on random freight train wagons, or even in between them. The scene is quiet normal, until a lizard comes out of nowhere. All of a sudden there's a lizard on the train tracks. A LIZARD??? Where the fuck did that come from? I am not at all sure of what it was supposed to represent, but it certainly did not add to the quality of the video. The video in itself is quiet good, just that it's not that organized. I mean, you have the close-ups of the guitarist's strumming and plucking, but some random things, such as the camera spinning around John Bush, was a bit out of the linear way, that the music video should have went. The deviation from the norm, wasn't that kind of a big deal. The video could have been better, but it doesn't take away from the total value of the album anyways. This is an additional feature anyway.

The second CD is filled with demos of the songs from the first CD, with the exception of "Half Drawn Bridge," because it is an instrumental. I still would have like to hear a rougher version of this great song. The songs that appear on the second CD are demos, yet one would have to take a wild guess if they are the originals or demos. The "roughness" of the demos is almost not present in these tracks. The songs are very similar to the original recordings. This surprised me a little. There is a slight difference between the second and first CD, but it is minimal. Basically the songs are just a little quieter. That's about it. The impressive performance that this band gives on these demos is in one word, extraordinary. Overall it is a good addition to the package. After all, who doesn’t like extra material?

The demos are tracks one through twelve. From tracks thirteen to Sixteen Brian Slagel, the CEO and founder of Metal Blade Records, introduces the band and the band members introduce themselves. The band members discuss their history, including how they were dropped form their first label, but later picked up by Metal Blade. The band members basically talk about how they were recording the demos once they were dropped form that label. The interview consists of the history and brief descriptions of the discographies and the demos of the band.

The band also recalls Dave Prichard's illness and how it affected the band. The interview is very informative and up front. The interview all in itself is a great way to find out more about the history of the band. Sit down, put on the interview and enjoy. It is definitely a great additional feature to the album.

This is an album I believe every fan of this band should own. If you are just getting into this band, this should really be the first album you should get. The raw energy and the amazingly catchy lyrics and melodies offer a very enjoyable experience. People that are fans of bands such as these, or even Power Metal fans, should give this a listen. I believe this would equate to "Operation Mindcrime," by Queensryche. Both in the greatness in the respective band's own discography and the greatness of the album in general. Just like "Operation Mindcrime" this album offers diverse styles of music in the genre. Do yourself a big favor and get the 3-CD set of Symbol of Salvation. The additional albums were a great idea by this band, and I hope to hear much more great music like this, from this underrated band.

Highlights: Reign of Fire, Dropping Like Flies, Hanging Judge, Warzone, Burning Question.

Armored Saint's best to date - 88%

panteramdeth, May 21st, 2004

This was the album that Armored Saint recorded following Dave Pritchard's death - and would be their last album for over a decade. So what we should have here is a sad album full of mourning and whining, right? WRONG! This album is the most complete Armored Saint album that I have heard to date, and if this album doesn't kick you in the ass, may it deliver a blow to the balls. This album delivers in every sense of the word, and is an oft-overlooked classic because of it.

The music is melodic, yet has many power and thrash metal aspects - solid drumming, great singing, and well-above average guitar playing. "Reign Of Fire" starts off with some nice stutter riffing before working into John Bush's strong vocals. The groove in "Dropping Like Flies" is undeniable, and "Last Train Home" is a more emotional song, meaning that this album delivers in the variety department, so it doesn't get boring even on the first listen. "Half-Drawn Bridge/Another Day" is an instrumental/ballad combination, with yearning Bush vocals. Did I mention the guitar playing is great? "The Truth Always Hurts" has a nice winding flow, and "Hanging Judge", "Warzone", and "Tainted Past" have undeniable riffs and head-moving grooves. "Spineless" is a nice thrash-style song with fast drumming and riffing, not to mention Bush's above-average vocals, and is a great treat at disc's end.

If you don't have anything by Armored Saint, it's time to expand your collection.

A Forgotten Classic? - 95%

Demon_of_the_Fall, July 28th, 2003

How come no one ever mentions these guys although they are just as good or if not better as some of their contemporaries. This is the album where everything seemed to fit inti place for this ambitious group. They took alot of time to plan each and every song out and that is the reason it turned out the way it did. John Bush does some of his best vocal lines on Symbol with songs like Reign of Fire and Dropping Like Flies him and his cohorts deliver quality sing along choruses. This is classic in every sence of the word. One of Armored Saint's main writers and contributors died during the making of Symbol of Salvation and this album is a testament to him. David Pritchard was a very unique and talented guitarist who like the band should be more recognized. The Lineup for the Saint's last album (ofcourse until they reunited for Revelation) was John Bush, Jeff Duncan, Phil Sandoval, Gonzo, and Joey Vera. This disc was released in 1991 just when the grunge scene was developing to be a huge success and metal did not seem so important anymore to the average person. It's hard to tell what would have come of these guys if they would have stayed a group after this album. They just about called it quits before Symbol but they decided to carry on for the spirit of David. There is not one band song on here, infact all of them are fucking amazing and very memorable. I recommend this album to any metal fan looking for a good disc all the way through. Lots of variety is displayed on here as well, where sometimes bongos are played or various other instruments. I suggest getting the Remastered 3 disc set at the Ultra low price of 23 bucks (cheap in Canada that is). The other two discs of the set consist of one long hour + long recent interview with the band on the making of the album, and the other disc is the demo versions of all the songs on Symbol of Salvation. What a package from one of metal's elite bands. Pick this one up while you can, and Don't wait any further, I would not be one of those metalheads deprived of this Gem.

Killer Tracks: Reign of Fire, Dropping Like Flies, Last Train Home, Tribal Dance, The Truth Always Hurts, Symbol of Salvation, Warzone etc