Despite being viewed as something of a damp squib contemporaneously – the band dubbed ‘LA’S HEADBANGINGEST BAND’ in the live arena undoubtedly came across as a little limp and soggy in their recorded personae – there’s little or no doubt that as a piece of heavy metal history, Armored Saint‘s debut album, March of The Saint, has stood the test of time pretty well.
So, whilst you can still complain about the lack of bollock-menacing bite in the guitars of the sadly-now demised Dave Prichard and six string partner Phil Sandoval, there is absolutely nothing to take issue with about with an album that can start with a trio of songs as strong as the anthemic title track, the lascivious Can U Deliver and the heads down mayhem of Madhouse.
Then, as now, all three are righteous members of the the US metal pantheon, and listening to them again today courtesy of this Metal Blade reissue (the two subsequent albums, 1985’s Delirious Nomad and Raising Fear (1987) are also being simultaneously resuscitated) only serves to re-inflame old passions. This is proper heavy metal, no quarter asked or given, and it’s important to remember that, as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden‘s Brit metal threatened to swamp America, bands like AS were giving just as good as they got with tracks like those already mentioned and the epic Take A Turn with it’s proto-Queensrÿche prog feels or the excellent trad metal assault of Seducer.
And then, of course, there are the timelessly brilliant vocals of John Bush. Bush later found fame with Anthrax after turning down Metallica, but those of us already in the know had the man marked down as one of American metal’s greats after just a few listens to March... even now, despite a few naive yelps and howls, the man’s performance has all the hallmarks of greatness, if only because he eschewed the temptation to go full Halford (or indeed Dickenson), as might have been expected, preferring instead to press ahead with that full throttle roar we’ve all come to know and love in the years that followed this impressive opening salvo.
So, modern ears may find the sound of March of the Saint impossibly twee – they’d have a point – but, at the end of the day, you can’t argue with a good tune and there are more than enough here to make this a reissue worth celebrating.
Metal Blade’s Armored Saint reissues drop on April 15th.