Please let me try
To find another day"
One Word Review: Timeless
Symbol Of Salvation was released back in 1991 and it has become a timeless classic in my musical universe.
It was around my 15'th listen when I realized, that I would never grow tired of this album. Close to 25 years later, that feeling still prevails. SoS has a special vibe that just sucks you in, and doesn't let go, before the final chord is struck. This was Armored Saint's fourth full length album, and their strongest effort yet. It should have brought them huge success, but unfortunately the band broke up a year after the release, as vocalist John Bush got the opportunity to join Anthrax as their new vocalist. In 1999 the band reunited and started playing together again.
Symbol of Salvation was re-released in 2003 as a special 3CD set, which I will get back to at the end of the review.
The music Armored Saint play is pure Heavy Metal. Hard & Heavy, in your face and grooving, with a great attitude in John Bush's vocals. The band is extremely tight and the songs on Symbol of Salvation are all little pearls. Guitar-wise there is a lot to enjoy. Jeff Duncan and Phil Sandoval play like they are on fire, and fill the songs with loads of little details. I will even go as far as saying that I'm sometimes reminded of Criss Oliva (Savatage), when listening to the guitar playing on this record. It's imaginative, emotional and perfectly executed. Similar for all the songs is the fantastic rhythm section, with Joey Vera handling the bass and Gonzo keeping a tight and grooving rhythm on the drums. In every song there is a multitude of interesting things going on in the background, and it's partly this that gives the album its everlasting longevity.
John Bush's passionate vocals is another highlight. His voice is raw, powerful and aggressive, but it always has that emotional edge. It feels like he becomes one with the lyrics of each song. Whether he sings the hard or the soft passages of songs, he has a fantastic presence that just emits true passion.
Reign of fire sets off the album. It is a hard hitting track with some heavy guitarwork that invites replays. There is a cool little guitar part that sticks out and makes me think of Savatage's "Hall of the Mountain King", whenever I hear it. It appears several times, but maybe it's clearest at 2:47. A perfect opener.
Dropping like flies has the groove. It is as simple as that. Everything works in this song. John Bush's powerful vocal melodies, and the crunchy guitar play together like they were made for each other. But Gonzo on the drums takes the crown. He keeps the song together with his incredible sense of rhythm. Another highlight is the 40 second guitar solo split between Phil and Jeff.
Last train home is maybe the most catchy song on the album, with a very melodic, sing-a-long chorus. The song is driven by Joey Vera's brilliant bass line and simple but effective guitar riff. In it's day this song even got some rotation on MTV.
Tribal dance is the most experimental song on the record. It has a primal feel with its jungle rhythm and overall groovy execution. John Bush once again gives an incredibly powerful performance with a lot of aggression in the way he sings the drug related lyrics. There is something special about this song that draws me in.
Another day is pretty much a perfect song. Starting out as a ballad, the way the song builds with the lyrics is perfect, and when the song finally picks up speed, John Bush sings in a chilling way. If that wasn't enough the guitar solos that follow are extremely heart felt and emotional, making this a real stand out track. The touching lyrics speak for themselves.
Hanging Judge releases a lot of power right from the start and doesn't slow down. Like on Another Day it is possible to relate the lyrics to Armored Saint guitarist David Prichard, who died of leukemia before the album was finished. Again the guitar plays along with John Bush's vocals in a perfect way that enhances the song greatly.
Burning Question is my favourite track of the album. The opening guitar riff is brilliant and the overlaying solo is a perfect intro to the song. John Bush shines again and the way the guitar plays along with his voice right up to the chorus is brilliant. The lyrics are quite thought provoking too.
The final song Spineless is a full out assault on the senses, with a heavy driving riff and a fast and furious guitar solo. It should wake anybody up and give them the power to take on the world.
Other highlights of the album include the excellent twin guitar in The truth always hurts, the beautiful instrumental piece Half drawn bridge, and the grooving monster of a title track, that just keeps on coming. Especially the passage from verse to chorus in this one is excellent. In Warzone John Bush's creates some excellent vocal melodies and the excellent guitar work adds a frantic feel to the song. Also notice the first solo by David Prichard in Tainted past, which has been lifted from the original 4-track demos.
I honestly can't find anything negative to say about this album. Of course there are a couple of songs which aren't as good as the best ones, but every song adds something to the overall feel of the album. It is a true classic that has stood the test of time and grown into something really special. The band sounds inspired and hungry, and that feeling pervades the whole album, and makes it sound fresh, even today. There is so much to dig into, but you also have to be patient. The album didn't hit me right before I had listened to it several times, but then the songs started to get a life of their own.
Metal blade has released this classic as a glorious 3CD set, that will definitely satisfy fans of the band. You get the remastered version of the album, including videos for Reign of fire and Last train home. The second disc contains the original 4-track demos, and finally CD 3 is devoted to a recently recorded interview with all the Armored Saint members and Brian Slagel, the janitor of Metal Blade... This is a real treasure trove of information and I love it. Every song gets a mention and there are some very funny moments. The part where each member fondly remembers guitarist David Prichard is quite touching.
The demos almost deserve a separate review. They are really fantastic! They are rawer and unpolished, and make for a captivating version of the album. It is very interesting to hear guitarist Dave Prichard play on these tracks. Overall the song structures are the same as on the finished release, but there are loads of places where the demos are different from the finished album in some way. A real gem.
The only problem I have is with the sound of the remastered album. The sound has been beefed up, and is now more bombastic, with a much deeper drum sound and a much shriller guitar sound. This results in a more aggressive but less dynamic sound, which is a great shame. I will always prefer the sound of the original release, cranked to all the way up. The production on the original release is excellent with great balance between instruments and a sweet, open sound stage with a clear placement of the instruments.
One plus side to the remastered release is the cover booklet, where the lyrics to the songs are actually readable, as opposed to the original, where I had to use a magnifying glass to read anything...
Well, I think the review speaks pretty much for itself. If you have missed out on this album, now is your chance to discover one of the greatest heavy metal albums ever released. It is beyond awesome. It is the truest kind of true.
Written By Steen
Online: Sunday, June 29, 2014
Reign Of Fire
Last Train Home