Thursday, June 6, 2024

Armored Saint - Saints Will Conquer EP (1988)

Saints Will Conquer was a brief live album released to help herald the band's transition over to Metal Blade records, and also give the fans a brief taste of the band in that forum. It's not a complete set, featuring just five tracks, but there's also a bonus track from the band's initial 1982 demo. When I first picked this up, I was quite picky about live albums, having a few that I really liked (Live After Death, Live Without Sense to name a few), but I was generally more interested in studio material and found such stuff pretty redundant. Thankfully, this was purchased on one of my many trips to a used cassette section, costing me only about $2, and for that I'd say it was a worthwhile presentation of a band. Having said that, it's apparent early on that Richard Kriegler's awesome cover art would be the best thing about this. It still is!

The live tracks are sampled from across the band's first three studio albums, and it's got a dirty, raw and powerful mix to it which does successfully deliver their infectious energy to the audience, and thus the eventual listener. "Raising Fear" and "Nervous Man" go off without a hitch, and it's entertaining to hear John hacking and growling in the latter right before the lead. "Can U Deliver" is not my favorite Saint song, but the version here sounds much more intense and engaging than the studio incarnation, and if you've got the CD version of this, you actually get a few bonus tracks in "Chemical Euphoria" and "Long Before I Die" that frankly should have been included on every iteration, because they just ramp up the overall speed and heaviness and value. It's not as smoothly mixed as some other live offerings of its day, but at the same time it has a lot more pent-up power, this feels a lot more legit like what you'd actually experience if you'd paid your money and walked in to witness them on the stage. Any of the marginal sloppiness or imperfections from the performance is a bonus, especially the leads like in "Book of Blood", which just sound outrageous, especially with Gonzo and Vera laying down the rhythm below.

The "No Reason to Live" demo track is a power ballad, and not a bad one, but just know up front that it feels a little out of place after having your face sandblasted by "Book of Blood" and "Madhouse". The tune does pick into a passable little metal number, and John's vocals soar across the bridge; there is also a nice lead section, and Joey's bass is prominent, but despite all that it's not the most memorable of tracks in their catalogue. For demo production it's pretty solid, but I do wonder if it wouldn't have just been better to toss on a couple more live tracks and make this more consistent as a proper 35-40 minute live album. As it stands, its a little of a lopsided, hybrid thing, "No Reason to Live" could have just as well been thrown onto the Nod to the Old School collection later, not that they knew such a thing would happen at the time, but it's an odd man out. Otherwise, a solid and fun live recording, make sure you've got the versions with the bonus tracks!

Verdict: Win [7/10]

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