Richard V. : In the history of heavy metal, the death of a band member sometimes produces great albums. Armored Saint is a prime example; guitarist Dave Pritchard died in 1990 at the age of 26 from the effects of leukemia. The four remaining musicians decided to continue, recruited a capable replacement (guitarist Jeff Duncan) and delivered with 'Symbol Of Salvation', a truly fantastic heavy metal album that should be part of everyone’s collection who considers him or herself a metal fan.
'Symbol Of Salvation' does not contain weak songs and still sounds fresh more than a quarter century after its original release. In retrospect, we can safely say that Armored Saint was the best heavy metal band from Los Angeles. That they never achieved the popularity of Metallica or Slayer is absolutely not due to the music and certainly not the singer because John Bush had (and still has) a great voice. Metallica approached him in their early days to be the singer of their band. The reviews in the metal magazines back in the day were full of praise. A lack of promotion by their label (Chrysalis) and too few European tours are likely to blame for the disappointing popularity. Another fact to consider is the rise of the thrash genre in the eighties (think of all Bay Area bands) that made Armored Saint probably just too melodic for thrashers and too heavy for the more conservative hard rockers.
From the opening track 'Reign Of Fire' it is just one great song after another. Cool riffs, wonderful solos from Phil Sandoval and Jeff Duncan, pulsating rhythms from bass player Joey Vera and drummer Gonzo Sandoval and of course the wonderfully rugged vocals from Bush. Especially the up-tempo songs 'Dropping like Flies', 'Tribal Dance' and 'Warzone' will delight all the headbangers, but also during the more subdued songs like 'Last Train Home', 'Another Day' and 'Tainted Past' you will enjoy the craftsmanship of these musicians. It will be hard not to turn the volume open. The final piece 'Spineless' is close to the thrash genre and proves that the band could also excel in that genre. I dare to say that such great heavy metal is no longer being made today. Together with 'Delirious Nomad' this is the best album Armored Saint ever made. It is unfortunate that the band never got the recognition they deserved because on the basis of this album alone, they should be at headliners at many festivals.
Four demos have been added as a bonus for this reissue. Those songs have already been released before on 'Nod To The Old School' back in 2011. On those demos you will hear the last songs guitarist Dave Pritchard recorded with the band. 'Medieval Nightmares' has that typical Saint groove and cool guitar solos just like 'Get Lost.' The sound quality of 'Tongue and Cheek' and 'Pirates' could be better, but if you can still hear the talent of this criminally underrated band.
We do not hand out scores for re-issues, but rest assured 'Symbol Of Salvation' would easily score 90+ rating.