Review Summary: California power metal emissaries sound their first battle cry.
High school friends from SoCal form a band and hammer it out as Sunset Strip regulars, sharing stages with scores of glam bands as well as Mustaine-era Metallica during years of dues-paying. John Bush was a freakishly perfect singer, his rugged voice and spectacular range like a metallic racehorse bred on a diet of 70s Priest records. His natural erudite instincts are difficult to quantify but suffice to say if there is an American counterpart to Ian Gillian, it could have been John Bush. The ’82 demo versions of cuts like “No Reason to Live” were pretty weak, but by the time of this recording the riffs were sharp and the choruses strong; the Armored ones were ready to drop their debut slab in earnest.
Michael James Jackson (Kiss ‘Creatures of the Night’ fame) framed the album with radio-ready LA-style production similar to Ratt and Dokken records (booming bass drum, layered vocals, slower tempos, hot shred leads). "March..." was a struggle to make and it sounds like it; some transitions are a little bumpy. That intro to Madhouse is a gorgeous flash of majesty a la Sad Wings of Destiny, and then it’s gone, Gonzo pounding away with an aggro-punk vengeance and setting up the frenetic chorus. “False Alarm” also twists through several changes that seem to fall out of the sky. As enjoyable as they are, the shifting from one tempo to another is jarring – a problem that the band would correct on subsequent records.
Despite studio struggles, the overall presentation is strong. The first single “Can U Deliver” has a snake-hipped sleaze vibe. Slow burners like “Take a Turn” are US power metal megaliths, from the effervescent intro to the muscular chorus and wailing Prichard leads. “Stricken by Fate” may be the records tour de force; no jaunty changes, just bull-nosed bludgeoning metallic chugs, Vera’s bass burbling away, guitars thinning out long enough for Bush to deliver lines like “Living with you was worse than hell!”
The galloping Priest-informed majesty of “Glory Bound” sets up a perfect platform for Bush to stretch out with his megawatt vocal power, his burly voice distinctive and full of rich tonal hues. The guitars fall away during the verses of “Mutiny on the World”, hot leads dropping here and there, Bush screaming out the line“Anarchy is open season for everyone!”
They weren’t exactly a metal label by any stretch, but Chrysalis didn’t skimp on the packaging. The striking blues and greens on the front cover give way to the hellacious browns and reds of the road mutant biker-themed back cover. One glance at the inner-cover photo of these filthy-looking wild-eyed ruffians, swathed in metal mesh, and leather armor with about forty tons of hair is a convincing statement to invest in this slab of vinyl. I personally rode my bike the five-mile round trip to pick up the album after seeing the “Can U Deliver” video, carefully cradling the record against my chest all the way home.
In retrospect, it was worth the trouble, and Armored Saint would just get better with subsequent releases.