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Review: Armored Saint - Symbol of Salvation
Armored Saint
Symbol of Salvation

Label: Metal Blade Records
Year released: 1991
Duration: 57:00
Tracks: 13
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: November 18, 2022
Reviewed by: Mjölnir
Readers Rating
Symbol of Salvation

Rated 4.54/5 (90.77%) (13 Votes)

Armored Saint are kind of a weird underground darling to talk about. They have a fair share of fanboys despite most of their output being incredibly mediocre, and even the oft celebrated March of the Saint sounds like reheated leftovers from the Sunset Strip, but they get talked about with at least decent regard for the most part. I heard from people with similar thoughts to mine that their fourth album, Symbol of Salvation, was actually good, but I'm a stubborn skeptic to the end, so it took me a while to get to it. After quite a few compulsive spins, I wonder what took me so damn long, because just this one time, they got it all right.

Stylistically, this is still sleaze fueled, commercially friendly Heavy Metal that sounds somewhere in between W.A.S.P. and early Skid Row. The only real difference is that instead of sounding like uninspired rehashes of better bands, Armored Saint stepped up their game and boasted the same kind of swagger and charisma the best of the L.A. scene showed off in the beginning. The guitar work is hooky and heavy, the songwriting varied and often exciting, and the sultry drawl of John Bush has never sounded better, and his vocal lines give him room to show his surprising flexibility as a singer, ranging from soft croons to glam-infused screams as the music requires.

Everything discussed above is immediately evident on the killer album opener "Reign of Fire," whose chugging riffs and barn-burning chorus easily make it the best song they ever wrote, certainly one that blew my middling expectations out of the damn water. This song alone would make the album their best work, but the best thing about this album is that it is equal parts varied and consistent in quality. You get mid-paced rockers like "Dropping Like Flies" and the rollicking title track, speedier tracks like "Hanging Judge" and "Warzone," more emotionally charged numbers like "Last Train Home" and the blazing "Burning Question," more aggressive songs like the chugging "Tribal Dance" and album closer "Spineless," and even a solid ballad in "Another Day." You may have noticed I named most of the track list, and that's because this is an album where almost every song is top quality metal.

There are a few things holding this back, however. "The Truth Always Hurts," for example, is a poppier number with lame, bouncing riffs and limp verses, and the 7-minute "Tainted Past" is alright, but probably didn't need to be 7 minutes long. The thing is, even these flaws are better than those of previous works because there's at least something interesting to talk about, and there's so much strong material on here that they're barely noticeable. It's a shame the band split up after this, and an even bigger shame their subsequent reunion albums saw them return to bland mediocrity. Still, most bands can't even manage an album half this good, and the fact that Armored Saint of all bands made it is kind of incredible. If you dismissed this band like I did and skipped this album, I urge you to give it a chance to prove that even a band as consistently lame as Armored Saint can have the capacity to make something that fucking rocks.

Other related information on the site
Review: La Raza (reviewed by Michel Renaud)
Review: March of the Saint (reviewed by Adam Kohrman)
Review: Punching the Sky (reviewed by Michel Renaud)
Review: Revelation (reviewed by Michel Renaud)
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