Saint - The mark 3.5/5

Reviewed: 8-11-06


1. The spirit
2. The vision
3. Ride to kill
4. He reigns
5. On and on
6. The 7th trumpet
7. The mark
8. Bowls of wrath
9. Babylon the great
10. Reaping the flesh
11. Alpha and omega

U.S. Christian metallers Saint have been plying their trade for the better part of 2 decades in near-complete obscurity. Despite their fairly extensive discography, I had never heard of these Bible-belters until Sentinel Steel carried their 2004 reunion opus, 'In the battle', a couple of years back. At the time, I gave 'In the battle' a few spins, after which I promptly pigeonholed the CD as fairly pedestrian, low-energy Judas Priest worship with a pronounced religious bent. 'In the battle' seemed doomed to spend eternity accumulating dust on my burgeoning shelves until one day, a few months ago, I went back to that CD and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Saint do not play flashy, speedy, amphetamine-fueled, overcaffeinated power metal, nor do they play bludgeoningly heavy true or traditional metal, but they are extremely good at what they do. And what is that, exactly? Eminently listenable, toe-tapping, typically mid-paced, simple, anthemic Judas Priest/Saxon-type tunes with catchy riffs and strong vocals. From the moment I reached that epiphany, I was hooked on Saint's no-frills brand of metal mastery.

The band's latest CD, 'The Mark', picks up right where its predecessor left off. Bassist/chief songwriter Richard Lynch has penned a collection of a dozen tracks that will warm the cockles of the hearts of 80s metal fans everywhere, particularly those who revel in Judas Priest in their simplest, most sing-a-long mode. Vocalist/guitarist Josh Kramer has a powerful, authoritative voice that bears a passing resemblance to Rob Halford, albeit with less range and a propensity from time to time to attempt shrieks that he cannot convincingly execute (see chorus of "On and on" or verses of "The Seventh Trumpet" for examples). The lyrics deal with Biblical themes and proclamations of faith that sometimes venture into what might reasonably be characterized as preachiness. Some will no doubt find the message uplifting, while others will take offense at a band challenging their audience's theological moorings. Me, I fall somewhere in the middle. I don't fall to my knees rejoicing at lyrics like "Salvation belongs to our God/And to the Lamb Who was slain," but I don't despise them either. If I can own dozens of CDs that praise the goat and extol the trilogy of 6's without ever adopting the beliefs they espouse, then having a few CDs of light to counterbalance all the Beelzebub-belching blackness is not necessarily a negative, so long as the music is good. Life is, after all, all about the yin and the yang.

And for the most part, the music on 'The mark' is, indeed, good. Oh, sure, there are a couple of songs where the choruses veer into annoying territory, where Kramer's attempts to toughen up his vocal act are unavailing, or where things feel a bit too much like Sunday school evangelism, but in general this is the same high-quality, 80s-styled heavy metal that rendered 'In the battle' such a success, albeit with a slightly heavier, darker and more aggressive approach. Patience is recommended in experiencing this CD, as the 2nd half of 'The mark' rocks harder and more consistently than the first and generally includes the strongest material (which is not intended to denigrate the excellent "The vision" and "Ride to kill" in the first half of the CD). "Reap the flesh", in particular, is a monster song that instantly vaults to status as one of my favorites from these gents.

'The mark' is an enthusiastically recommended CD for any metalhead who appreciates 80s-styled traditional metal and does not find pro-Christian lyrics to constitute some kind of unfathomable affront. Give Saint some support. They've been battling heathens and false ones in the trenches for ages, and it's high time their work is recognized and appreciated. The battle rages on...




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