SAINT - HEAVEN FELL (*NEW-CD, 2022, Retroactive Records)
RRCD1638 SAINT - HEAVEN FELL CD 637405143409
- 12 page booklet with lyrics
- Includes ultra-cool foil-stamped Ltd Collector Card
- For fans of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Bride!
- Pioneers of Christian Heavy Metal who have treated fans to excellence on every release since 1984
- 1st perfect album score/rating in over ten years on AngelicWarlord.com
ABOUT THE ALBUM
One of the very first bands to ever wave the banner of Christian heavy metal - for real! With metal spikes, black leather, razor sharp riffs, and penetrating vocals Saint mesmerized fans with three sure-fire Hall of Fame albums in the 80's. With 13 full-length albums, Saint has only matured as musicians, and increased their fan base with one critically-acclaimed album after another. The band's 2022 release, Heaven Fell, finds Saint at the pinnacle of their illustrious career. All killer and no filler, Heaven Fell compares to the band's historically great releases. The CD includes a foil-stamped collector card (1st pressing only) to go with a deluxe 12-page booklet packaged in a jewel case. For fans of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Dio, Saxon, and Bride!
Holier Than Thou
Dance of the Gods
The Exile of Cain
Words of Wisdom
Holier Than Thou/Creatures/Dance of the Gods/Morning Star/Make Believe/Chosen One/Vengeance/Fallen Armor/The Exile of Cain/Words of Wisdom/Heaven Fell
ANGELIC WARLORD REVIEW - 100% (FIRST PERFECT SCORE IN OVER 10 YEARS!)
Saint is no stranger to the Christian metal scene. This much is obvious from how the Salem, Oregon based NWOBHM act has been ‘fighting the good fight’ for over five decades, debuting in 1984 with its Rotton Records 6 song EP Warriors Of The Son previous to signing with Pure Metal Records for vaunted full length releases Time’s End and Too Late For Living from 1986 and 1988, respectively. Saint remained on the sidelines for the nineties with exception of The Perfect Life EP (on its Armor Records label) from 1999 only to regroup in 2004 with its first full length album in 15 years in In The Battle and a re-recorded version to Warriors Of The Son (both Armor).
A string of quality comeback records ensued over the next decade, beginning with the Book of Revelation themed concept album The Mark from 2006 (re-issued on Retroactive Records in 2011 under the new title The Revelation) but also encompassing Crime Scene Earth (2008), Hell Blade (2010) and Desperate Night (2012). Each included contributions from founding members bassist Richard Lynch and vocalist Josh Kramer along with guitarists Jerry Johnson or Dee Harrington (or both) and drummers too numerous to mention.
Starting with Broad Is The Gate from 2014, however, a new era dawned for Saint as vocalist Brian Phyll Miller replaced the departed Josh Kramer, while Matt Smith rounded out the guitar team with Jerry Johnson. Subsequent to five year hiatus, Saint returned in 2019 with its eleventh studio album The Calf to also see change - Phyll Miller was supplanted by new front man David Nelson - and stability: Saint otherwise maintained the Broad Is The Gate lineup of Lynch, Smith, Johnson and drummer Jared Knowland.
To which Saint album do I place the most value? Of the earlier material, Time’s End and Too Late For Living end up in a ‘dead-heat-photo-finish’: for every ten good points you reinforce about former, you can counter with ten regarding latter, with the point being you cannot go wrong either way. Of the comeback material, I gravitate to The Mark/The Revelation with its excellent song selection and ‘End Times’ theme, but I also think highly of Hell Blade in terms of its superlative production and overriding band energy. The Calf shines equally from encompassing the total package of songwriting, production and band performance.
Deserving every bit consideration is the summer of 2022 Retroactive Records twelfth album from Saint, Heaven Fell. What we have in Heaven Fell is perhaps the best selecting of songs gracing a Saint record since The Mark/The Revelation- each cut brings that unique hook, riff or melody to separate from the rest and make an impression (there is not a bad let along average musical moment here). Of equal note is the near flawless production (crisp, crunchy guitars and heavy-set drums) and choice band performance (lead guitar is jaw dropping) from continuity of Saint carrying over the same roster from The Calf.
Album opens to three songs that are every bit heavy as they are catchy. “Holier Than Thou” is a barnburner combining equal parts galloping riffs and intrusive disposition with manifest hooks pointing to the accessible, while “Creature” is cast from a similar mold in exuding unremitting energy and charged low end alongside a forward melody to command with repeat play. “Dance Of The Gods” rates with this reviewers choice tracks with an engaging refrain that refuses to quit - Saint has not produced immediate hooks such as this since Time’s End - but otherwise tempers to a mid-paced initiative to see bull rushing guitars and chanted vocal melodies play lead roles.
The three serve to play up Nelson’s gritty and gravelly middle-register vocal qualities. No, he might not bring a similar Halford-like upper end form as Kramer but proves every bit complementary to the classic metal sounds at hand in forging his own legacy with Saint.
In similar form is “Morning Star”, kicking in at once to the churning resolve to power its distance but interspersed with tempered moments of a bottom heavy capacity (including the unfathomable refrain) and “Make Believe”, slamming at a more elevated tempo in upholding ruthless guitar edges and understated but enduring melody (interwoven with Lynch’s manifest bass line). Distinctive to the two is manner in which they accent ample doses of exciting dual lead guitar from Johnson and Smith (close listen reveals light classical nuances from the pair).
Albums most commercial and lengthy cut is the five and half-minute “Chosen One”. It backs from (even if slightly) the guitar focus, realizing melodic metal as opposed to that traditional, but playing up one of albums most recognizable refrains, referencing the distant vocal harmonies to elevate the arresting melody. With Nelson smoothing his vocal delivery in the process, am I out of line to offer comparison to Too Late For Living track “The War Is Over”?
I identify with “Fallen Armor” and “Heaven Fell” as equally good companion classic metal cuts. Former resonates of the knife-like with its jagged intensity and complementary raw vocals but also fails to back from the prodigious hook focus; latter exudes of the apocalyptic (a Saint staple) in light of its sublime complexion and forward use of ‘Hey! Hey!’ backing vocals. What I hear on the two is Saint hearkening back to an accessible sound that helped make Time’s End and Too Late For Living such special releases.
Many of the heavier Heaven Fell moments reveal over its second half. It starts with “The Exile Of Cain” as an ominous reflecting commands the somber verse sections and hulking power a weighty refrain to touch upon thrash like intensity, but also includes “Words Of Wisdom” from mirroring the doom like with its portent riffs and mauling tempo as the lower register is approach. Finally, “Vengeance” represents a shorter (three and half minute) speed based track reveling in all out energy and chaotic mindset to go in hand, not to mention Knowland’s intricate timekeeping.
As a reviewer, I am stingy when it comes to handing out perfect scores - this is only the third in over fifteen years of administering Angelic Warlord - but Heaven Fell proves fully deserving when factoring the spot on songwriting. Impression with repeat listen is that Saint worked itself to death on the songs in that each (again) brings that unique hook, riff or melody to separate on its own and make an impression. A full measure of this regard attributes to the talented songwriting team of Smith, Johnson and Lynch (music) and Nelson (lyrics). Am I out of line to suggest accordingly that Heaven Fell is destined to rank with other highly regarded classic such as Snakes In The Playground (Bride), Weapons Of Our Warfare (Deliverance), Detonation (Bloodgood) and To Hell With The Devil (Stryper)? Only time will tell, but if into Saint or classic/traditional metal then I cannot help but give Heaven Fell the highest recommendation.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Holier Than Thou” (4:25), “Creature” (3:51), “Dance Of The Gods” (4:00), “Morning Star” (4:19), “Make Believe” (4:19), “Chosen One” (5:29), “Vengeance” (3:24), “Fallen Armor” (4:14), “The Exile Of Cain” (3:57), “Worlds Of Wisdom” (4:21), “Heaven Fell” (3:57)
David Nelson - Lead Vocals
Jerry Johnson - Guitars
Matt Smith - Guitars
Richard Lynch - Bass
Jared Knowland - Drums