When Saint was in their prime back in the mid to late 1980's, Christian heavy metal was just starting to make it's initial presence felt in the music world. Bands like Saint, along with Stryper, Leviticus, and others set the stage for what would eventually be an even bigger presence with bands like Extol and Antestor leading the charge. Saint's 1988 release Too Late for Living saw the band building a fairly good following and comparisons to bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden were running rampant. However, Saint disappeared after that album and didn't make any noise again until 1999's The Perfect Life. Unfortunately, with a different singer and sound, that "comeback" album did little to excite old Saint fans.
Well, if you can't do it right on the first try, the best thing to do is to try again and get it right. The year of 2004 sees this over 20 year old band making a second try at a comeback and this time old Saint fans should be more than pleased.
Yes, the band has some rust around the edges, but aside from some imperfections in the recording, this is easily the most enjoyable Saint album so far, in my opinion. The old Saint albums were good, but nothing I could listen to more than once in a day. This new album In the Battle has me listening 3 or 4 times a day in the week I've had it and it doesn't get old and dull after numerous spins. The sound is the same, but they seem to have more energy and life than on earlier albums. And when many "comeback bands" try to sound more modern, this album sounds like it easily could have been the follow up to Too Late for Living. A great headbanging album with 9 songs full of heavy metal, bold, Christ-centered lyrics, and choruses that stick in your head for days.
Vocalist, Josh Kramer doesn't seem like he's lost any edge off of his vocals. The rest of the band...founder, Richard Lynch and new recruit, Jerry Johnson also sound like they've got the chops. Unfortunately, the drums done by new member Larry London are kinda hit and miss. For the casual fan though, the strength of the songs themselves will overcome the inconsistencies that sometimes pop up.
The strongest songs here in my opinion are "Here We Are", "Sacrifice", and "The Choice". All sung and played with a great amount of passion. The funny thing about "The Choice" is that the first 2 or 3 times I heard it, it sounded like they were saying "Follow the devil". Only after more listens did I realize that they were saying "God or the devil". I guess my hearing is slowing fading in my old age. Another good song is the album closer "Acid Rain/Full Armor". It starts out with a mellow intro similar to what we'd here from Opeth, only to see Saint rip back into their familar '80's metal style.
They still show the cheesy '80's metal side at times with songs like "Holy Rollin'" (no need for further comment) and the cover of their own song "Star Pilot Return". Sometimes I wonder what people are thinking when they write lyrics that could possibly be heard by hundreds or thousands of people.
Overall...there are negatives in addition to what I already mentioned, including one of the most horrible album covers of all time and one of the most typo-filled booklets ever. However, old Saint fans will be rejoicing that they finally have a new album by their old band. And despite the age of the members in this classic band and the years that have passed, they still know how to rock hard and they are not ashamed of the God they sing about. For that alone, I applaud them. (Review by Matt)