BY JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
ARMORED SAINT – RAISING FEAR (1987)
When I think back to how I became aware of Armored Saint’s third album Raising Fear, I am pretty sure that it was from an ad in one of the many music magazines I read back in the day. Since this was 1987, there was no online way for me to discover their music beforehand. I certainly had never even heard of their March of the Saint or Delirious Nomad albums that were released prior to Raising Fear.
So I essentially picked up this album on spec. I know that can be hit or miss, but in this case it turned out perfectly as I came to regard this album as one of the band’s best releases and it still stands the test of time.
While the album certainly wasn’t all that successful in terms of sales figures, from start to finish it shines a light on Armored Saint’s combined talents in such a way that you can’t help but love the album.
The title track opens up the album and you are immediately plunged into a sizzling metallic guitar driven song. Guitarist Dave Prichard made a big impression on me when I was first listening to the album and when you combine that with the vocal work from John Bush, it wasn’t long before I was hooked.
Now, I don’t know how others feel about the cover of the Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Saturday Night Special” but while the song is obviously amped up, I found it retained the charm of the original track.
The song “Out On A Limb” crackles with a surplus of energy, much like the album closing “Underdogs”. Each song gets your pulse pounding with the fast paced blazing intensity.
It’s not all in your face rockers though. “Isolation” is decidedly slower in pacing but there’s a real dramatic presentation to the song. The intensity of the performance grows throughout and the phrasing on Bush’s vocals gives the track even more heft.
While the song “Crisis Of Life” has the expected metal soundtrack, Armored Saint crosses that sound with a rhythmic swinging vibe at the same time. I’m not sure if my description does full justice to the song but when you listen to it, I think you’ll get my meaning.
The second side of the album opens up “Frozen Will / Legacy”. The first part is a relatively brief instrumental highlighting Dave Prichard before the screaming fire of “Legacy” kicks in. The track has a great guitar line throughout and it’s a flat out winning number for me.
There’s a decidedly more vicious sound to the vocals on “Human Vulture”. This gives an added edge to the song. You can apply that opinion to “Terror” as well. John Bush has a quality to his voice that lets him sound really “evil” as the situation calls for.
With “Book Of Blood”, it was the title that first attracted me to the song. I read the title on the back of the cassette and instantly wanted to hear it. I suppose having an expectation for a song based on its title is a bad way of doing business but it ended up living up to those admittedly ridiculous teenage rebel without a clue expectations
As you can see by now, I just love the Raising Fear album. But as much as all the other songs appeal to me, it is the one song I haven’t mentioned yet that cements that love. “Chemical Euphoria” is bar none my favorite Armored Saint song. It’s a killer metal anthem from start to finish. The pace blisters your ears and I’d daresay that this track is where the band melds together in perfect fashion.
When I saw the band live in the summer of 2018, this was the one song I hoped to hear performed. It did make the set list and it blew me away. When I listen to the album and “Chemical Euphoria” starts to play, I still get the same feel of my blood pumping that much faster through my veins. That’s how I felt the first time I listened to it and that feeling continues no matter how many times I listen to it.
Raising Fear may not be recognized as a must have album for your collection by the large portion of the metal audience, but for me anyone that doesn’t appreciate the overwhelming greatness of this release just doesn’t realize what they are missing out on. It’s a great example of just how to put together an album that, as I said before, stands the test of time more than three decades after its original release.
NOTES OF INTEREST: This was the last album that guitarist Dave Prichard recorded with the band. He passed away in 1990 before Armored Saint recorded their Symbol of Salvation album.
The band was dropped by Chrysalis Records after Raising Fear was released.
Though the song “Crisis Of Life” appears as the last song on the first side of the cassette release I own, the Wikipedia page lists it as a CD-only bonus track.