SAINT – Heaven Fell [RetroActive Records physical CD only release] (2022) HQ *0dayrox Exclusive*
SAINT is one of the very first acts emerging from the ’80s US Christian metal scene, alongside Stryper. Why they never achieved mainstream success as Stryper is simply because they refused to join the glam metal wagon and remain faithful to their roots. They had the same level of musicianship, and songwriting skills. With 13 full-length albums to date, Saint has only matured as musicians, and increased their fan base with one critically-acclaimed album after another.
The band’s new 2022 release, ”Heaven Fell”, finds Saint at the pinnacle of their career. This is one of the best US melodic metal albums we heard in ages – Christian based or not. It’s on par with anything recently released by Stryper, even more melodic and powerful.
Seriously, this is all killer / no filler – a 11 tracker of timeless, perfectly crafted American melodic metal.
What we have in ”Heaven Fell” is perhaps the best selecting of songs gracing a Saint record since the Eighties – each cut brings that unique hook, riff or melody to separate from the rest and make an impression. Of equal note is the near flawless production (crisp, crunchy guitars and heavy-set drums) and choice band performance (lead guitar is jaw dropping).
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 reviewer’s choice tracks with an engaging refrain that refuses to quit plenty of immediate hooks, 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 David Nelson’s gritty and gravelly middle-register vocal qualities. No, he might not bring a similar Halford-like upper end form as founding member vocalist Josh 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 Richard Lynch’s manifest bass line.
Distinctive to the two is manner in which they accent ample doses of exciting dual lead guitar from Jerry Johnson & Matt Smith. Close listen reveals light classical nuances from the pair.
The CD most commercial cut is the impressive “Chosen One”. It backs from (even if slightly) the guitar focus, realizing melodic metal as opposed to that traditional, but playing up one of album’s most recognizable refrains, referencing the distant vocal harmonies to elevate the arresting melody with Nelson smoothing his vocal delivery in the process.
I identify with “Fallen Armor” and “Heaven Fell” as equally good companion classic melodic metal cuts. The 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 we hear on the two tracks is Saint hearkening back to an accessible ’80s / early ’90s sound.
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 Jared Knowland’s intricate drum timekeeping.
”Heaven Fell” is terrific melodic metal album. Impression with repeat listen is that Saint worked itself to death on the songs in that each 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 albums from the genre such as Snakes In The Playground (Bride), Detonation (Bloodgood) and To Hell With The Devil (Stryper)? Only time will tell, but if into Saint or US classic / traditional melodic metal then I cannot help but give ”Heaven Fell” the highest recommendation.
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01 – Holier Than Thou
02 – Creature
03 – Dance of the gods
04 – Morning Star
05 – Make Believe
06 – Chosen One
07 – Vengance
08 – Fallen Armor
09 – The Exile of Cain
10 – Words of Wisdom
11 – Heaven Fell
David Nelson – Lead Vocals
Jerry Johnson – Guitars
Matt Smith – Guitars
Richard Lynch – Bass
Jared Knowland – Drums