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Saint - Hell Blade (7,5/10) - USA - 2010

Genre: Heavy Metal
Label: Retroactive Records
Playing time: 38:58
Band homepage: Saint

Tracklist:

  1. The Ascent
  2. The Blade
  3. To The Cross
  4. Crying In The Night
  5. Hell Train
  6. Endless Night
  7. You & Me
  8. New World Order
  9. SinnerPeace
  10. Hell Blade

After finding myself bored with SAINT’s 2010 re-working of their mediocre 2008 release “Crime Scene Earth,” my hopes were not high for the band’s latest studio release, “Hell Blade.” Fortunately, the band seems to have worked many of the kinks out of their sound, and as a result, “Hell Blade” is a much stronger album than its predecessor. “Crime Scene Earth” was certainly heavy, but not enjoyable, catchy, or ballsy. “Hell Blade” is all of the above.

 

The opening track, “The Blade,” does everything an opening track on a Metal album should. It’s relatively fast-paced, it’s heavy, it grabs the attention, and the chorus is catchy, yet full of power. The follow-up track, “To The Cross,” injects even more much-needed life into the overall SAINT sound, resulting in another crushingly heavy track with a great fist-pumper of a chorus. Even the mid-tempo track “Crying In The Night” sounds pretty good, with the band going for more of a classic ‘80s Rock sound compared to their dismal attempts at a straightforward, humorless Metal style on the mid-tempo songs of “Crime Scene Earth.”

 

Aside from the improved songwriting, there are two other factors that contribute to the improvements in the band’s overall sound. Firstly, singer Josh Kramer mostly sticks to singing in a lower register, rarely ever using a high-pitched screech. This was a good decision, as his deep voice sounds pretty great, but his Halford-style screams were especially irritating when used as background vocals. Secondly, the addition of new drummer Bill Brost has greatly improved SAINT’s rhythm section, as Brost injects a favourable amount of speed and power into SAINT’s sound. With these two improvements, the band’s sound shifts ever closer toward a balanced hybrid of JUDAS PRIEST and MANOWAR, which is not a terrible thing at all.

 

There are, of course, still a few missteps. “Hell Train,” while gifted with an incredible solo and badass lyrics, is musically reminiscent of the too-heavy tracks on “Crime Scene Earth. “Endless Night” is equally skippable, only it doesn’t have the benefit of the badassery of “Hell Train.” When the band dips back into “Crime Scene Earth” territory, the album falters.

Longtime fans of the band will obviously find much to love in “Hell Blade,” and potential listeners scared away by “Crime Scene Earth” may want to give this one a shot. Those looking for a piece of really heavy classic Metal might want to give “Hell Blade” a spin as well.

(Online May 22, 2010)

Mitchel Betsch



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