Shows how much I know about the stalwarts of traditional, Christian-based heavy metal… It seems SAINT came roaring onto the white lit scene around '84 and have to date released eight albums, including the subject of this very review, "Hell Blade". Somebody asks me to name the top three Christian trad-metal bands of the '80s and I can think of only STRYPER; lame, I know. Be that as it may, "Hell Blade" is both wholly unoriginal and entirely too much fun precisely because it was written, recorded, and divinely inspired by the gospel of JUDAS PRIEST. Not that JUDAS PRIEST; the heavy metal band.Playing the role of Rob Halford is one Josh Kramer who absolutely nails Rob's mid-range vocal style, one heard predominantly during the "British Steel" era of the hallowed act (as is the majority of the music heard here). Guitarist Jerry Johnson then skillfully plays a role developed based on not one, but two characters; Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing." His solos are somewhere above workmanlike and just below the quality of the aforementioned heroes, and all are thoroughly fitting and enjoyable. Bassist Ian Hill is played by Richard Lynch and drummer Dave Holland by Bill Brost (sorry dude), the latter two "actors" capably holding down that always rock-solid foundation of classic PRIEST (both provide backing vocals as well). As for the songs of this, uh, "musical," the template from which they were lifted is obvious and that's much of the reason for the aforementioned satisfaction one gets from sessions spent with this very spirited affair. As noted, the meat and potatoes style of "British Steel" is heard most often, sometimes in combination with "Defenders of the Faith" ("The Blade") and at others crossed with "Endless Night", one that is most reminiscent' of the '79 studio release for its lockstep, militaristic march. "Crying in the Night" then is the album's unabashed version of "Living After Midnight", the recognition of such both immediate and infinitely pleasing to the ears. In the final analysis, and aside from occasional snippets of other '80s acts (e.g. the SCORPIONS leads on "New World Order" and the spoken MANOWAR-esque section on the title track on which Kramer's limited attempts at Halford's upper range barely make the grade), "Hell Blade" is an example of an album made by a band that makes no bones about its influence. Though it won't make the cut for the award category of "Best Trad-Metal Albums of 2010" (OK, maybe "Christian Trad-Metal"), it guarantees a good time for all involved, particularly those older folks who were raised on the classic stuff.
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