Armored Saint are one of those bands that have never quite reached the heights of the music pyramid which they deserved. Musically they are easily better than so many, but for some reason that hasn't translated to albums sales and big tours which is an absolute shame. However, that does mean for the dedicated fans like those gathered with me, we get to see them in the most intimate of venues. Tonight we are in the third room of the Institute in Birmingham for a date on their all too brief UK tour.
Opening the evenings events are, new to the scene, The Mighty Wraith and oh boy what a start. These Brummie lads get just half an hour to shine and that they do. Heavily inspired by Iron Maiden this influence oozes through in their own tunes, front man Matt could be easily fill in for Bruce at any show. Charismatically leading the band from the front through the short 30 minute slot highlighting their own brand of music whilst throwing in a cheeky Maiden cover for good measure.
Next up are the more established Eradikator, stalwarts of the local scene they have been touring in support of their album Edge of Humanity for nearly two years and due in the studio in November to record a follow up. These boys are out and out thrash metal, screaming guitars and a solid vocal line from frontman/bassist Pat. Standout of the set is Andy MacNevin's guitar work, exquisite, especially the solo in their last number.
Onto the main event; the lights dim, the intro rolls and bassist Joey Vera walks onto stage, a man who had an opportunity to try out for Metallica not so long ago. The rest of the band join him onstage followed lastly by John Bush, former front man of Anthrax and who co-incidentally also had the opportunity to join Metalica back in the 80's. But alas those choices are now in the past and what we have here is Armored Saint 2017, lean, mean and ready to rumble.
They open with the fast paced Win Hands Down, the title track from their 2015 opus, which is well received by the throngs of fans now packed into this tiny room. March of the Saint is a winner for everyone; a classic song from their back catalogue. The band are in their element, obviously enjoying being on stage together and loving the reception they are getting from the fans. Time seems to speed away with us as the Saint fly through their set. In an Instant, Last Train Home and Chemical Euphoria are all crowd pleasers before Gonzo Sandoval enthrals us all. Technique up there with the best of them through a stunning drum solo, pounding thunderous beats whose rumble you can feel vibrating you inside out.
Back to it and Joey Vera is bouncing around the small stage like a child on a sugar rush, Jeff Duncan and Phillip Sandoval trade blows in a stunning battle of fret board wizardry and Bush scales the heights of the speaker stack; although in this room "heights" maybe pushing the description a little. The hour and a half of stage time is rounded out by Can U Delivery and Mad House, both from their 1984 debut album.
Whilst the band may not have scaled the popularity mountain, they have never lost their love for the music and tonight shows they still love what they do as much today as they did 35 years ago.