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Biography

Officially formed in the Summer of 1982, ARMORED SAINT immediately attracted attention for the quality of a five track demo tape and the headbanging nature of the quintet's live show. Although an out and out Power Metal band, the group found itself caught up in the Bay Area Thrash wave. Famously, singer John Bush had been under consideration for the lead vocal position with METALLICA but had turned the offer down. The band was initially founded in 1981, yet only fully completed in mid 1982. The individuals concerned had all played in other bands, but none had recorded with anybody previously. Bassist JOEY VERA had played with MÖTLEY CRÜE's Tommy Lee and then OZZY OSBOURNE guitarist JAKE E. LEE during his formative years.

Joey Vera, then a guitarist, and vocalist John Bush first got together in their El Sereno school band RHAPSODY. A covers act including songs by the likes of FOREIGNER and DEEP PURPLE in their act, RHAPSODY also included guitarist David Avila, bassist Channing Estrada, keyboard player Mark Patton and drummer Martin Zuniga.

Vera and Bush stuck together to create their next school band ROYAL DECREE in an alliance with the Sandoval siblings drummer Gonzo and guitarist Phil. Vera was now on bass after Bush initially made an attempt but got bored with the instrument. Upon ROYAL DECREE's demise Bush and Vera hooked up with SAPPHIRE, but shortly after Bush was ousted by guitarist Brad Parker. The band underwent numerous line-up changes but toward the end of the band's career Vera found himself playing alongside Tommy Lee.

Vera joined ex-DOKKEN guitarist Greg Leon in his GREG LEON INVASION following Lee's departure to MÖTLEY CRÜE. During this time Gonzo, Sandoval and Vera were jamming in a garage, latter day MX MACHINE and MOTOFURY man Diego Negrete having a brief stint on bass. This unnamed unit, featuring Dave Prichard on second guitar, pulled John Bush in on vocals although were quite happy to inform the front man the only reason he got to join was because he owned an impressive PA system. This line-up began to formulate early ARMORED SAINT material as well as covering IRON MAIDEN tunes. One song that didn't make it to any official release was subtly titled 'You Suck My Anal Dry'.

Vera continued his bass duties with the GREG LEON INVASION whilst the mysterious Mike took his role in the garage band. In May 1982 Vera officially joined the newly titled ARMORED SAINT. As legend has it, ARMORED SAINT's demo tape was paid for from compensation arising from injuries sustained by Joey Vera in an automobile accident whilst a passenger in a car driven by Tommy Lee.

With the band building a strong local following, an attempt was made by the then fledgling METALLICA to poach singer John Bush during 1982. After witnessing a show at The Woodstock in Anaheim, METALLICA requested Bush's services, an offer he declined. ARMORED SAINT's first commercial recorded appearance came with a contribution to Metal Blade's 'Metal Massacre II' album, the group offering the Bill Metoyer produced 'Lesson Well Learned'. Naturally, Metal Blade then stepped in with a deal for an EP, resulting in the 3 track 12" single issued in August following year. The record, which rapidly sold over 15,000 copies, included 'Lesson Well Learned' with 'False Alarm' and 'On The Way'.

Chrysalis Records stepped in to snap the group up, placing them in Ocean Way Studios with producer Michael James Jackson, fresh from his work on KISS' 'Creatures Of The Night' album, to deliver the 'March Of The Saint' record. Most fans agree that whilst the material couldn't be faulted, both the production left a good deal to be desired, not capturing the intensity of the group at all, and the artwork, reminiscent of a box of toy soldiers, seemed a mite twee for such a powerful act. 'March Of The Saint' was released in 1984, scaling Billboard to attain a number 138 high. The band toured North America opening up for W.A.S.P. and METALLICA soon afterwards, both METALLICA and ARMORED SAINT now sharing management at Q Prime. Other live dates found the Saint supporting both QUIET RIOT and WHITESNAKE.

The group's second album, 'Delirious Nomad' surfaced a year later. Produced by Max Norman, the record found ARMORED SAINT a quartet following the exit of guitarist Phil Sandoval during recording. 'Delirious Nomad' certainly gave the band the state of the art production values the band needed and the group responded by laying down an edifying slab of technical Metal. The record, peaking at number 108 on the US charts, drew international praise for its approach to the genre but sales unfortunately did not match expectations. Fans seemed confused by the complexities of the record, the ditching of the beloved armour and another album sleeve of little merit.

A third album, 1987's 'Raising Fear', was recorded over a six month period at no less than four studio locations across California as a co-produced effort between the band and Chris Minto with Chrysalis Records. Fans would be unaware that the group's first demo proposals had been rejected by their label. With the experimentation of 'Delirious Nomad' having been judged less than a success, the band fell back on older themes, even going so far as to include their knight motif once again on the album cover. To appease the Chrysalis yearning for a radio hit ARMORED SAINT tackled a less than inspiring rendition of LYNYRD SKYNYRD's 'Saturday Night Special'. The band teamed up with GRIM REAPER and HELLOWEEN for the 'Hell On Wheels' North American tour to promote the album.

The record only hit number 144 on the US album charts, this lowly result signalling the close of relations with Chrysalis. Swiftly reverting to the Metal Blade stable, the 1988 live album, 'Saints Will Conquer' recorded at Cleveland's Agora Ballroom in October 1987, provided the band with a useful stop-gap product and included a brand new studio recording featuring Phil Sandoval 'No Reason To Live'. Once again though, the group's choice of artwork was found wanting, the 'Saints Will Conquer' sleeve being far too close in execution to a famous Frank Frazetta MOLLY HATCHET classic. For touring with KING DIAMOND in America during 1988 ARMORED SAINT drafted former ODIN guitarist Jeff Duncan as the band also parted company with Q-Prime Management.

As ARMORED SAINT floundered Duncan quit, having his position taken by Alan Barlam. Duncan put together BIRD OF PREY with his brother and ex-ODIN colleague Shawn on drums, vocalist Kyle Michaels, later of MASI and GEEZER BUTLER BAND, and Paul Puljiz, subsequently member of KILLING KULTURE. Vera meantime joined LIZZY BORDEN for their 1989 album 'Master Of Disguise'.

ARMORED SAINT guitarist Dave Prichard died from Leukemia on 28th February 1990. For many years the guitarist had complained of constant headaches but once diagnosed he only survived a few months. Shattered, the group disbanded, only coming together once again to celebrated their former comrade's life with the video anthology 'A Trip Thru' Red Times'.

The March 1991 Dave Jerden produced 'Symbol Of Salvation' comeback album, the bulk of which had been composed by their fallen colleague, was also graced with Prichard's guitar parts on the track 'Tainted Past'. The album sold strongly in Europe and 'Symbol Of Salvation' opened up new areas of appreciation for the group, the adversity which had engendered its construction resulting in the band's most powerful, and yet diverse, set of songs thus far. With timing having been a crucial factor in the struggles faced previously, now ARMORED SAINT found themselves heralded as power metal pioneers. Hitting the road once again, Armored Saint embarked on dates across the USA with MEGADETH and SUICIDAL TENDENCIES. Once these concerts were fulfilled, John Bush became the focus of yet another major player.

Having resisted overtures from the likes of METALLICA in the past, John Bush decided to take up an offer from ANTHRAX to become the New York outfit's new vocalist in the wake of Joey Belladonna's departure in 1992. With Bush gone, ARMORED SAINT had ceased to exist. Initially, this union re-elevated ANTHRAX high into the charts but the group's fortunes then began to slide with each successive release. Following the band's split Joey Vera released a solo album, 'A Thousand Faces', through Metal Blade. He then joined FATES WARNING and was involved in the recording of new band colleague Mark Zonder's side project CHROMA KEY in 1998.

ARMOURED SAINT with the Sandoval brothers, Vera, Bush and Duncan had the opportunity to reform during 1999 as Bush's career with ANTHRAX appeared on the wane. The comeback album 'Revelation', emerging in March 2000, garnered heady praise from the European Metal press and proved to be a return to former glories. Duncan also issued his solo project band DC4's first outing the same year.

In 2001 a highly collectable compilation 'Nod To The Old School' was issued featuring a glut of early demo tracks, new songs 'Unstable' and 'Swagger', covers of JUDAS PRIEST's 'Never Satisfied' and ROBIN TROWER's 'Day Of The Eagle' and live cuts. Also included were the tracks from the bands very first EP. Road dates with DIO and LYNCH MOB took the band across the breadth of the USA throughout February and into March 2001.

In March of 2002 Joey Vera, still maintaining his posts in both ARMORED SAINT and FATES WARNING, would team up with SAVATAGE guitarist Jack Frost's side endeavour SEVEN WITCHES for European touring. The bassist would also handle production chores for ENGINE's 'Superholic' album.

The other ARMORED SAINT personnel maintained their sense of industry too, Jeff Duncan readying a Joey Vera produced DC4 album release for Europe and Gonzo busying himself with his MONSTER G venture in alliance with Phil Sandoval. In late 2002 ARMORED SAINT drummer Gonzo and guitarist Phil Sandoval united with Jack Emrick and Ray Burke to reform their 1996 project LIFE AFTER DEATH. Both Joey Vera and Gonzo put in guest sessions on the 2003 solo album 'Raise Your Fist To Metal' from erstwhile METALIUM and SAVATAGE guitarist JACK FROST.

In February of 2004 bassist Joey Vera would temporarily enroll into the ranks of ANTHRAX as stand in for the departed Frank Bello. That Summer Phil Sandoval and Gonzo activated Blues outfit YO DIDDLEY, putting in club shows in union with the LIFE AFTER DEATH pairing of Ray Burke and singer Jack Emrick. Another project in 2004 would be FOREVER SAY DIE!, a one off band collaboration assembled to record a version of 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' for the Cleopatra Records BLACK SABBATH tribute album 'Evil Lives: A True Metal Tribute To Black Sabbath'. The band was fronted by Happenin' Harry of the HAPTONES with guitars courtesy of Jeff Duncan whilst the SPIDERS AND SNAKES rhythm section of bassist Joe Petro and drummer Tim Yasui completed the roster. Duncan would also be involved with THORNBIRDS alongside ex-FIGHT guitarist Russ Parrish, actor Dean Cameron on bass and STEEL PANTHER drummer Darren Leader.

With John Bush ousted from ANTHRAX, ARMORED SAINT got back into action in 2005, announcing a support gig to the SCORPIONS at the Dodge Theater in Phoenix, Arizona on July 30th before a return to European stages. In side activity, JOEY VERA chose A CHINESE FIREDRILL as the project name for his 2006 solo album 'Circles'. Vera handled vocals and all instrumentation, with the exception of drums delegated to Greg Studgio. John Bush scored natational notoriety for the holiday season in a somewhat less than Rock n' Roll tradition, narrating Burger King TV commercials.

With Joey Belladonna leaving ANTHRAX again in January 2007, and guitarist Scott Ian's public comments pointing towards a resurrection of the Bush-era ANTHRAX, the future of ARMORED SAINT again looked in doubt. However, that same month ARMORED SAINT was announced as booked for an appearance at the 'Rock Hard' festival in Germany for May.

ARMORED SAINT commenced songwriting during mid 2008. To celebrate the band's  first ever tour of Australia in 2009 Riot! Entertainment, in conjunction with Metal Blade Records, produced an exclusive tour compilation, simply branded '2009 Australian Tour Compilation', to combat the lack of ARMORED SAINT product on the market.

John Bush rejoined ANTHRAX in 2009, re-debuting with the New Yorkers at the inaugural UK 'Sonisphere' festival at Knebworth Park on 1st August 2009 headlined by METALLICA

Garry Sharpe-Young

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