GUARDIAN – First Watch [RetroActive Legends Remastered +2] (2018)
GUARDIAN is been a household name in Christian hard rock and metal circles contemporaries with Stryper and Whitecross, debuting in 1989 with this properly titled “First Watch“. This Retroactive Records reissue has been freshly remastered by Rob Colwell of Bombworks Sound and features 2 rare and hard to find bonus tracks – the fist recorded by the band while still unsigned – produced by John and Dino Elefante (Kansas / Mastedon).
“First Watch” is the first official album of Guardian, released in 1989 by Enigma Records and produced by Stryper’s guitarist, Oz Fox, who also contribute backing vocals.
This is the only album of the band to feature former members Paul Cawley (vocals) – later replaced by Jamie Rowe – and Rikk Hart (drums). Both left the band after the tour supporting this album.
Guardian‘s debut album “First Watch” was one of those Christian-based releases that really stood out back in the day. Following on the coat tails of bands like Stryper, this release found a warm reception amongst many fans of the style that seemed to blend both a Glam and Hair Metal influence with edgy Hard Rock / US metal.
To this day, it is still considered one of the more important releases in the Christian Rock and US Metal movements, and there are plenty out there that still remember some of the catchier and heavier tracks on here, and for good reason.
The album starts off great with the well done hard rockers “I’ll Never Leave You” and “Mystery Man” to appeal the mainstream hard rock audience. Both are among the best tracks off the entire release with opener being catchy enough that you’ll wind up singing the simple chorus to yourself over and over.
“Livin’ For The Promise” is a straightforward and mid-paced hard rocker with crunchy guitars, followed by “Miracles”, a classic ’80s lighter-in-the-air power ballad filled with abundant harmonies.
“Saint’s Battalion” is heavy but melodic, a stylishly mid-paced rocker with very good guitar work and nice keyboards.
Three-minute arena metal anthem “Kingdom Of Rock” rocks with hyper-accelerated guitar riffs and intense low-end bass underpinnings. Great song where the guitar tones reflect some bluesy qualities.
Speaking of the bluesy hard riffs, “The Good Life” revels in it alongside the group’s spotless vocal melodies, coalesce to make an infectious statement. All the while Cawley shines with his signature classic tenor charismatic vocal abilities.
“One Of A Kind” in contrast kicks up quite the storm with its Van Halen style party flair and loads of catchy rhythms. Here some of the album’s biggest hooks rise to the surface and stand alongside pristine furbishing in the form of acoustic layers and atmospheric keyboards.
“World Without Love” proves a guitar harmony driven monster. Tony Palacios puts on a literal clinic throughout the song, as his churning riffs helps fortify the plodding verses.
“Rock In Victory” is another favorite, a melodic metal anthem front to back, with headlong guitars and keyed up rhythm section setting the irrefutable tone and copious vocal melodies lending a brightening (if not outright commercial) effect. Play this one loud as possible for maximum impact.
“Hyperdrive” pay tribute to the group’s space metal early indie days, as found in not only its science fiction themed title but also spacey keyboard arrangements. I particularly enjoy the closing lead guitar duel between Palacios and Stryper’s Oz Fox, of which the latter gets the best of the deal.
“Marching On” moves at the more forward tempo, with its catchy hooks to spare and ample portions of guitar driven muscle turning it into another Guardian favorite. Of note is how Cawley lends an element of lower register grit to his delivery.
The bonus tracks were recorded before the “First Watch” sessions, produced by John and Dino Elefante. “Spiritual Warfare” also touches upon space metal leanings, as an out of this world keyboard solo at the start and ‘alien’ sound effects complement galloping rhythms and shouted backing vocals to create a near classic.
“Marching On [’87 version]” does not differ significantly from its “First Watch” counterpart other than Cawley sings in a smoother classic tenor style instead. Besides, the song is so good it deserves inclusion twice.
“First Watch” put Guardian on the mainstream US hard rock map, plenty of well composed rocking tunes. Another plus going for this one is that the songs aren’t preachy, which is something very hard to find when it comes to any recordings that are based solely on Christianity, so you can take the songs as they are, or with your own perception of how the tracks are being presented lyrically.
This RetroActive Legends Remastered reissue sounds great, featuring the original cover art and two worthy, collectible bonus tracks.
You’ve seen it first here, at 0dayrox
01 – I’ll Never Leave You
02 – Mystery Man
03 – Livin’ For The Promise
04 – Miracle
05 – Saints Batallion
06 – Kingdom of Rock
07 – The Good Life
08 – One of A Kind
09 – World Without Love
10 – Rock In Victory
11 – Hyperdrive
12 – Marching On
13 – Spiritual Warfare
14 – Marching On [’87 version]
Paul Cawley – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Tony Palacios – Guitars, Backing Vocals
David Bach – Bass, Backing Vocals
Rikk Hart – Drums
Brent Jeffers – keyboards
Leslie Fox – backing vocals in “The Good Life”
Oz Fox (Stryper) – backing vocals and guitar solo in “Hyperdrive”
Robert Sweet (Stryper) – backing vocals in “Hyperdrive”
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