Review – Guardian: First Watch (20th Anniversary Edition)

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Review – Guardian: First Watch (20th Anniversary Edition)
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Guardian: First Watch 20th Anniversary Edition
Hard Rock, Heavy Metal
Enigma Records, Retroactive Records (2008)
1989 / 2009
Release length: 40:56 / 56:54
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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 Hard Rock and Heavy Metal ballads. To this day, it is still considered one of the more important releases in the Christian Rock and Metal movements, and there are plenty out there that still remember some of the catchier and heavier tracks on here, and for good reason.

First Watch was a lighter debut release that played well into the mainstream sound of the late eighties and early nineties that had plenty of tracks on here that, while focusing on Jesus, God, and plenty of other Christian themes, could be read differently by anyone as just traditional ballads of love from a man to a woman. Sure, some of the tracks do make this aspect of their religious beliefs clear, such as “Saints Battalion”, which blatently make it painfully obvious, but then you have tracks like the infectiously catchy “Kingdom of Rock” which could be taken more then one way lyrically.

As stated, much of the album would be considered mainstream by any means today, and even for the time of the album’s original release. The album starts off great with the well done ballad-like tracks “I’ll Never Leave You” and “Mystery Man”, both the best tracks off the entire release with “I’ll Never Leave You” being catchy enough that you’ll wind up singing the simple chorus to yourself over and over. Much of the album is essentially like these two tracks, with the exception of the forgottable “Saints Battalion” and the fun, catchy and upbeat “Kingdom of Rock”. Aside “Saints Battalion” being a rather forgetable track, there’s a couple others on here that just aren’t that great and come off more as filler tracks, such as “Miracle” which sounds a bit repetative of “I’ll Never Let You Go”, as well as “One of a Kind” which is just an overly simple song that really doesn’t do much to hold your attention, especially since the band does have talent musically to do more then just slower paced tracks and ballads, which is pointed out by the very impressive guitar solo on the track “World Without Love”.


Yes, it has been twenty years since the album dropped. Well, more then twenty given the time this review was composed and made available on the site. But, regardless, the anniversary edition is actually a nice piece for fans of the band, or just the album. First of all, the release has been remastered and definitely sounds nicer then the original recordings. It also comes in a digipack with updated artwork (essentially the cover image in the original pressings just minus the black bars for the front and back artwork) and the interior features two paragraphs of liner notes from bassist/vocalist David Bach. Also included on this reissue is the inclusion of two bonus tracks listed as the “1987 California Metal Session” tracks, which are basically just demo tracks. “Spiritual Warfare” is not included on the original track list for First Watch and is a decent track, focusing a lot on metal instead of ballads, but tries to pack too much in lyrically and doesn’t sound right. “Marching On”, however, actually sounds a little heavier then the final version that appears on the initial First Watch pressings, and is more enjoyable as well.


All in all, First Watch is not that different then many of the releases available at that time, with the exception being that plenty of the material on here is actually well composed and sounds great. 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. If you haven’t had a chance to check out Guardian before, it’s worth a listen, at least for the first two tracks. The rest of the release is worth a sample, as there’s plenty of other tracks that will catch your attention, and a few that will fail to get a passing glance.


01. I’ll Never Leave You – 4:32
02. Mystery Man – 4:07
03. Livin’ for the Promise – 4:08
04. Miracle – 4:55
05. Saints Battalion – 3:47
06. Kingdom of Rock – 3:25
07. Good Life – 4:41
08. One of a Kind – 3:37
09. World Without Love – 3:55
10. Rock in Victory – 3:49

20th Anniversay Edition:
11. Hyperdrive – 4:17
12. Marching On – 3:55
13. Spiritual Warfare (1987 California Metal Session) (Bonus Track) – 4:08
14. Marching On (1987 California Metal Session) (Bonus Track) – 3:39

Initial Pressing Score: 6/10
Physical review copy of this release provided by Retroactive Records.