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Armored Saint - 2015 Win Hands Down

ARTIST: Armored Saint
ALBUM: Win Hands Down
LABEL: Metal Blade
SERIAL: 3984-15384-2
YEAR: 2015


LINEUP: John Bush - vocals * Phil Sandoval - guitar * Jeff Duncan - guitar * Joey Vera - bass * Gonzo Sandoval - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Win Hands Down * 02 Mess * 03 An Exercise In Debauchery * 04 Muscle Memory * 05 That Was Then, Way Back When * 06 With A Full Head Of Steam * 07 In An Instant * 08 Dive * 09 Up Yours


WEBLINKS: www.armoredsaint.com

Despite critical acclaim over the last three decades, Armored Saint's output has been sporadic in that time, not surprising considering John Bush's stint in Anthrax disrupting the bands progress in the 90's and beyond. It's hard to blame Bush however, the breakthrough never coming for Saint, despite some admittedly classic efforts in their heyday. Their comeback album 'La Raza' was a worthy statement back in 2010 and showed the band to be leagues ahead of their one time contemporaries, most of whom have been stagnant since 2010 itself. With 'Win Hands Down' the band have delivered once more, with a concise and heavy affair which at only nine tracks is a refreshing change from the endless stream of 16 track albums which continue to plague every form of music these days. Less is more indeed and the band are still at their peak, sounding modern and relevant, this far from a throwaway one-listen album so common now.

The Songs
Much of what George wrote in 2010 regarding 'La Raza' applies perfectly to this album also. It's far from the Armored Saint of 1987, but it's still firmly heavy metal, simply updated without losing the attitude and heaviness. The tracks are fairly lengthy, the album clocking in over fifty minutes, with a host of varied tracks, ranging from full on metal to atmospheric ballads. There's also not a poor track to be found, every note and melody line fully realized from the veterans. The title track roars from the gates and the riffs still have the intensity of old, with a highly melodic chorus which Bush pushes to the forefront with his always excellent vocals. This guy has always been one of the best in the business and the years aren't affecting his voice judging by this. There's no respite from the rampaging 'Mess' where the band sounds like Bush era Anthrax in places, so identifiable are Bush's vocals. What sets this apart is the merging of traditional metal and melodic hooks in a way only masters like Saint are capable of. The guitar work of Duncan and Sandoval sets 'An Exercise In Debauchery' apart from the scant contenders still on the scene and it's amazing how fresh the band sounds after so long in the ever fickle metal industry. 'Muscle Memory' runs at seven minutes and the payoff is another memorable chorus, the buildup impressive, displaying a sense of purpose and crafty songwriting.

The riffs of 'That Was Then, Way Back When' have savage overtones and immediately this brings Anthrax's 'Stomp 442' album to mind, very modern production without altering the bands intent. As far as Bush is concerned it could still be 1995. Maintaining this approach is 'With A Full Head of Steam' which is nothing but Saint at their metallic best, probably the closest they come to revisiting the 80's. 'In An Instant' runs nearly eight minutes and veers from ballad to mid-paced hard rock, an impressive shift in sound with a timeless feel. 'Dive' is a fully realized ballad however and is very reminiscent of Anthrax's 'Black Lodge' and 'Bare.' The acoustic work and haunting melodies display yet another shade to the album and this would have been a hit in 1991. Naturally 'Up Yours' is the total opposite, which is to be expected with such a title. The tone is of utter defiance and the production seems cleaner here, with more of an 80's twist to the overall sound. It's metal as it was meant to be played and by a group who mastered the art form decades ago and continue to refine it.

In Summary
Name any metal band who've been on the scene as long as Armored Saint and chances are they pale compared to this. It amuses me when people cite Anthrax's 2011 'Worship Music' as a superior album, because it's pathetic musically next to this. Blunt perhaps, but the undisputed truth. I understand it's 2015 and the scene barely exists, hanging on to the crumbs of faded legends from the 70's and 80's, but this album proves the utter ignominy of faded dullards like Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Slayer and even Metallica. How is it this album sounds better than anything any of these bands have done in near decades? The acclaim this is receiving is well earned and evidence that if things had swayed slightly their way some 30 years ago, Armored Saint would have been as big as any of the heavyweights they outshine at will.

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#1 | gdazegod on June 28 2015 22:00:21
Armored Saint - 2015 Win Hands Down
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