(10/10) Armored Saint is since decades one of the most underrated bands in metal. The five-piece from California was founded in 1980 by singer John Bush and bass player Joey Vera. After having had the chance to place a song on one of the legendary Metal Massacre samplers the band released their debut "March of the saint" in 1984.
From this moment on Armored Saint never released any bad longplayer. Each of their six records was a power metal highlight that gave the guys also support slots for bands like Metallica and the Scorpions.
Even two longer breaks couldn't stop the guys and 2015 will be the year of the band's longplayer number seven.
Nine brand new tracks have been recorded and ended up on "Win hands down". John Bush, Phil Sandoval, Jeff Duncan. Joey Vera and Gonzo Sandoval did again an excellent job. Each of the nine metal tracks on the album is a pure metal firework.
Five years after publishing "La raza" the band is hungry again for heavy riffs and grooving metal tracks.
The title tracks is also the opener for the new record. It's a typical Armored Saint track with a galloping rhythm and melody lines that only the Saint can write. This is metal on major league level.
"Mess" follows with screaming guitars and and it's another moment with a 'wow' factor. The highlight with "Mess" is the interplay of an harmonic chorus and a more gloomy verse.
Next track, next pleasure. In this case even with a double meaning. The tune itself is another pearl on "Win hands down". That's one thing. The second thing is the fact that the song is about the 'porn-industry'.
"Muscle memory" is a personal reflection about one's legacy. The track is starting more silent and reflecting. It's a thoughful one that is touching with a verse being quiet while the chorus brings back the power that caracterises the band from California.
A heavy riff starts "That was then, way back when". The song has a darker vibe than the others and a strong groove. It contains all the trademarks of the band and I was reminded to the "Delirious nomad" days.
Bass and guitar introduces "With a full head of steam"; a song that belongs to the hardest ones on "Win hands down". John Bush shows why he is one of the best singers in heavy metal - he shows this actually on each of the nine songs on the album. But this track also includes a premiere. Bush has a vocal partner. It's Pearl Aday, the wife of Anthrax guitar maniac Scott Ian, Bush shares the vocals with. The result is a full success. Next to that the guitars are screaming on "With a head full of steam" which makes the tune to one of the best ones on an album full of hits.
From hard to quiet again. "In an instant" is looking back to the Boston terror attack which showed that life can change in a second. The verse is vocals and accoustic guitar only before the number develops to a powerful metal track in the chorus. This pattern continues throughout the entire tune. Excellent when it comes to songwriting and performance.
Something totally different is the piano-based "Dive". It was that last song that has been recorded and shows another side of the Saint. The intension was to write a number that is lovely and dark in one. And listening to the track makes clear - experiment succeeded. It is a beautiful songs that reflects the musical diversity of Armored Saint by still sticking to their trademarks and roots.
"Up yours" is the closer on "Win hands down". It's another musical tornado that is an open invitation for headbanging.
Next to the very well done songs also the energetic production needs to be mentioned. The sound supports each of the nine tracks in a perfect way and makes "Win hands down" to a 50 minutes long metal experience that should not be missed by any metalhead.
Maybe it is the fact of being underrated that makes Armored Saint releasing excellent records with only killers. And maybe it is the breaks in the bands history that made them stronger too. It feels like Armored Saint is making music because the enjoy it. They are doing this with a full commitment and without compromises. This band is still breathing the spirit of metal. It is awesome to have those authentic bands like Armored Saint in a century where appearance is partly more important than passion, based on a solid foundation.
"Win hands down" is another milestone in Armored Saints musical history and an album that should be part of each metal collection. Ten thumbs up.
- Win hands down
- An exercise in debauchery
- Muscle memory
- That was then, way back when
- With a head full of steam
- In an instant
- Up yours
Label: Metal Blade
Genre: Power Metal