Friday 12 June 2015

Armored Saint - 'Win Hands Down' (Album Review)

Album Type: Full-Length
Date Released: 02/06/2015
Label: Metal Blade Records

‘Win Hands Down’ CD//DD//LP 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

Armored Saint is:

John Bush | vocals
Joey Vera | Bass
Phil Sandoval | Guitars
Jeff Duncan | Guitars
Gonza Sandoval | Drums


Armored Saint... one of those bands who you will have heard of, but never actually heard. Whether this is because John Bush almost joined Metallica/joined Anthrax or because Phil Sandoval got his leg broken by Dave Mustaine while defending Lars Ulrich (!) and you have read the stories or just because you really meant to check them out but never did, I do not know. In my case it was the latter- until now.

I expected a kind of proto-thrash sound with trad stylings. That is not the case. Actually, I would say that the metal contained herein is somewhat similar to Anthrax's 90's and early 2000's period; think ‘We Have Come For You All’ crossed with’ Sound of White Noise’, perhaps. Pleasingly, that is my favourite era of Anthrax (John Bush's voice is superb, Joey Belladonna's... not so much). The record starts strong with the anthemic title track and keeps up the quality from there. Bush's stellar voice shines through on every track. There are grooves, unusual rhythms and some weighty riffs here and there. It is not anything like Exodus or Slayer (obviously) but it is high quality American metal with finely crafted songs (there are actual melodies, choruses and so on).

Put simply, if you listen to this record once then the second time you hear it a lot of it will stay with you; tracks like “Muscle Memory” are very catchy indeed. “That Was Then, Way Back When” loses points for mentioning Facebook, but delivers a strong message over a choppy riff regarding the fickle nature of fame and those chasing it. “With a Head Full Of Steam” is more like, perhaps, how I expected the band to sound- a little like an American version of Accept (I love Accept, so that is a great thing)- up tempo and old school metal riffing to the max.

“Dive” is an unexpected ballad (better than you might think a ballad would be) while “Up Yours” closes the album in strong style. This is American metal/hard rock of superior quality. It is not standard Sludgelord fare, for certain, but is a good album that deserves to be heard. Oh, and John Bush's voice still absolutely soars!

Words by: Richard Maw

‘Win Hands Down’ is available now

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