(CD, Metal Blade Records, 2015)
For starters, let’s get things straight; if you are looking for a “Raising Fear” part 2 from ARMORED SAINT then you are fooling yourself and I am not saying this in a negative way. A band is a living organism, so it evolves as time goes by (exactly like your taste in music), so it’s best to adjust your expectations, especially when you read statements like 'classic lineup', 'back to the roots' and other selection of words put together - almost every time - by the PR department of record labels. So, having your mind freed from all the ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’ a longtime running band should be following to satisfy the ‘old-school’ fans, then you’ll totally enjoy every minute of “Win Hands Down”.
Yeah, the good signs are put on plain sight with the album’s title track which lifts the curtain with a fast tempo and fantastic chorus vocal melodies delivered by John Bush with his massive singing range. Sure, the song is Metal (fast drumming, solid rhythm) but has an almost Progressive twist somewhere in the middle which to me proves that the ARMORED SAINT lineup was inspired and hence the music is fresh with an original character. I don’t know if many will like this but I think this album stands somewhere between “La Raza” and the amazing “Revelation” that - by the way - is greatly ignored by the ‘know-it-all’ metalheads. It would be unfair to place only John Bush under the spotlight, simply because the guitar work is of the same high quality level and “An Exercise In Debauchery” is one of the many examples, so please direct your attention to the leads. “Muscle Memory” can be characterized as the album’s underdog because it is the ‘less Metal’ song of the tracklist, starting rather relaxed (awesome bass sound by the way) and then builds the tension on top of John’s smooth-like-velvet singing. You’ll be humming the main melody long before the seven minutes of this one have passed, and to me this is good news. Considering that Joey Vera is also involved in MOTOR SISTER then it shouldn’t be a big surprise the guest appearance of Pearl Aday in the fast “With A Head Full Of Steam” forming powerful duet with Mr. Bush. Again, missing the lead guitar work for the shake of the otherwise stellar singing would be such a shame, so do not forget to pay additional attention to what Jeff Duncan and Phil Sandoval have penned down and I will use the more relaxed “In An Instant” to back me up. Don’t be fooled by the clean guitar arpeggios because the faster parts are fit for headbanging action. “Up Yours” is the perfect album closer with an in-your-face attitude kicking the butt of whomever is saying that ARMORED SAINT have gone soft or too modern... Yeah, the guitar riff after the slow break will be enough to make this clear.
I am happy to see ARMORED SAINT writing music and not trying to copy/past themselves just to satisfy a certain group of people. I absolutely prefer waiting five years or maybe more to get an inspired album rather than getting the same ol’ music produced by the vicious cycle of ‘release album/tour/take-a-break/release album... And it is equally amazing that ARMORED SAINT have added more dates with SAXON on their touring schedule, so heads up everybody.
PS: Check the following set of lyrics which I am sure have multiple uses in these frustrated days we live in...
Forcing me to say
You can shove it right, up yours
You can stick it right, up yours
Where the sun ain't shining, up yours
With your social climbing, up yours
You can sit and spin with it, up yours
Sit down and rotate, up yours
Release the floodgates, up yours
Screw yourself and shove it right up yours
Directly up yours"
01. Win Hands Down
03. An Exercise In Debauchery
04. Muscle Memory
05. That Was Then, Way Back When
06. With A Head Full Of Steam
07. In An Instant
09. Up Yours
Joey Vera - Bass
Jeff Duncan - Guitar
John Bush - Vocals
Phil Sandoval - Guitar
Gonzo Sandoval - Drums