So, it’s confession time. Growing up I was never a big ARMORED SAINT guy. I thought they were alright and I respected what they did, but nothing really moved me to pursue it further than Symbol of Salvation and Saints Will Conquer. Now that I’m just a wee bit older and new album Win Hands Down (out now, Metal Blade Records), their first since 2010’s La Raza, fell into my lap, I figure it’s time for another go-round, don’t you? I was also able to sit down with bassist Joey Vera a while back, so look for that interview soon. The album is gritty, melodic, and definitely sports an attitude throughout. John Bush sings his ass off on every track and it’s hard not to get caught up in most, if not all of these songs.
As soon as opener “Win Hands Down” kicks the record off there’s just this feeling in the air, that something’s gonna go down. The groove is electric and continues to pour it on throughout. Drummer Gonzo Sandoval really gets a workout on “Mess” and “An Exercise In Debauchery”, two songs that despite their outstanding riffage and arrangements are 100% driven by him, which is really fucking cool if you ask me. The latter also has arguably the best guitarwork on the disc courtesy of Phil Sandoval and Jeff Duncan ripping it up as well as Joey coaxing some crazy sounds from his bass. Most definitely an album standout!
Speaking of standouts, on “Muscle Memory” the band puts on a clinic in Good Songwriting 101. From the instrumentation to Bush’s vocal delivery this one delivers on all fronts and simply MUST be played live on tour. Without a doubt my favorite track on the record. Pearl Aday lends her powerhouse vocals to “With a Full Head of Steam” a driving song if ever I heard one, and a tune that I go to a lot at my day gig. Another one that has a fierce rhythm to it is “That Was When, Way Back When.” These guys seem to have an endless supply of riffs in the bag and when you add Bush’s voice to them the results speak for themselves.
“In An Instant” is basically seven minutes in heaven, a track that goes from acoustic to ball-ripping and back again, and closer “Up Yours”…well, the name pretty much says it all, no? A nice big, fat middle finger to all the naysayers and non-believers out there, this caps off the album perfectly. All in all ARMORED SAINT have struck gold with Win Hands Down and one can only hope it’s not another five years before their next album. Well done boys! Now come to Philly so I can hear this shit live, huh?
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Win Hands Down”, “Muscle Memory”, An Exercise In Debauchery”, “With a Full Head of Steam”