Wow, just wow…ARMORED SAINT have returned five years after the super-awesome Win Hands Down with a brand-spankin’ new record Punching the Sky (out now, Metal Blade Records), and boy howdy does it get the job done! I saw someone on another site call this their most killer and consistent offering since 1991’s Symbol of Salvation. Well I am here to officially co-sign on that statement. Jeezus fuck, this album rules pretty much from beginning to end, and it’s one that I quite frankly can’t hit the REPEAT button on fast enough when it ends. Joey Vera, legendary bassist for this legendary band produced this thing, and I can’t remember the last time I heard something that is so balanced from a musical perspective.
Let’s look at “Fly In the Ointment” to start, okay? Guitarists Phil Sandoval and Jeff Duncan come with riffs that convey such ferocity and a sense of urgency that you just know this track is gonna fuck you up seven ways to Sunday. But at the same time it’s got a cool boogie going on, with the one and only vocalist extraordinaire John Bush taking this thing to another level on the hook. “My Jurisdiction” is another stellar track, anchored very much by Vera and drummer Gonzo Sandoval’s locked in the pocket groove that they’ve had for years. They make it look easy, when that couldn’t be further from the truth, getting a rhythm section to slay the way they do.
Kicking off the whole thing is “Standing On the Shoulder of Giants” which starts out with Uilleann Pipes courtesy of Patrick D’Arcy and keyboards from Dizzy Reed, then simply goes in for the kill. If you are looking for an instruction manual on how to open a record here ya go. This is a full on asskicker and now one of my favorite ARMORED SAINT tunes I’ve ever heard. “End of the Attention Span” was a great choice for a single, as it demonstrates once again just how much fire, piss, and vinegar these guys still have in them. And again, Duncan and Sandoval just wreck shop from start to finish.
Elsewhere you’ll hear some serpentine riffage from “Lone Wolf” and chunky style (my favorite) guitar licks with “Bubble.” I fucking love this song, I really do. When it comes on I feel like I can run through a brick wall like it’s nothing. The problem is that in reality my 47-year old ass would probably collapse the minute I tapped the fucking thing. Still, such a killer tune! “Missile to Gun” is great because sonically it reminds me of Maverick switching to guns to take out a MIG-28 in the movie Top Gun. It also happens to be a fast and hard song that I know fans will love. “Do Wrong to None” is interesting because at first you don’t know where it’s going, then it drags you down an alley and beats the everloving shit out of you.
Bush sings hauntingly at the beginning of “Unfair,” and it’s actually beautiful. Then the band does what they do best, come in and kick all kinds of ass, giving this number teeth I didn’t know it had. Closer “Never You Fret” basically says, “Sit down. I’m gonna go break some shit. But don’t worry, you’ll be fine!” And that’s 100% how I feel about this album. ARMORED SAINT went into the studio with a mission. Well guess what? That mission was accomplished a thousand times over, and Punching the Sky is definitely one of THE best albums of 2020. If you haven’t done so already, go get your copy for fuck’s sake!!
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM