Armored Saint_Win Hands DownWhen you look up the term “underdogs,” there’s a band photo of Armored Saint looking back at you. They’ve struggled since 1983 to eek out a foothold in the metal market and in the process released some great albums like Raising Fear and Symbol of Salvation. And they were easy to root for as the quintessential blue-collar metal band stubbornly staying true to their sound, but they were always held back by bad timing, musical trends and personal misfortunes. When vocalist John Bush left to join Anthrax in 1993, Armored Saint was put on extended hiatus, reuniting intermittently to release the Revelations and La Raza albums, neither of which were up the standards of classic Saint. With Anthrax now behind him, Bush was free to devote time to his first love and as a result, we get Win Hands Down, their first in five years. What it delivers is the sound of a much older, wiser band with lyrics saturated with the introspective musings, nostalgia and melancholy that only comes with age and experience. That’s the theme running throughout the album and though this isn’t brimming with all the angst and rebelliousness of youth, the Saint sound is still there and rings true, albeit with a bit more mileage and a few extra wrinkles.

As a fan from their humble beginnings, the opening title track really got me fired up. It’s classic Saint from soup to nuts with a big anthemic chorus, muscular grooves and a vintage Saint guitar line at :22. Bush sounds great and the song would easily fit on Symbol of Salvation. This is the sound of life long friends back together again doing what they love and it’s righteous. Heck, even the jazzy interlude that appears out of left field works.

After such an auspicious start, things get a bit less accessible. Tracks like “Mess” and “Exercise in Debauchery” have the band’s trademark hard rock crunch but are less immediate and take a few spins to truly sink in. The chorus in the former is a let down, but the chants of “you ain’t no different” during the bridge more than make up for it. Other songs are unusual and a bit outside the band’s wheeelhouse, but brim with snappy and interesting writing. Case in point: “Muscle Memory” – a thoughtful examination of one’s legacy and what one leaves behind to be remembered by. They couldn’t have written this back in the 80s or 90s, but with age and back hair come new perspectives.

Other highlights include the heartfelt but rocking “In an Instant,” written about the Boston Marathon bombing, and the classic hard rock punch of “That Was Then, This is Now. It’s an especially nice touch that the album ends with the Saints at their most feisty and rowdy on the sardonic rager “Up Yours.” It’s like you witness the band work through their issues and makes peace with the past, only to leave as a fully actualized and hungry unit once again. Pretty cool when you think about it.

Armored-Saint_2015

Though not a collection of instant hits, this is quite the insidious grower and all the songs have merit. It’s also surprisingly deep and musical with lots of interesting melodic touches and surprisingly proggy playing. However, some of the songs are too long, even approaching Metallica-like levels of editorial resistance, and considering these guys made their mark with short, direct rockers, this newfound bloat works against them. It feels like they were so happy to be recording together again, they didn’t want the fun to end, which is understandable, but counterproductive.

As always, John Bush sounds like a younger, meaner version of Steven Tyler. His raspy, whisky-throated roar has aged remarkably well and gives the material a masculine gravitas. The guitar tandem of Phil Sandoval and Jeff Duncan deliver their classic hard rock flavored riffs, providing the album the familiarity it needs, even when the band goes off into uncharted territory and their solo work is quite impressive. The backline is dominated by the well-travelled Joey Vera (Fates Warning, Seven Witches) and his bass is all over this thing, audible, meaty and noodly. Good stuff there.

As a long time admirer, I had high hopes for this third act in Armored Saint‘s career, and admit this is a different album than what I expected. It’s closer to what Jordan Campbell famously dubbed “Dad Metal” and it’s definitely the product of a band with miles on the tires, but what it lacks in anger, it partly makes up for with depth and maturity. I’m quite glad these guys are back doing what they love. The world is a better place with Armored Saint in it and I hope they stick around for a good long time.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 273 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade
Websites: armoredsaint.com | facebook.com/thearmoredsaint
Release Dates: EU: 2015.06.01 | NA: 06.02.2015

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  • Scorpion

    Cheese cheese so much cheese…………………

    • Scorpion

      Where is Grymm ?!

      • Delivering AMG merchandise.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          The Grymm Retailer.

        • Scorpion

          Would you guys be making Druhm Sticks? Please!!!!!!

        • sir_c

          A.N. Grier neighbours

      • I find cute that Grymm has its very own fanboi. Look at him/her, all it needed was to name themselves “Scorpyonn” to complete the adorableness.

        • Scorpion

          Originally i was gonna be an AMG fanboy.Then our ever raging overlord became scarce as the next Adagio album.

          • His presence remains strong, trust me.

          • Like the Emperor from Star Wars with much more Sith Lightning.

          • :'( PhDing.

          • Scorpion

            Yay! AMG! AMG! AMG!!

          • Scorpion

            Please forgive me for doubting thy tempered anger and metalness.

            – Thy wretched arachnid.

    • Good, old fashioned, bluesy hard rock and metal. No cheese at all.

      • Bryan Stroup

        Haha, seriously? Listen to the actual lyrics. They are full of cheese at times. It sounds less like they are trying to take a tongue-in-cheek or nonchalant approach and more like they simply couldn’t come up with anything better.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    The Grymm Retailer

  • Well, we all surely appreciate the support and kind words. Keep in mind though, the website was named when it was just a one man operation and AMG had no clue how it would grow and prosper. It was a cool, memorable name and now it’s a brand.

    • THanks for coming to my defense, Druhm. <3

      • Celaeno

        Actually went back and read the five year anniversary blurb about the site (as I’m fairly new to all of this) and it was great getting the perspective and back story. Thanks for all your passion and hard work! And the writers, man, whoever found so many talented individuals is genius.

  • Oh it is nice I agree, and I know very well they’re all very deserving. My comment wasn’t meant to be dismissive at all.

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Man, them be some mighty kind words. Cookies for all!!!!

  • I think the name is absolutely fantastic, and I think it’s great that I get all the credit for everyone else’s hard work because I had the foresight to name the damned website after myself. Honestly, I can’t imagine a better situation than this one.

    ;)

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Haha, this is so great. If I could describe the sound, it would be: “HECK YEH ‘MERICA”

    Great review, Steel. Might wanna be careful, if your inner dad shows for too long, you might just grow yourself a basket of wife beaters and a bad reputation for untimely puns.

    • My puns are never untimely. They arrive precisely when I mean them to.

  • Here’s Johnny

    We need more dad metal like this these days. Real hooks, real singing, real lyrics. Armored Saint live on. Fuck, i have just agreed with Steel Druhm again, i need a lie down or possibly a lobotomy.

    • Amen.

      • Francesco Bordoni

        btw I didn’t even need to read who posted this to know it was Steel Druhm. He’s easily got a permanent hold on all Heavy/American/(cheese?) metal here at AMG ahahahah

    • It’s like we share a brain now!

      • Here’s Johnny

        I don’t want to be your Siamese twin, that would mean i have to suck off Jorne Lande too.

  • Thanks for the great review. I haven’t listened to anything but the title track thus far.

  • Doomdeathrosh

    Amazing modern touch to the blue collar metal of yore! I want me a Vegas-themed electric guitar!

  • RilesBell

    Solid album and accurate review. I just love Bush’s voice man!

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    To complete the 80/90s retro feel this should have a graphic little sticker in the bottom corner that says DAD METAL … then in little letters spaced above and below “Your parents don’t care anymore”

  • antitayyip

    artwork reminds me russian roullette

  • I have to admit, the embedded song is really catching my ear. I am eager to hear the rest of this album.

  • Óðhinn

    A good review by Steel Druhm.

    I’ve never been a fan of Amored Saint or John Bush in general, and I’m definitely not feeling this either. Just my personal preference.

  • Ralph Recon

    I was really looking forward to this album and although it sounds incredible with a great mix and production other than the title track I’m not sure the rest of the songs are that good. A million times better than La Raza though which was equal to St. Anger. I’ll give it a few more listens. I only wish the last Priest album “sounded” this good.

    • Ralph Recon

      A couple weeks later after rearranging the track order 4 or 5 tunes are really starting to grow on me. It’s solid.

      • Ralph Recon

        A few weeks later………..I love this fuckin album!!!
        You’ve got to give it a few listens. Metal the way it should be.

  • Bryan Stroup

    Really like this album vocally and musically, but some of the lyrics just drag the overall compositions down quite a bit. It’s almost like listening to a traditional metal version of Edguy or something at times.

    Probably wouldn’t even consider listening to it if not for Bush. I’ve always been a fan of his vocals, and I even think SoWN is the best Anthrax album too!

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    Great review, as usual, StD. I finally got the time to listen to this properly. I really enjoyed the proggy additions and enthusiasm. If only some of the goofy choruses and “fat” was edited (or rerecorded after my approval, of course). They were so close to hitting a homerun, kind of like a ground rule double.
    By the way, my wife said DAD metal stand for Deaf And Dumb… : (

  • Roshi98

    Fuckin’ Dad Metal…YEAH!!! Argh, my back…shit…honey, help!