It’s good to go back to the old school, to remember your roots. Although I have to admit that this is the first time I’ve ever sat down and listened to Armored Saint. I know, I know… for shame… guilty as charged your honour. On the go since 1982 and it’s taken over thirty years for me to actually have a listen to them. For shame indeed.
You know what though, Win Hands Down is a grand slice of old school nostalgia that calls to mind the metal that was around when I was in my teenage years and still had all my flowing locks. There’s bombastic riffs, rockin’ guitar solos, thumping drums, flanger, chorus, even some funky bass solos all sitting alongside John Bush’s unmistakeable vocals.
For me anyway, it’s a great introduction to this band that makes me want to hunt down some of their earlier stuff and have a listen. The title track opens the album with a roar, an all guns blazing, thunderous drumming intro leads us to galloping riffs and those vocals that were made for metal and drives the album from the off. Mess reminds me of Bush-era Anthrax in places before the heavy rocking of An Exercise in Debauchery throws its weight around.
There’s riffs and licks being thrown around this album with reckless abandon, alongside some atmospheric, almost introspectively quiet moments in tracks such as Muscle Memory and In An Instant, while Dive sounds like a mix of Nine Inch Nails meets Dream Theater although I do find the phrasing and lyrics a little peculiar alongside the feel of the song.
Got to say though that aside from the title track, A Full Head of Steam is probably the most enjoyable track on the album. Its mellow intro belies a bona fide old school heavy metal monster. Chugging riffs, lots of pace, big choruses and a vocal track that Bush shares with Pearl Aday to great effect as their melodies dance against each other.
Even the final track, Up Yours, feels like a wonderful middle finger salute to all those who believe bands like Armored Saint aren’t relevant in this day and age. For me, they’re a delicious reminder of what got me loving metal in the first place.
Win Hands Down is available now
1. Win Hands Down
3. An Exercise in Debauchery
4. Muscle Memory
5. That Was Then, Way Back When
6. With a Full Head of Steam
7. In an Instant
9. Up Yours
Armored Saint are:
John Bush – Vocals
Phil Sandoval – Guitar
Jeff Duncan – Guitar
Joey Vera – Bass
Gonzo Sandoval – Drums