My age will show here once again, but I was around back when Armored Saint‘s March of the Saint made its debut. They were different than the rest of the glam crap of that era and quickly earned a spot next to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest in my collection. I played the absolute shit out of March of the Saint and it’s successors, Delirious Nomad and Raising Fear. All three of these albums are full of riffs and traditional sounding metal with enough hooks to keep you listening on and on. However, Armored Saint remained just under the surface of breaking wide open. Turmoil in the band reared its head when guitarist Dave Prichard died, and John Bush exited to join Anthrax, putting the final nail in the coffin of Armored Saint for a few years. Five years ago there was a reunion and the release of La Raza, but it didn’t do much for an old-school fan like me.
Their newest release, Win Hands Down, is a crown jewel in the band’s catalog. They are hitting on all cylinders and Bush’s vocals sound as good or better than they ever have. The songwriting and production are on the same level as 1991’s Symbol of Salvation, unquestionably my favorite Armored Saint album. The title track is up first and is melodic and catchy, yet with enough screaming guitars and chopping riffs to leave you senseless. “Mess” steps up the game and reminds me of Bush’s work with Anthrax. They are super tight with Gonzo Sandoval and Joey Vera laying down solid, unrelenting low-end. “An Exercise In Debauchery,” dealing with the world’s current porn fascination, really highlights Bush’s vocals. Phil Sandoval and Jeff Duncan‘s guitar solos on this track are in your face. “Muscle Memory” is tight and catchy, albeit brooding and moody. “That Was Then, Way Back Then” is old school and is brought to life with razor-sharp riffs and galloping rhythm. “In An Instant,” dealing with the tough subject of the Boston Marathon bombing, is a masterpiece thanks to a mix of chugging bass and moody guitars. “Dive” is a ballad of sorts, but it is a very fitting song for this album. “Up Yours,” a diatribe aimed at the paparazzi, is a big fuck you to end the album in traditional Armored Saint form.
Win Hands Down is nothing short of brilliant. Armored Saint have created a masterpiece that sits right alongside their best releases.
Win Hands Down is out now on Metal Blade Records. Buy it here!
SkullsNBones Rating (Out Of 5):