Camp HRH, March 23 2017

“We have stood the test of time,” claimed Armored Saint’s John Bush in a recent interview with HRH Mag. And after witnessing the singer and his bandmates round off Hammerfest IX’s first night, you’d be inclined to agree with him.

Following Venom Inc. on Thursday’s bill was a tough ask, but Armored Saint are a band of battle-hardened brothers too and their return to the UK was powerful, classy and welcomed with open arms and raised fists.

It helped that the LA quintet, despite forming way back in ’82, are determined to remain relevant. Bush has spoken about his wish to ‘keep things fresh’, to avoid going through the motions in the live arena. And thankfully, albums like 2010’s La Raza and 2015’s Win Hands Down have helped Armored Saint achieve that aim… and then some.

It was therefore no surprise that Win Hands Down’s glorious title track opened Armored Saint’s Hammerfest set, giving the crowd a chance to warm up their vocal chords early on. Mess, from the same record (introduced with an eco-conscious speech from Bush) was similarly exuberant, Bush showing his off his formidable vocal talents, guitarists Jeff Duncan and Phil Sandoval slick and stylish.

Yet as you’d expect of a band with 35 years in the metal game, the Californians acknowledged their past too. And why not? Their career may have been a little ‘stop start’ but that hasn’t prevented them from writing anthemic, gutsy metal classics such as Reign Of Fire and Symbol Of Salvation, both aired at Hammerfest with a youthful spirit and a heartwarming vitality that was infectious.

That sense of fun didn’t extend to everyone present: a stern looking security guard entered the stage to beckon Bush down from a speaker stack. But that didn’t spoil the party or disrupt the headliners’ flow… and we suppose that the guy was just sticking to the rules.

There was nothing mundane or businesslike about Last Train Home though, a song that perhaps, more than any other, demonstrates Armored Saint’s deft writing skills, or indeed Left Hook from Right Field, a thump to the jaw from La Raza that knocked Hammerfest’s front row into Cardigan Bay.

Back in the UK and determined to make up for lost time with their British supporters, the Saint marched confidently into Hammerfest history – and crowned a remarkable opening night at the festival.