Since their formation in 1982 in Los Angeles, California, Armored Saint have defied trends and become music press darlings – the same press who would normally rather champion the latest record company money-maker than a band with longevity. So thankfully here they are once again following their last release, the 2015 Win Hands Down album with the recently released Punching The Sky on Metal Blade Records. And how can you not like a band when the drummer is called Gonzo?
Eleven tracks here bristle with chest-beating confidence as opening track ‘Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants’ sets the standard from the off. An eerie intro heralds seven minutes of brain mangling heavy metal as the riffs come thick and fast from Phil Sandoval and Jeff Duncan. The iron lungs of John Bush are still a force to be reckoned with after all these years and from my point of view, his two stints with Anthrax made them a much better band! Snapping snare drums pin the song down and the call to arms chorus of “Standing on the shoulders of giants, punching the sky everyday”.
My attention span never wavered for ‘End Of The Attention Span’ as a metal maul of razor sharp riffing slashes and thrashes taking no prisoners. John barks the vocals out with aplomb and raging guitar solos midway just up the ante. The industrial-tinged intro to ‘Bubble’ precedes the earworm main riff. They take their feet off the gas here as this tasty number pounds along around the catchy choruses and a headbanging midsection heads off into a clubbing outro.
‘My Jurisdiction’ is a hefty hard rocker and a spotlight stealing lead vocal is the icing on the cake to the punchy dynamics. ‘Do Wrong To None’ is kick drum driven, pit opening thrash with hypnotic riffing that scythe throughout this monster. ‘Lone Wolf’ is a ballad with balls that breezes along on catchy riffing, laid back bridges and a dreamy lead vocal until it muscles up midway for yet another majestic drum driven outro from Gonzo Sandoval.
Air guitars are compulsary for the cocked and loaded neck breaker ‘Missile To Gun’. ‘Fly In The Ointment’ is a bare knuckle bruiser of laid back verses and brutal choruses but it really comes to life in the final third with some seismic kick drumming. ‘Bark, No Bite’ has bass guitar heavy verses from Joey Vera and it crushes in the caustic choruses that definitely bite as well as bark!
‘Unfair’ is a spine-tingling slow burner as John croons over a gently picked guitar. A militaristic drum beat eases in as does the bass guitar to make it even more emotionally powerful musically and vocally as John soars to the heavens over a full band outro.
Final track of their eighth studio album comes from ‘Never You Fret’. It closes the album fast and furiously on a fireball of face-melting fury. The jams are well and truly kicked out here as they lock in tight for a heads-down thrashout!