Much like their heavy metal brethren in Exodus, Testament and Overkill, fans of LA natives Armored Saint have long believed they too should be part of the Big 4. After a 5 year absence since the release of their last album La Raza in 2010, they are back with a vengeance and their newest album for Metal Blade Win Hands Down shows that they still have a lot to offer and even more to prove.
Lead single & video “Win Hands Down” appropriately kicks things off and finds the band firing on all cylinders. The massive anthemic chorus sounds like a lost track from March of the Saint or Delirious Nomad and resonates into infinity, while “An Exercise in Debauchery” is exactly that, it deals with porn addiction and showcases some of the band’s most aggressive playing in years.
Elsewhere, the muscular grooves of “Mess” and “That Was Then, Way Back When” have elements of singer John Bush’s time with Big 4 alumni Anthrax, the latter of the two being a commentary on peoples empty desire to be friends with people from their past that they didn’t really like today on social media.
While the addition of Pearl Aday’s vocals on “With a Full Head of Steam” sees the band exploring their more melodic side, “Dive” is them stepping out of their comfort zone completely and is the first to prominently feature both a piano & a string section.
Now before you write it off, please give it an honest listen, it’s Pink Floyd meets Dream Theater, dark, yet beautiful and works on many levels, making it one of the album’s true unexpected highlights.
The album also offers a nice balance of subject matter, with “In an Instant” centering around the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombings and closer “Up Yours” giving light hearted contrast and perspective. The lyrics may be in jest, but the heaviness is no fucking joke and ends the album as brilliantly as it began, coming full circle.
Here’s the bottom line. Win Hands Down is the album the fans have been waiting for and knew the band still had in them.
Rating: 9 out of 10