Eight albums and too many years too many years in to bother worrying about, ‘LA’s Headbangingest band’ Armored Saint are back with new album; and if fewer people than of yore are, erm, punching the sky at the prospect of same, well, that’s their lookout. Because on tracks like coruscating opener Standing On The Shoulders of Giants and the quite superb Lone Wolf, John Bush and company once again prove that they are more than capable of bringing the noise in fine style.
Bush is a one-off, a phenomenon; a man whose vocal style relies entirely, it seems on bullish, teen bravado yet, in his mid fifties sounds just as relevant, not to mention powerful, now, as he did all those years ago when he was enquiring whether we delivered or not. The melodic howl that Metallica yearned for and Anthrax got is still firmly in place, spitting out the rhymes with machine gun precision on the catchy Missile To Gun as only it can, backed by a band that sounds similarly energised and inspired. Punching The Sky sees the band, led in the studio by bassist/producer Joey Vera, taking the progress of last two albums La Raza (2010) and 2015’s Win Hands Down to it’s logical conclusion, forming a latter day ‘Saint Triptych, if you will; Gone are the rollicking, trad metal triumphs, replaced by a darker, altogether more swinging beast. It’s the sound of a band getting comfortable with maturity incarnate, of course, but that doesn’t mean to say it isn’t fun at the same time.
Drummer Gonzo is at the heart of this, all big band chops and Bonhamesque bombast, whilst guitarists Phil Sandoval and Jeff Duncan – surely now one of American metal’s most integral guitar duos – add ballast to the whole thing with panache and fire. Their dual work on the propulsive Fly In The Ointment is particularly wonderful; coupled with Bush’s superb delivery this is where the old and new Saints meet with the most spine-tingling results, though, as ever, you’ll be hard-pushed to find anything on PTS to turn your nose up at.
Comfortably their most comprehensively satisfying release in years, Armored Saint appear to have either found the keys to the fountain of youth or, more likely, have made their peace with the ageing process and determined to simply be the best they can be, whatever their vintage and damn the torpedoes. Whatever the answer, Punch The Sky is the sound of masters at work, and definitely one of 2020’s must-have heavy metal records.
Punching The Sky releases on October 23rd.