Ever since their inception in the early 1980s, American
heavy metal maestros Armored Saint
have presented masterly heavy metal throughout their 30-year career. The fact
that the band has been playing across generations of heavy metal speaks volumes
of their musical acumen. However, Armored Saint is one of those bands which
have remained underrated despite their delivery of top-notch heavy metal and a
brilliant line-up consisting of John
Bush, known for his memorable work with Anthrax.
album ‘Win Hands Down’ after a gap
of five years on June 6th. It is yet another addition to the slew of excellent
heavy metal records that the band has put out.
Hands Down’ is yet another example of superlative heavy
metal with a good deal of versatility standing out amidst the glory of
customary heavy metal. The album opens with the title track featuring
straightforward, powerful and chugging riffs backed by fierce, neat drumming
and Joey Vera’s beautiful work on
the bass. The song is reminiscent of the grandeur of hard rock and heavy metal
with some catchy, upbeat chord progressions, awe-inspiring vocals and a dash of
unconventional variety in elements like the unique structure of the song.
Following this, “Mess” unfurls a
similar essence in the eccentric elements like the memorable sitar portions.
Debauchery” is a brilliant combination of the essence of hard rock and
heavy metal, evident in the traditional leads and some hard rock riffs in the
verses. “Muscle Memory” stands out
in the album with a rather melancholic intro affected by the guitars and an
excellent buildup in the drums leading to the hard-hitting chorus. The glory of
classic metal is upheld in “That Was
Then, Way Back When”, which also features a splendid solo! “With a Full Head of Steam” follows
with a nice groove accentuating the impact of the song while also including a
duet with a female lead, while “In An
Instant” begins with a rather laid-back tempo that creates a brooding
atmosphere before the fierce build-up.
Probably the best song on the album is “Dive”, whose piano lines give it a
ballad-y feel. “Dive” also features Pearl
Aday on vocals, and the beautiful contrast of her voice with Bush’s works
wonders and makes the song the most impactful on the record. The ballad-y
essence is adequately upheld by the top-notch production that asserts the piano
at the forefront.
Hands Down’ on the whole explores a plethora of
possibilities and showcases plenty of catchy elements like chants, hooks, upbeat
choruses, driving grooves and uncommon song structures with rather simple but
memorable vocal melodies, making the record an enjoyable experience. The
songwriting is further enriched by the lyrics laced around unexplored themes
such as the Boston bombings in “In An Instant”, which succeed in establishing a
strong thought process. “Up Yours”
speaks of the lyrical versatility of the band by being on the lighter side of
songwriting, while songs like “Muscle Memory” and “That Was Then, Way Back
When” entwine the terrific elements of hard rock and classic metal with
Hands Down’ is a magnificent experience of the majesty
of hard rock and traditional heavy metal, blended with a few unconventional elements
which boost the overall sound of the record.
Exercise In Debauchery
Was Then, Way Back When
a Full Head of Steam