Review: Armored Saint – Win Hands Down

Armored Saint - Win Hands Down

MoshI’m kicking myself as I’ve been listening to this album since we got the promo a few weeks back and I’ve missed the release date. Win Hands Down was released about a week back so you can get it now!

This is the band’s second album since reforming from hiatus while singer John Bush (and for a shorter time bassist Joey Vera) joined the ranks of Anthrax. Indeed, the line-up has stayed fairly solid since their first appearance in 1982 with only guitar duties changing over the years despite two breaks.

Some would argue that Armored Saint is Bush’s natural home and his voice is a distinctive one. For me, his time with Anthrax was a bright point in the life of one of my favourite bands. Having said that, it’s great to hear those familiar tones soaring once again and better still that he’s back in a band that formed so long ago.

Cherry on the top of this cake is that the album is also pretty damn good. Armored Saint are more a traditional metal band as opposed to Anthrax’s thrashier edge, and Win Hands Down is a pretty heavy number. The songs pound, but have you tapping your foot in time. Some odd rhythm changes here and there do jar slightly – personal taste – but overall this is a great collection of songs. Classic in their style but very up-to-date in terms of production and quality.

The band aren’t afraid to chuck in some experimental sound, such as a very twangy acoustic break in “Mess” or a very light, airy segue in the title track. Regardless, the majority of the album is stomping, crunching, catchy heavy metal.

I will continue to focus on Bush’s vocals, though. The man has a hell of a range and hearing him growl his way through a song before throwing a long, high note out in refrain brings back memories of Sound of White Noise – the album on which I first heard him sing. I think it’s this that makes Win Hands Down such an easy listen for me – the familiarity of the vocal style.

That’s not to say that the rest of the band aren’t giving it their all. “An Exercise in Debauchery” is a great example. Guitar’s are strummed in rhythm then belt out stanza-ending flurries, the bass and drums thump out a heady rhythm (hell, there’s even a bass-led break) and Bush’s voice holds it all together.

Holding my hand up, I can say that I’m not familiar with Armored Saint’s older material – not the classic stuff, and not 2010’s La Raza. But what I can tell you is that Win Hands Down… well, it wins hands down. Definitely not a generic release, this is a band that – despite being around for 30-plus years – are still pushing boundaries.

Songs of note are “An Exercise in Debauchery” and “Up Yours”… and it was tricky to pick out just the two.

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