Armored Saint have been around for over 30 years, yet I’ve never really given them a chance. Hell, I only just found out in recent months that John Bush is their vocalist. Some, like myself, may know John as the one-time singer of Anthrax. Those who know Armored Saint know the two bands are not very similar. Anthrax being veterans in the field of thrash metal, Armored Saint have made a career of making metal music of the more traditional sense. Such continues on their new album Win Hands Down.
Traditional Heavy Metal isn’t easy to do nowadays. Even by classic metal bands from the time when heavy metal was just heavy metal, before you had to use terms like “classic” or “traditional” to emphasize what type of metal music you’re talking about. Upon first hearing the title track “Win Hands Down” I could tell Armored Saint still had a good grasp of what heavy metal should sound like. At first I found the verses a little too basic, but I found it had a killer chorus and awesome guitar riffs. Now after a few listens I don’t even remember what it was that felt off about the tune at first listen.
Much of Win Hands Down are heavy songs similar to the title track. Songs that manage to catch you and try their hardest not to let go. Songs like “Mess” and “With a Full Head of Steam” both have some incredible hooks to them, while “That Was Then, Way Back When” may waver a little (any song that mentions “Facebook” is a song I almost always consider to have weak lyrics, no matter the message) but luckily the song’s best parts are in the way Armored Saint belt out the chugging drums and guitars of the track.
I wish I could say the same for a couple of other Win Hands Down tracks. “Dive”‘s opening line, “A perfect chair to park my derriere”, just isn’t a lyric that should be in a song. It’s unfortunate because the song’s piano centered sound makes for a very unique change for the album. I’m sure most listeners and Armored Saint fans won’t look so much into it and will enjoy the track much more than I do, especially if they like a good ballad. Closing track “Up Yours” is a song I’ve yet to listen to all the way through. Five-and-a-half minutes of John Bush saying “Up Yours” to people just has a way of losing my attention about three minutes in every time. I can’t look at this song as anything but a filler track.
I do like how the long songs on Win Hands Down don’t feel as long as they are. The two songs that go for over seven minutes, “Muscle Memory” and “In An Instant” manage to keep my attention all the way through. “An Exercise In Debauchery” does kind of drag just a little. It has its’ memorable moments, but it doesn’t have the musicality of “In An Instant” or the dark and mysterious rhythm of “Muscle Memory.” Regardless, Armored Saint, who are no strangers to making songs north of six minutes in length, show they still know how to keep it entertaining.
Win Hands Down could be better than it actually is. Armored Saint seemed to botch Win Hands Down up with a few songs that I don’t really find acceptable. However, beyond these tracks is a metal album that does still have some terrific moments. Long-time fans are sure to love the album, new fans should surely be tempted to go back and listen to their early stuff. So you take the good with the bad because Armored Saint still does it right by “traditional” metal standards that most bands only strive for but never actually accomplish.
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“Mess” – The main song that Armored Saint seem to be promoting is the title track “Win Hands Down” but I feel it’s in “Mess” that the true highlight of Win Hands Down lies. It doesn’t have any real weak moments, it isn’t boring and it’s as heavy as you’d want a good heavy metal song to be.
7 (Out of 10)
|1.||Win Hands Down||5:06|
|3.||An Exercise in Debauchery||6:00|
|5.||That Was Then, Way Back When||5:08|
|6.||With a Full Head of Steam||5:18|
|7.||In an Instant||7:36|