ARMORED SAINT: 'PUNCHING THE SKY'
Written By Jason Voorhees for phillyrockradio.com
Release Date: October 23, 2020
Metal Blade Records
John Bush (Vocals)
Joey Verra (Bass)
Phil Sandoval (Guitars)
Jeff Duncan (Guitars)
Gonzo Sandoval (Drums)
1. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
2. End of the Attention Span
4. My Jurisdiction
5. Do Wrong To None
6. Lone Wolf
7. Missile to Gun
8. Fly in the Ointment
9. Bark, No Bite
11. Never You Fret
Armored Saint is back and back with a vengeance they are.
The band released their eighth studio album 'Punching the Sky' back in October and haven't looked in the rearview ever since. Saint has never wavered in style and sound as they refuse to be held back by labels or formulas. They're just a kick-ass metal band trying to have fun.
While the band always releases killer material, they have always remained a mystery as far as name-value goes. Armored Saint may very well be the most underrated band in all of metal.
The veteran headbangers know a thing or two about making an excellent record, and this release harkens back to the classic era of the band. One thing that sets Armored Saint apart from most bands is their strong work ethic. This hard-working mentality enables the group to combine their elite musicianship with pristine songwriting.
As mentioned, 'Punching the Sky' has the band firing on all cylinders.
There are zero filler tracks as this record represents plug-and-play at its finest. When one can listen to an album repeatedly, that is a tell-tale sign of an excellent piece of art. I've had this masterpiece on a loop from the moment it came out, and it never gets old!
To summarize, 'Punching the Sky' is the band's most gratifying record since 'Symbol of Salvation' way back in 1991. The album combines all of the trademark elements of Saint with an added punch of modern flavor. It is a balls to the wall record that keeps the pedal to the metal.
The album starts with an ode to Irish folk music before rapidly changing paces. "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants" is an epic thriller that takes the listener on a magical journey. While clocking in at just under seven minutes, the track shares many twists and turns.
A slow build intro quickly ramps up to a signature John Bush bellow. Beefed-up dual guitar leads set the tone, and the rest is masterful music to your ears. Bush's powerhouse vocals are on full display as the song begins to beat like a battering ram of metal madness. Clean, crisp lyrics resonate throughout, and the song features a catchy chorus to boot.
The track then meanders through the bridge and hooks, like a fish out of water, before descending into a stellar lead guitar solo. The opening song is easily one of my favorite tracks on the record and maybe one of the band's best all-time; it's that good, folks.
If you thought the first track was transcendent among their catalog, then you better get a load of track #2. "End of The Attention Span" kicks ass. It's that simple. If track #1 is robin, then track #2 is undoubtedly the album's batman. A meat and potatoes platter that leaves you with a fistful of forks.
It features pissed-off vocals, driving guitars, aggressive riffs, loud drums, and bashing bass, the kind of song you turn the volume up to ten on and let er' rip! The musicianship on this track is pristine and tight. While the lyrics paint a picture of society's obsession with social media and the dangers it poses. Another "A" list track that I rank at the top of their all-time best.
The hits keep coming with tracks like "Bubble" and "My Jurisdiction," which provide a similar sound to early style Armored Saint. Full of raw attitude and emotion, they are hard rock anthems to the core. Another gritty, hard-nosed rocker, "Do Wrong to None," continues the gut-punch assault on its audience. All three tracks could find themselves among the local watering hole's setlist.
At this point, we come to the middle of the record.
And here lies the ace in the hole, the breaking point where many albums go off the rails and drop off musically. Not this one, though, folks. Instead of veering off the tracks, this song has its sights set on a crash course for stardom.
"Lone Wolf" is undoubtedly this album's masterpiece; if you're looking for 'Symbol of Salvation' vibes, then this is your pick! The track features all of the bells and whistles of a kick-ass metal tune. The song has it all: a stellar intro, up-tempo riffs, killer lyrics, pinpoint rhythm section, melodic vocals, harmonizing guitars, and epic awe-inspiring solo!
Bush screams with a vengeance. Phil Sandoval and Jeff Duncan leave you saying KK. Downing and Glenn Tipton who. Gonzo Sandoval tells Dave Lombardo to stand at the back of the line. And Joey Vera leaves Nikki Sixx in the dust. Stellar musicians at their absolute best here!
Wow, how do you follow up such a magnificent track moving forward? Quickly...you reset the bar! "Missile to Gun" is an Anthrax-Esque rocket of thrashing metal. This missile is ready to fire, and it's all guns blazing. The tone of the track is set early as the rocket reaches take-off. An anthem that appears destined as a regular live set staple, John Bush flexes his vocal muscles showing why he's still the best in the biz.
As the album moves along, we now reach a crescendo of sorts with "Fly in the Ointment." A change of pace is in order as this one screams Alice in Chains. Bush does his best Layne impersonation, which sounds eerily similar to the fallen great. Another full-fledged hit as this album has now reached star power status.
The album is rounded out by "Bark, No Bite," "Unfair," and "Never You Fret." "Unfair" is a harrowing ballad that rings out true. In contrast, the final two tracks are bursting apart at the seams with energy and volume.
'Punching The Sky' is a standout record from beginning to end. Elite album composition sees the tracks flow together in seamless transition. It is no wonder that Armored Saint is one of the hardest working bands in metal. They represent all of the good things in music while displaying a top-notch professional demeanor.
The band has hit a home run with 'Punching The Sky'. They deserve credit for defying the odds and putting out such a killer record so late in their careers. These guys are genuinely underrated at their craft and should be celebrated!
'Punching the Sky' gets a 9/10 rating and ranks at the top of their best all-time albums. Right on cue, many music media outlets had the record at the top of their top album lists in 2020.
John Bush, Joey Verra, Phil Sandoval, Gonzo Sandoval, and Jeff Duncan...keep kicking ass and taking names! While fans are left punching the sky, Armored Saint is on their way to punching their ticket to platinum!!
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