There may be a shift in sound, but time hasn't tired out these rock soldiers
Given the band’s overwhelming critical acclaim, but general lack of commercial success, it’s not surprising in the least to find Los Angeles (California) based act Armored Saint taking their time between albums. And much like the lengthy gap between their initial break after 1991’s critically acclaimed Symbol of Salvation and their eventual return to the scene with Revelation (2000), we finally see the band return after a ten year absence with their long awaited sixth album La Raza.
As you would expect, Armored Saint (who comprise ex-Anthrax vocalist John Bush, guitarists Phil Sandoval and Jeff Duncan, bassist Joey Vera and drummer Gonzalo ‘Gonzo’ Sandoval) weren’t in any great rush to release anything that they didn’t consider worthy enough. Instead, the band took their time. And you can definitely tell La Raza is the album Armoured Saint wanted to make at this stage of their career.
After a slow build up of keyboards, acoustic guitars and drums, the band unleashes themselves upon the listener with the powerful Loose Cannon. The song itself has a fairly stripped back kind of feel, especially with its simplistic riff structures. But while the song is fairly straightforward sounding, Bush manages to inject plenty of melody and aggression into proceedings, which really does transform the track into something truly rocking, in a classic Armored Saint way.
Although taking a little while to truly reveal itself, Head On proves to be an outstanding grooving rock anthem with a subtle blues feel amongst the heavy guitars, while on Left Hook From Right Field and Get Off the Fence, the band add a little more grunt and rawness to their sound to give the songs that little more aggression and attitude to their heavy rock sound.
The laid back Chilled (where Bush reflects on life at forty-five) provides a bit of a break around the halfway mark of the album, before the band gathers up steam once again for the title track La Raza. Running close to seven minutes, and boasting a menacing groove that’s runs through the entire instrumental half of the track (alongside a distinctly Latin percussion accompaniment) La Raza is without a doubt classic Armored Saint.
The rocking Black Feet and Blues are further examples of Armored Saint’s willingness to diversify their sound these days, with both funk and heavy blues edges in the tracks giving the band’s old sound a new twist, while the belting Little Monkey and the driving ‘Bandit Country’ close out the album in solid form.
Despite their critical acclaim, Armored Saint never really got to enjoy the success they so clearly deserved in the past. But times have moved on since then, and with any luck, the band will be rewarded with some measure of respect and success based on the strength of La Raza. Because to be totally honest, Armored Saint have well and truly earned it with their new album.
(Metal Blade Records/Riot! Entertainment)