Released: 2010, Metal Blade
Reviewer: Alan Gilkeson
When I was a kid, 14 or 15 years old, I clearly remember conversations about the genius of Armored Saint. They were riff masters. No one could come up with the heavy yet melodic guitar sounds they generated, which grew into fiery choral crescendos, amazing. Add John Bush, whose powerful and emotive vocal pounded at spitfire pace, stretching his throat so far you thought a larynx cord would pop. Yes, Armored Saint, in my opinion are one of the most important bands in American Metal.
The most annoying thing about Metal critics is that they judge everything according to Metal-ness. That's why most Metal reviews, especially on the web, come off amateur at best, being based on something so intangible the opinions become ridiculous and horribly unqualified. I remember reading a review for one of the more recent Scorpions records, an album, as I recall, full of ingenious poppy arrangements, but this review was overwhelmingly negative because it wasn't Metal enough. For some reason we think that 78 year old Rudi Schenker should be writing 'Rock You Like A Hurricane', again. Are the fans of our genre really that close minded and small? So thus, I worry that Armored Saint may get pigeonholed like this, LA RAZA being a disc still plenty heavy, but laden with a bit of a 70s Hard Rock vibe, heavy on the groove, with eclectic breaks and fiercely unapologetic poppy riffs here and there.
But still, at its core, LA RAZA is Armored Saint all grown up. Joey's songs are remarkably unpredictable, moving directions unseen. Take the tune 'Blues' which starts out with a sort of happy jingly riff, then breaks down into a chunky doomy atmosphere, and when Bush adds his vocal, the song changes paths once again, culminating with an almost Alice in Chains type chorus. Or how about album closer 'Bandit Country', a song that turns a classic funk riff into an unmistakable Armored Saint apex of melody and power. LA RAZA is Armored Saint matured and assured, liberated and willing to make something bigger than just another Metal record.