Reviewed: December 2020
Released: October 2020, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Buddy H
Full disclosure right from the start… As soon as I find out that Armored Saint is releasing a new album, I anxiously await it like a 5-year-old waiting for Santa Claus on Christmas morning. I was instantly hooked on Armored Saint from the moment I heard “Can U Deliver”, way back in metal’s glorious 80’s heyday. So, I heavily scrutinize each release and hold these guys to a much higher standard than other metal bands. Unfortunately, today, we all find ourselves stuck in this seemingly endless desert known as 2020. Can Bush and company deliver a much-needed oasis? ABSOLUTELY!!! I have not had this much fun listening to the mighty Saint since SYMBOL OF SALVATION! Let’s take a closer look.
The first thing about this album that really stands out for me is the mix. Each instrument (Bush’s vocals included) is afforded the same unbiased white glove treatment it deserves. The guitars are thick and powerful yet never overpowering. The bass is thundering but never to the level of speaker splitting. The drums provide the perfect concrete foundation for these flawlessly executed compositions. And, as expected, Bush’s vocals sit nicely right on top where they belong.
The musicianship here is stellar. What more can be said about John Bush’s consistent age defying vocal performances? The man is clearly drinking from a bottomless fountain of youth. Joey Vera and Gonzo Sandoval, on bass and drums respectively, are a pummeling finely tuned rhythmic machine and sound tighter than ever. Lastly, the criminally overlooked and underappreciated twin guitar attack of Phil Sandoval and Jeff Duncan provides nonstop riffing gut punches and searing razor-sharp soloing.
The songs are short, concise, powerful statements from a band who are, without a doubt, having the time of their lives and are truly at the top of their game. The longest song, album opener “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”, grabs you immediately with a brief Celtic introduction followed by beautiful sparkling clean guitars. Tension building dynamics continue with crunchy distorted guitars and tasteful tom work from Gonzo. Vera adds to the attack and the song erupts into pure Armored Saint glory. The remaining tracks flow seamlessly from beginning to end and leave you ready to hit the play button again and again.
I don’t want to spoil the fun of discovering all the hidden gifts PUNCHING THE SKY has to offer by giving a detailed song by song breakdown. (Ok, here is a little teaser for you…there is a tasty little riff at the 0:57 mark in one of the middle songs that would make Exodus smile!) This auditory journey is filled with new twists and surprises that are delivered with the comforting familiarity of your favorite childhood security blanket. There are straight forward pedal to the floor barn burners, groove focused rockers with magnificent rollicking bass lines, mid-tempo atmospheric thought provokers, metal riffage in spades and tasteful, never overindulgent guitar solos. Grab your earphones of choice, turn the volume all the way up and settle in for one of the best metal rides this year!
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
John Bush – Lead Vocals
Phil Sandoval – Lead and Rhythm Guitar
Jeff Duncan – Lead and Rhythm Guitar
Joey Vera – Bass Guitar
Gonzo Sandoval – Drums