Armored Saint - Win Hands Down (Metal Blade)

Solid. Classy. What did you expect?
Release Date: 
1 Jun 2015 - 11:30pm

Consistency. If you’re going to make a career out of anything, you need to be able to deliver the goods to a high standard day, in, day out over the course of many years. And if there’s one thing you can say about American metallians Armored Saint, it’s that they never fail on that score.

Of course, there have been some highs and lows in their career – you’d expect nothing less – but it has to be said that Win Hands Down is right up there with the very highest of highs in the Armored Saint canon.

What this band does best is tell stories. Sure, they can anthem it up with the best of them (Can U Deliver being still one of this writer’s top metal anthems of all time), but Armored Saint is at its best when John Bush – easily one of the most intelligent, articulate lyricists in metal – is given full reign to weave his magic. And on Win Hands Down he does that to the fullest of his not inconsiderable ability.

Opening (and title) track Win Hands Down opens things up in suitably exuberant style, but it’s the likes of the superb Muscle Memory and That Was Then, Way Back When where the band score heaviest, the band delivering furious slabs of trad metal thunder over which Bush reels off some superb lyrical flourishes. This ain’t cookie-cutter toss off, this is finely-honed, deeply personal songwriting of the highest calibre, but even then it would be much less effective without the high end metallic bluster supplied by, especially, guitarists Jeff Duncan and Phil Sandoval, both of whom shine throughout this album repeatedly.

Perhaps the only weak link here to these ears is the duet with Pearl ‘Mrs Scott Ian Aday on With a Full Head of Steam; what on earth do Armored Saint need to be doing duets for? I’m sure they had a perfectly cogent reason for doing so, but Aday’s vocals just don’t work very well in the context of what is another slab of textbook ‘Saint metallic fury.

Still you can always skip that track, safe in the knowledge everything else on Win Hands Down will satiate your thirst for high-impact trad metal, and that Armored Saint are still as far away from releasing a duff album as they ever have been.