Armored Saint – Punching The Sky Review

Tuesday, October 20, 2020
1:15 AM, four beers in
Internal Monologue, stream-of-consciousness… sort of…

Shit, I better write something for this new Armored Saint record that comes out this week or Editor Zach will get mad at me. Armored Saint rules so much — and has always ruled so much — and this record is a flat-out killer, but I don’t know exactly what to say besides that. Gotta get some thoughts in order here… Ah, hell, may as well get another beer and throw on Punching The Sky, put on the headphones and take a run at it now…

[opens beer; pushes play]

Make a note of how the Uillean pipes intro to “Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants” kinda sounds like the intro to “Copperhead Road,” but the song certainly doesn’t. This track absolutely slays, no matter what. Just a massive monster rocker from a band that has made a damn-near forty-year career of exactly this type of greatness. I mean, if you can hear this and not get excited, do you even like traditional metal? This is riff plus instantly memorable anthemic vocal plus just all-around badassery…

Release date: October 23, 2020. Label: Metal Blade.
And, goddamn, let’s address the elephant in the room here: John Bush can seriously damn sing. Listen to that melody; listen to that voice. Jesus. Dude’s pushing sixty, been doing this for forty years, and hasn’t lost all but the teensiest, slightest bit of grit and power. How does he do that? Imagine if he’d taken that Metallica gig way back when — would that be cool? Probably not, really. Metallica’s certainly done fine without him, and if he’d been off making Justice or the black album, we wouldn’t have gotten Raising Fear or Symbol Of Salvation. That would’ve sucked even more than Re-Load, which is saying something.

And this second song, holy Christ — that’s the first one they put out from Punching The Sky, “The End Of The Attention Span.” If this song ends your attention span, better check your pulse. Write that down — that’s mildly clever. This song is the exact opposite of attention-killing — this is a stand-your-ass-up-and-get-your-fist-in-the-air ear-grabber if there ever was one, just like “Reign Of Fire” or “March Of The Saint” were (and still are). This may be the greatest one-two punch of opening songs on a metal record all year. Prove me wrong.

Man, this band is awesome — Gonzo Sandoval is such a bad-ass on the drums and he never seems to get any credit. Some nice marching snare on “Do Wrong To None,” reminds me a bit of the percussion way back on “Tribal Dance,” even though it’s not really the same. And seriously, how killer was Symbol Of Salvation? I remember hearing “Reign Of Fire” for the first time, and damn, that was ear-opening. But back on point, dude’s name is Gonzo, and how kick-ass is that? Everybody knows Gonzo’s the coolest Muppet, and this guy is like Gonzo and Animal mixed together, which is getting a little weird, so let’s move on…

Remember that song from the Decline Of Western Civilization Part II soundtrack? “You Can Run But You Can’t Hide.” That was a kick-ass song; I wonder why Armored Saint never put it on any actual album. That was a cool movie, too, and “new” Saint guitarist Jeff Duncan was in it when he was in Odin. They were that band in the hot tub, right? I should watch that movie again. But man, Jeff and Phil Sandoval are just a stellar guitar team. Listen to the way they move around each other; they just know where to be and when to be there, and it’s damned near perfect. Harmony guitars dance around; riffs weave in and out; and the whole of it is just the product of a line-up that’s been together now for thirty years, cranking out a series of kick-ass American metal records ever since (with a brief hiatus in the 90s, of course, while John explored the East Coast thrash scene*).

Oh, damn — this tune “Missile To Gun” is every bit as destructive as its titular weapons. This is a rager. This takes me back to listening to Armored Saint like a million years ago in the 90s — just a straight-up riffy rocking heavy metal tune with these goddamn great vocals. Did I mention how great John Bush is? Yeah, I did, up a few paragraphs. Cool. And then “Fly In The Ointment” rules, from moody to kick-ass… And then “Bark, No Bite” … damn, what a ripper… “Call off your dogs, call off your dogs…” I’ll be sing-snarling that all night. Shit, this album is just kickass, no question…

But seriously, folks, Punching The Sky is a rocking record from tip to toe, handily the band’s strongest since Symbol Of Salvation (although Revelation was no slouch, I will admit), and it closes on an absolute ripper in “Never You Fret.” The band played this one at the front of their recent live stream, the album release from the legendary Whiskey in LA, and that says enough about this closing track: It’s a killer, and they know it. And all stream-of-consciousness bullshit aside, here are the facts: Armored Saint is one of America’s finest heavy metal institutions, now nearly forty-years strong. If you’re not on board, then you’re missing the boat, and if you’ve climbed aboard somewhere in the past however many decades, then there’s absolutely no way you aren’t happy with Punching The Sky. It’s the best they done in a long while, maybe since Symbol Of Salvation (at the very least since Revelation), and it’s an absolute stunner from a classic band that’s at the top of their game, still. Listen, kids, and learn how it’s done.

* Sound Of White Noise remains Anthrax’s best record, no matter what anyone thinks (assuming they think differently). The Bush-fronted Anthrax era was admittedly different degrees of diminishing returns thereafter, but still, that album smokes.

Posted by Andrew Edmunds

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; born in the cemetery, under the sign of the MOOOOOOON...

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