Hard to believe that a band that is closing in on 40 years of activity is only now just releasing their eighth studio album, US heavy metal veterans Armored Saint have made their infrequent material really count, with Punching the Sky being another stellar addition to their excellent discography. Coming five years after Win Hands Down (which was one of this writer's favorite albums of 2015), Punching the Sky once again delivers a set of melodic, hard hitting, classic US heavy metal as only Armored Saint can deliver. The truth is, these guys have always had their own sound, led by the mighty vocals of John Bush and the expert contributions from the rest of the gang, bassist Joey Vera (also a member of Fates Warning), Gonzo Sandoval (drums), Phil Sandoval (guitar), and Jeff Duncan (guitar).
Clocking in at just over 54-minutes, Punching the Sky is comprised of eleven new songs, each one compact and 'punchy', fueled by some terrific riffing, blazing leads, rock solid rhythms, memorable hooks, and of course those always impressive vocals courtesy of Bush. "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants" is the longest track here at just under 7-minutes, and one of the many highlight with its memorable chorus and never ending array of riffs. "Bubble" is another memorable hard rocker, and the crushing "My Jurisdiction" is simply a headbangers delight, chock full of massive guitar & bass riffs and a ton of groove. Other barnburners include "Do Wrong to None", the simmering "Lone Wolf", the dramatic "Missile to Gun", and the percussive driven rumbler "Bark, No Bite". Even the moody, atmospheric "Unfair" works wonders, the band percolating towards some bluesy passages, the slow build delicious through every step. Cool of the band to also close the album with another cranker, the dark, riff monger "Never You Fret", Bush roaring over the top of some frantic guitar crunch and Gonzo's relentless drum attack, his brother Phil also firing off some dazzling shred solos of his own to add to the greatness of this track.
Punching the Sky gets better and better with each listen, revealing a band that is one of heavy metal's musical treasures, and an album that is sure to find its way onto many Best of 2020 lists when it's all said and done.
01. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
02. End of the Attention Span
04. My Jurisdiction
05. Do Wrong to None
06. Lone Wolf
07. Missile to Gun
08. Fly in the Ointment
09. Bark, No Bite
11. Never You Fret