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Armored Saint: Punching the Sky

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.

Track Listing
01. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
02. End of the Attention Span
03. Bubble
04. My Jurisdiction
05. Do Wrong to None
06. Lone Wolf
07. Missile to Gun
08. Fly in the Ointment
09. Bark, No Bite
10. Unfair
11. Never You Fret

Added: December 27th 2020
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 1215
Language: english

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Armored Saint: Punching the Sky
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2020-12-27 15:17:40
My Score:

One of the most consistent, if hardly prolific heavy metal bands of the past decade or so, Armored Saint return with Punching The Sky, an album that plays expertly to their strengths as it also adds a slightly different aspect. Don’t get me wrong here, Punching… is just as hard hitting as its name implies and yet, for me this is also an album that feels more reserved and subtle than other recent efforts from this outfit. The guitars are still king and so is the riff, however, they’re delivered in such a way that truly allows the brutally melodic rasps from singer John Bush to feel remarkably at ease as they still somehow swipe your feet from under you. With superb guitar arrangements that bite at your heels and diverting guitar lines and melodic passages that soothe and caress, the intentionally diverging sides to this album converge to somehow make for an ever more impactful uppercut to the jaw.

The opening salvo of “On The Shoulder Of Giants” and “End Of The Attention Span” really do make for a welt inducing one-two where metallic hooks pierce in deep through clever little backing vocal shouts and chorus lines. “Bubble” follows by showing this band’s aged experience, a pace altering judder-naught of stop start riffing possessing the intensity to lift you up and carry you on its shoulders. Cleverly, the carefully monitored diversity continues, “Do Wrong To None” adding an inner groove that truly bursts through, whereas “Lone Wolf” offers up a much less innately aggressive outlook. Add in the traditional gallop of “Never You Fret” to the atmospheric swirl of “Unfair” and Thin Lizzy twin guitar homage of “Bark, No Bite” and not at any point is your attention even vaguely interested in anything other than the engaging and clever performances on display.

Punching The Sky finds a veteran act in rich and rude health, it’s also a cracking, involving and thoroughly believable metal album of the sort that we hear all too infrequently these days. Intelligent and from the heart, Armored Saint are still doing what they do best and still doing it with a whole host more conviction than almost anyone else.

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