Released By Metal Blade Records
Release Date October 23nd, 2020
Genre Heavy Metal
Joey Vera – Bass
John Bush – Vocals
Phil Sandoval – Guitars
Gonzo Sandoval – Drums
Jeff Duncan- Guitars
1. Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants
2. End Of 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
During an interesting and rich of topics discussion with Joey Vera back in July 2019, the legendary bassist of Armored Saint and Fates Warning has promised me that the long awaited eighth album of Armored Saint will be amazing. After listening to “Punching The Sky”, I am extremely glad he has kept his word, even though I didn’t have any personal doubts on the matter. In a world that has been suffering from the tragic pandemic, the legendary five piece from Los Angeles, California has offered another great musical gift to the Heavy Metal world.
Despite their almost four decades of career, Armored Saint has released a small number of studio albums. It is widely known that there has been almost a decade of inactivity of the band following the tragic loss of original guitarist Dave Prichard. During that time, the band members have focused themselves on other projects and after their reunion in 1999, they have been acting more as a group of friends playing music, rather than a profit-focused entity. In fact, they have never been confined by any formulas or genres, hence they have created their own sound and style which is easily recognizable by any Heavy Metal fan. Furthermore, their main target is to express themselves artistically in the best way possible and to fully enjoy themselves with their musical creations.
Armored Saint is a solid Heavy Metal band composed by five extremely talented musicians which has given birth to material of major quality through the years. They have always put high standards for what their studio work and live acts are concerned. I consider myself lucky to have attended to their full potential-live performance twice in the last three years. After “Win Hands Down” and five years of absence of new material, “Punching The Sky” has finally been released and it undoubtedly satisfies the listener’s expectations.
“Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants” gives an interesting start to the record. A folk style intro in company of an acoustic guitar melody is followed by a punchy drum session. The dynamic of the song is quickly enhanced by the unique vocals of John Bush and the exceptional shredding work. The catchy chorus also includes the title of the album among the lyrics. The melodic parts are perfectly combined with the expressive guitar solos in a mid tempo track, which doesn’t lack in its dynamics . “End Of Attention Span” gives a faster pace to the album, from the strong drum intro to the powerful vocals, the lead guitar melodies and solos. The memorable chorus gives the major strength to the song.
“Bubble” hits with industrial overtones, progressive bridges and melodies in a general slower speed, but with a great harmony between the instruments. The guitar work has the first role in this song and it’s a demonstration of the great interplay between the duo of Phil Sandoval and Jeff Duncan. The unusual but solid and reassuring vocal performance of John Bush gives an ulterior touch on the quality and the dynamics of the song. “My Jurisdiction” kicks with a throbbing but sad bass line of Joey Vera and it evolves in a funky style riff and a screaming solo. Furthermore, John Bush overcomes his vocal boundaries, showing that he hasn’t lost a percentage of his power and range through the years. The following “Do Wrong To None” features a marching drum intro and a thrash riffing section, which fall into a typical Armored Saint chorus and an exceptional guitar soloing. “Lone Wolf” basically consists in a heavy melodic ballad, which shows the band’s big versatility in songwriting. This track stands out as a proof the great abilities of Gonzo Sandoval in rhythmic drumming. Even though the pace varies a lot between the songs, it doesn’t play any negative influence on the record’s flow. It gives a strong advantage to the album, meanwhile the listener doesn’t know what to expect next.
The Armored Saint machine runs at full speed with “Missile To Gun”, which could be considered the absolute highlight of the album. It consists in a piece of exceptional team work, with an immediate energetic effect on the listener. The huge potential of the vocals, the power metal style guitar solo in combination with the punchy drumming take this track to the next level. The following “Fly In The Ointment” gives a moment of rest with its slower and more melodic rhythm. The variety of “Punching The Sky” continues with “Bark, No Bite” with a more classic rock touch and an exceptional job by the guitar duo of the band. “Unfair” is a slow song enriched with acoustic melodies which fall into a mid tempo section at the final part. The record is concluded by the fast and solid “Never You Fret” with an intro that sees Gonzo Sandoval playing an American Indian flute. The final track gives a triumphant ending to the album: as John Bush affirms in the chorus “We always bring the house down”!
Last but not least, a special mention is referred to the discreet but precise interventions of Dizzy Reed with keyboard textures throughout the songs of “Punching The Sky”. This could be considered as one of the novelties in the Armored Saint sound.
With their latest release, Armored Saint have established themselves as a solid guarantee of excellent musicianship and songwriting in the Heavy Metal scene.“Punching The Sky” is an album that covers the band’s well known attitude, which consists in writing really good music in
a team work with a big dose of grit and melody, while maintaining their own signature sound through the songs. The American band definitely improve themselves with age and they still manage to confirm their reputation in the Heavy Metal world.
Written by: Katerina Paisoglou
My Global Mind – Staff Writer