Album Review: Armored Saint – Win Hands Down

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It’s been five years since Armored Saint released a new album. The wait will be over soon though with Win Hands Down set to release in less than a month. There are certain bands and albums that appear in your inbox that immediately puts a smile on your face, this is one of them, perks of the job and all that.

The title track opens and from the start the powerful riffs are in full flow. Upbeat chord progressions and lyric patterns keep the atmosphere light. The mix of metal and hard rock is also on display right away with the driving drums getting an early air drum moment in. A strange proggy jazzy section comes out of nowhere in the middle, you almost expect Akerfeldt to weigh in before it’s back to the rock.

This is the first example of the disjointed nature of the album, disjointed in a good way though. Vera said he wanted to avoid being tied down to a typical song structure and it shows. Mess is similar with Sitars getting added to the mix, they’re only short sections, but it makes a song more memorable.

There is a plethora of catchy choruses, hooks and repeated chants for the audience to latch on to. Gigs will no doubt be full of shouts of “annihilate” (find me a metal crowd who doesn’t want to shout that over and over), “Muscle Memory,” “Up Yours!” and more.

While Bush’s lyrics explore various avenues, from the world’s apparent obsession with porn through to the Boston marathon bombing, and while these lyrics themselves span verses, bridges and all manner of different sections, the choruses are simple enough for an audience of any language to learn and sing along with. It’s the sign of a good chorus when you can sing along by the end, though good luck predicting when the chorus is going to hit.

Video for Win Hands Down

The rock metal combination is a special one. The traditional metal guitar leads in tracks like An Exercise in Debauchery leading into a hard rock tinged verse is a sound that is not often heard and as such makes Armored Saint the unique being it is. It’s also another example of Vera’s mission in escaping the standard structure, by the time you get to the end of track three (Debauchery), you’ve had an albums worth or riffs and melodies.

While some tracks take the rock approach, others like That Was Then, Way Back When has the classic metal galloping stomp supporting it (and also has a ripper of a solo). Then you have tracks like With a Full Head of Steam which features a beat that’s crying out to be the theme tune to some car racing TV show, and also features a short duet with a female lead. In An Instant pulls back the tempo and adds a darker tone to the tone, before ramping the speed back up.

Despite not typically being a ballad fan, the piano driven Dive turns out to be one of the strongest tracks on the album, though I don’t think I’ve heard the word derriere in a song before. Up Yours brings the album to a close with a light hearted message of up yours to seemingly everyone going.

Despite the effort it takes not to spell Armored Saint, “Armoured” (you Americans and your hatred of “u”), Win Hands Down was a fully enjoyable experience start to finish. Fifty minutes can be a bit long for some albums, but with the amount of things going on from the hundreds of riffs, licks and drum beats to the big choruses and the twisting song structures, it doesn’t drag; in fact you’ll probably be surprised that the time has shot past so quickly.

4/5

Win Hands Down is out June 2nd, 2015 via Metal Blade. Like the band on Facebook for more.

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