Armored Saint – La Raza (Metal Blade Records)

Monday, 18th March 2013
Rating: 9/10

If ever a group of California musicians felt trapped in genre limbo, it would be the mighty Armored Saint. Coming to the forefront of a scene in the early to mid-1980’s with a sound very powerful yet too heavy for the glam rockers nor not heavy enough for the burgeoning thrash maniacs, they would gain critical acclaim and a fervent buzz in mainland Europe, yet struggle to make much headway in the USA.

Following the loss of guitarist Dave Prichard to leukemia, the 90’s would see Symbol of Salvation mark a last ditch hope for ascension to the big leagues. Which oddly enough occurred for vocalist John Bush- sliding into the Anthrax vocal slot for over a decade, giving the group some more grit to their sound. Meanwhile, bassist Joey Vera established himself as a veritable artist for hire in groups like Fates Warning and Seven Witches, plus producing a number of acts through the years.

La Raza is the group’s sixth studio album, 10 years removed from Revelation and it’s clear that these guys know their craft, creating hook-laden power heavy metal with equal inspiration from the past and present. To me songs like “Loose Cannon” and “Left Hook From Right Field” have that timeless essence- you can feel the heart and soul that the band bleeds metal through and through. “Get Off The Fence” has that Guns N Roses “Rocket Queen” groove swagger in the main riff- while the solo section would make Michael Schenker-led UFO so proud.

The star of the album has to be John Bush. I’ve always admired his harmony exploits, his dark clean delivery as well as the high range screams- all firing at ten on a slower, moodier cut like “Chilled” while the latter normal spitfire mannerisms come out on “Little Monkey.”

Early contender for my album of the yearLa Raza intertwines their entire discography with progressive sensibilities, along with a robust, full production. By the time I hit the sleazy “Bandit Country” closer, this critic hopes we can get a follow up about seven years sooner than their current output pace.

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