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HARDWARES

ARMORED SAINT

La Raza

(Metal Blade)

Reviewed by : Robert Deutsch
Rating : 8.0

It may have been 10 years since the band’s last release, but if this weren’t already 2010 it might not be all that noticeable on Armored Saint’s comeback album, La Raza. Truth be told, it’s not too far off from 2000’s Revelation which waved the torch for the early Armored Saint sound anyway, despite its own gap in release from the early records. Sure, Armored Saint has been around for 28 years, but with plenty of inactivity; Vocalist John Bush was recruited by Anthrax for a few albums (and a long-running dilemma of Bush/Joey Belladonna Anthrax resurrections), and Armored Saint bassist Joey Vera went on to a fruitful career with Fates Warning and some slick, progressive solo material. In all the fracas, somewhere, Bush and Vera reconvened to create what would become Armored Saint's sixth full-length and fans can finally breathe an easy exhale. Though not a full-time, touring band like they once were, sadly, at least there are some new 'Saint tunes. Choosing to handle production and co-mixing duties for La Raza, Vera stuck with recording in analog, mixing down into analog and only utilizing ProTools as a means for taping the material, taking a back seat to its modern god-like status in recording studios (and mothers' basements) across the gamut. Talk about returning to the band’s roots. The best part? It pays off; there’s no noticeable conundrum between La Raza and when we last heard from Armored Saint. That’s probably why La Raza sounds like it could have swapped spots in the discography with the last few Armored Saint releases and not have missed much of a beat. ‘Left Hook From Right Field’ is just that: a vocal hook with supporting riffs and a fittingly catchy lead without redundancies, and while ‘Little Monkey’ might not be the best song title, it’s got great lyrics and the unmistaken Armored Saint signature sound. Throw in the surprisingly bass-heavy, mid-paced plodding of ‘Chilled’ and it mixes up the formula but still sounds undeniably ‘Saint. Either way, Bush’s introspective lyrics are surprisingly strong throughout and only complimented by heartfelt efforts from longtime cohorts Gonzo Sandoval (drums), Jeff Duncan, and Phil Sandoval (guitars) in both harmonization and tasteful aggression. Ultimately, Vera’s own words of “not attempting to reinvent any wheels here” are dead on -- the 10 tracks are undeniably Armored Saint and melodic, but that doesn’t mean La Raza can’t be chalk full of solid songwriting and stellar performances. Quite the opposite, in fact: It is.



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