It’s very exciting to have new music from Armored Saint. There’s a great deal of chemistry and talent in the ranks and John Bush’s superior voice is always a draw. I’d like to see them do well and get the credit they deserve and, with their seventh album Win Hands Down, they seem to be getting some long overdue sales and recognition.
Initial spins were very exciting. There’s a real feeling of Rock history running through the whole thing. There are hints of Thrash, Alternative, burly Classic Rock groove and inventive Prog Rock twists and turns. The variation adding exciting colour to the band’s time-honoured muscular, melodic Metal. It’s the sound of a vintage band aging well. Win Hands Down opens the album with one of their best songs to date, a superb driving Rocker. And Mess is steely, massive and skilfully arranged. Armored Saint sound like they’re giving it their all. John Bush, in particular, is on peak form. No mean feat considering his track record.
But the Saints don’t totally conquer. The album hits a lull in its second half. With A Full Head of Steam and In An Instant are both curiously forgettable and the sultry Dive, although good, isn’t the kind of song to set things back on track. Some of the better songs are hobbled by weak lyrics too. They’re aiming for the raconteur character of lyricists like Lynott or Mogg but they don’t have the same skill or personality and end up hitting out with clumsy, cringe-inducing lines like “I even gave you your own unique rriinngg” and “He never killed anyone but he hurt somebody’s feelings once”. Even Bush’s can-sing-the-phone-book voice can’t save songs from clunkers like that.
Ultimately Win Hands Down is solid and well-performed but forgettable. If you don’t mind the wise-cracking lyrical personality of the album you might find plenty to enjoy here but it fails to connect emotionally with me. With repeat listens I’ve found myself losing interest in the album which is a shame as a few songs find the band at their very best. Plenty of people seem to be enjoying it more than me so I’m pleased for the band and their success. I just wish I had been more won over by it. Hopefully they can deliver something more up my street next time.