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Thursday, March 18, 2010

REVIEW: Armored Saint (US) - La Raza (2010)

Armored Saint La Raza

Armored Saint's been one of my favorite bands for several years, not perhaps reaching quite to say, top-5 list, but quite well placed, nevertheless. While they're not the most heaviest and flashy band around, they've managed to impress with catchy melodies and certainly have their unique style, not to mention classy guitar-work (especially old albums with Dave Pritchard, R.I.P 1990). Armored Saint have managed to combine more mellow and rocking L.A scene sound on their songs with decent amount of pure heaviness, catchy melodies and flashy guitar solos, which were especially top notch at the times when Dave was still alive and playing (not to say they haven't been good afterwards, too). The newer direction of the band has been rather more laid back and matured, perhaps "chilled" even, than more flashy appearances earlier on. Ironically, this album even has a song called "Chilled" which quite much sums up the overall feeling of "La Raza", compared to previous albums... even to Revelation.

Revelation (2000) featured slightly more groove oriented and more modern sound compared to earlier album Symbol Of Salvation (1991) and prior to that, thus, making me think that Revelation started a whole new era in Armored Saint career. I enjoyed that album quite a bit, though, because it still kept bottom heaviness in riffs and sounded metal at it's core generally, with bluesy/groovy touch. It had some memorable melodies and songs. Revelation was a good, more "matured" and bottom-heavy by it's sound album compared to 1991 and prior to that, it was more modern, but not 'modern metal' per se. Still, it lacked some 'wildness' in the band's spirit and instrumental playing, which was to be found on their releases on early career. But it wasn't close to any -core subgenre of the metal, which I truly would dislike. It was just honest, pure... metal.

La Raza continues the natural new-era Armored Saint sound progression towards more laid-back and bluesy metal sound. It's almost a bit like they've made slightly "watered down" version of Revelation with bit more radio-friendliness. La Raza features quite groove-laden, chilled, and bit more laid-back feeling, that I occasionally enjoy with Revelation album, but this time they have perhaps toned down flashy melodies and heaviness a bit too much, going over the line. Overall, this release is a little bit too rock oriented and softer offering, than Revelations, and it just doesn't quite stand up against pre-Revelation era material, or even Revelation.  It's too bad, because you can still hear the good musicianship of band members on the record, and i'd love to enjoy this one, but La Raza doesn't just fully deliver. Jeff Duncan and Phil Sandoval are very skilled guitarists, but they don't quite get to show their skills in La Raza. Vera's thick bass-sound and his playing is nice to hear though. John Bush is still a good singer with his sort of a "neutral", rather deep middle-range vocals with certain amount of roughness combined. Bush's vocals don't have that much range, but his mixture of shouting and singing the vocals work very well, and on top of that the man has very charismatic voice. Gonzo Sandoval is one mean drummer, but again, the material doesn't allow him to show off that much. Just check him on Symbol Of Salvation album in 1991! La Raza falls short, not on musicianship, but on compositions and style. They've tried to mature their sound perhaps too much, at least for my taste.

That being said, La Raza as it's own record isn't a bad one, it's just a bit too mediocre and lacks final kick featured on previous album(s). There's good parts here and there but it all doesn't come together. I think, that songwriting and riffs should be heavier and stronger to make this more memorable and headbang-worthy album. There are songs on La Raza, that I enjoy decently listening every now and then, though this record is far off from deserving a regular spin in my record-player. Laid back matured sound of it has it's place to be playing in the background, while having a beer or two. Problem with La Raza is, that when a song starts, you get a feeling that song starts out nicely, and you're left there hanging and asking for more power, but the band never presses gas pedal, thus it never happens. Compared, to say, Megadeth's discography, I find this album being Armored Saint's "Cryptic Writings", more laid back yet decently enjoyable effort, certainly not sucky like Risk, but certainly not very good like Peace Sells either. La Raza is a slight "grower" and some songs have potential value to be included in your playlists for a change every now and then.

Stand out tracks are mostly the first four tracks (Loose Cannon, Head On, Left Hook From Right Field, Get Off The Fence), and after that the album switches gear into more soft and experimental. Despite it's flaws, this is kind of an album that I might give a spin once in a while, when I'm in the mood for something not so fast and heavy, but more matured and bluesy metal.

+Great musicianship, fits to certain mood, enjoyable
-Too laid back, lacks heaviness, too rock to be full blooded metal

70 | reviewer: dungeoncrawler

  • John Bush - Vocals
  • Phil Sandoval - Guitars
  • Jeff Duncan - Guitars
  • Joey Vera - Bass, Guitars, Vocals (backing)
  • Gonzo Sandoval - Drums, Vocals (backing)

  • 1. Loose Cannon 05:46
  • 2. Head On 05:06
  • 3. Left Hook From Right Field 05:31
  • 4. Get Off The Fence 04:48
  • 5. Chilled 05:02
  • 6. La Raza 06:41
  • 7. Black Feet 05:07
  • 8. Little Monkey 04:45
  • 9. Blues 03:32
  • 10. Bandit Country 05:16
    • Total playing time 51:55


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