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Armored Saint: La RazaArmored Saint: La Raza
Metal Blade Records

Armored Saint's La Raza a 'Nod to the Old School'

There's something to be said for familiarity. Putting on a worn pair of jeans, going back to the old neighborhood, it just feels "right." The same can be said of Armored Saint's latest album, La Raza.

Plenty comfortable with its old-school sound, Armored Saint's first record of entirely new songs in a decade starts off with "Loose Cannon," which features ripping guitars and vocalist John Bush's trademark gritty delivery, similar to the band's 1984 classic, "March of the Saint."

Joined by bandmates Joey Vera on bass, Jeff Duncan on guitar, and the Sandoval brothers, Gonzo and Phil on drums and guitar, respectively, Bush continues the vintage vibe on most of La Raza, including the mid-tempo "Head On," and the rocker "Little Monkey."

Lyrically, this release finds Armored Saint having plenty to say on personal and religious issues. On "Left Hook From Right Field," Bush takes issue with those that believe their way of worship is the only way to eternal peace in heaven. On "Chilled," the vocalist seems to confront the realities of middle age, with a musical backdrop to match the title.

Despite the throwback vibe, however, Armored Saint has learned some new tricks and they bring a fresh dynamic to the band's sound in 2010.

The title track is the most progressive cut on the album and possibly in the group's career. Opening with some ethnic percussion, the song launches into a bombastic riff leading to a more melodic chorus. With a thrashy instrumental section in the second half, "La Raza" is certainly one of Armored Saint's most diverse and experimental songs.

"Vintage," however, is clearly the descriptive term that best fits Armored Saint's latest offering, including how it was recorded. The band utilized only analog gear when laying down tracks, with the final masters of the album being placed on a one-inch tape reel. The result is a layered and rich sound that audiophiles should fine immensely rewarding.

If there is a knock on La Raza, it's the album's number of tracks. One would think that Armored Saint could come up with more than just 10 songs, especially since the band's last release was 2001's Nod to the Old School (which itself was mostly re-recordings of the group's older material). In this case, however, La Raza shows that it's indeed the quality, not the quantity that counts.

- Brian Heaton

Copyright 2010, Brian Heaton. All Rights Reserved.