Armored Saint

La Raza

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    8
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This is Armored Saint's first album in a decade, but it doesn't sound that way. The L.A.-based hard rock/metal quintet, whose lineup has remained remarkably consistent since 1982, have written ten songs that hold their own with the best from their five previous albums. They're not trying to out-heavy younger bands; they're doing what they've always done, but they're also willing to acknowledge their age and the knowledge and awareness time has brought them. The bluesy guitar solo on the lyrically mature "Chilled" picks up where their cover of Robin Trower's "Day of the Eagle," on the demos-and-leftovers compilation Nod to the Old School, left off. There's also a tinge of Latin music, acknowledging the background of the Sandoval brothers, who play guitar and drums in the group -- from the "Low Rider"-like cowbell that opens the album, to the percussion and almost Santana-esque bassline of the stretched-out, near-seven-minute title track. On that song as well as "Bandit Country," the guitar solos are heavily psychedelic in a way that's reminiscent of Jane's Addiction's Dave Navarro. There are some retro touches here and there on La Raza, including Mellotron on "Head On" and a female chorus on the title track, but this is, for the most part, a somewhat classicist metal record. There are no concessions made to listeners who don't like cranked guitars, thundering drums, and raw-throated, soulful vocals. The one thing this album does best is make the case that John Bush should never have wasted his time fronting Anthrax when he could have been making killer metal with his first -- and vastly superior -- band.

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