ARMORED SAINT
"La Raza"

(Metal Blade)

01. Loose Cannon
02. Head On
03. Left Hook from Right Field
04. Get Off the Fence
05. Chilled
06. La Raza
07. Black Feet
08. Little Monkey
09. Blues
10. Bandit Country

RATING: 7.5/10

Ten years since "Revelation" was released and it still doesn't seem like a shock that ARMORED SAINT finally got around to releasing new album "La Raza". The band has always been out there somewhere, though with higher degrees of profiles up through 1991's "Symbol of Salvation", and as long as John Bush is around you just know he'll eventually find time to release an album by his first love and it will be welcomed with open arms. It is shocking to think that it is only the band's sixth studio album though. Regardless, "La Raza" was worth the wait. It is another album that is distinctly 'SAINT and distinctly Bush.

The short of it is that "La Raza" is a good ARMORED SAINT album and one that continues to ride the edge between hard rock and song-centric heavy metal with all those little Bush-isms sprinkled about. By that I mean that the album is filled with his unique melody/vocal patterns and general style of songwriting, inclusive of that familiar inflection, the way he emphasizes certain words, and the overall feeling one gets that this is the one vehicle at Bush's disposal where he truly gets to express himself. That's also the reason his vocals sound so vibrant and fresh, belying his age in fact.

As for the songs of "La Raza", it is a mostly successful affair, a little bloating and a few spots that drag notwithstanding. The first three songs in particular — "Loose Cannon", "Head On", and "Left Hook from Right Field" — shine the brightest, thanks to the thick, riff-based approach, rock solid rhythms (with Joey Vera again adding a measure of distinction with his bass playing), and the patented way Bush's melodies really sink in after the second or third listens. Of the three, "Head On" packs the biggest metallic punch.

The remainder of the album showcases more variety in the arrangements and a few twists; most of which works well and some of which doesn't impress much one way or the other. While the swampy southern-ish hard rock of "Black Feet", the stutter step and shuffle of "Bandit Country", and tribal drum, funky bass flourishes, and groovy jam riffing of the title track spice up the proceedings effectively, "Get off the Fence" and "Blues" leave little in the way of lasting impressions. The straight-rockin' drive of "Little Monkey", with more of those distinctly Bush patterns, and the moody flow of "Chilled" succeed in regaining momentum and leaving one appreciative of ARMORED SAINT's return.

"La Raza" leaves no doubt as to the continued relevance of ARMORED SAINT and while it doesn't always knock the socks off, it is demonstrative of the band's talent and unwavering dedication to its craft. Waiting another 10 years for the next album is not a preferred choice, but holding one's breath for a quicker follow up is not advisable.

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