A full ten years after “Revelation” had hit the streets, Californian ARMORED SAINT are back with a new effort, titled “La Raza”, with which they seem to want to try to kick their career back into motion, even though it is always a very tricky undertaking, if you come back after such a long time. At the same time, the fans are kind of used to this, since there were four years between “Raising Fear” and “Symbol Of Salvation”, then another nine to “Revelation” and as mentioned now ten to “La Raza”, so I guess we have to rather commend them for not giving up after all this time, right?
Now if you are an avid follower of the band’s Power Metal beginnings, then “La Raza” might be somewhat of a disappointment, since the Metal edge has definitely taken a step back in favour of a more mature sound that edges more towards Rock than the riff-oriented songs from the past, while still maintaining several ties to their previous efforts, namely the excellent and distinct voice of John Bush and the bluesy touches that had found their way into the band’s sound with the last album, same goes for the Latin feel that some of the compositions bear in them, a legacy to the roots of the Sandoval brothers, as well as Joey Vera, I am pretty sure.
Opener “Loose Cannon” is upbeat and has this irresistible energy that will sweep you with it, again more with a Rock edge than Metal, but an excellent start to reel the listener into ARMORED SAINT’s sixth album. John Bush’s voice will always be something that will set AS apart from the other bands, which is a huge asset these days, and even though “Head On” definitely fully crosses over into the realm of Rock, with some modern undertones, his voice is what ties it in with the rest of the band’s back catalogue.
I can see, though, how a “Left Hook From Right Field” can take some listeners by surprise and cause furrowed brows with its more modern Rock approach, same goes for the more grooving “Get Off The Fence” that doesn’t really offer much in terms of hooks that would keep you coming back for more. But not all of the more unusual elements utilized on “La Raza” are potential turn-offs, for example “Chilled” surprises with clean guitars and a very straight-forward and catchy chorus that just has so much feeling that you can’t help but being drawn in.
“La Raza” definitely is not one thing: An easily accessible album, despite its catchiness, because the way many of the songs are structured, they seem bulky at first and will require some time to open up, one prime example being the title track that combines huge catchiness, Latin influences and strong riffing with at times almost progressive seeming rhythms, but especially the way they incorporate the Latino percussion makes this song a very interesting piece of work.
Unfortunately the following duo of “Black Feet” with its strong Blues and Funk influence and “Little Monkey” and its simplistic riff that reminds me more of some Punk Rock bands than a band that should have made it big in the Eighties, can’t keep up the momentum and to me seem a little bit like that big branch that you didn’t see while running through the forest and appears out of nowhere, knocking the air out of you.
Overall “La Raza” is not a bad album by any means, but it is treading treacherous waters by showing a strongly matured band that while keeping some ties to their past, seem to have left much of the sound behind that had made ARMORED SAINT what they were – a semi-legend in the US style of Power Metal – to show a very versatile group of musicians, which may have versatiled themselves out of favour with many of their old fans and to win over the new ones it going to be hard, because people are going to connect the name of ARMORED SAINT with their old sound, not really enticing newbies to check them out instead.
(Online April 23, 2011)