Classic. This word can mean a lot of different things to people. It is also a subjective term since it is usually used with a time stamp context. To me, the word classic is used to actually exemplify something that is timeless. Things that are classic defy being dated because it’s not about a fad, style, fashion, or other fly by night irrelevance. It’s about substance, true talent, and sticking to your guns. Speaking of fashion (the word itself makes me cringe); have you noticed how skulls/bones type imagery is very “in” right now? The same douche bags who would never have been caught sporting such stuff a few years ago are now draped in such images because it’s “cool” and “hip”. It’s all part and parcel with following trends, being told how to look/act, mass consumption, quick disposal, having no identity, and being clueless about short-term and long-term history. I promise that this rant will have relevance further into this piece. This past weekend I picked up the brand new Armored Saint C D and on Saturday night I listened to it from front to back, alone, and had the greatest time. There are so many things to be said about this record, but the one word that best describes it is “classic”.
Armored Saint has been around since the early 80’s and have a very rich and interesting history. They were predicted to be a huge success story of the Los Angeles Metal scene back in the day and had a young and up-coming band called Metallica opening for them at various shows. A string of records were released on a major label deal with Chrysalis Records, but the band was an anomaly on said label. Chrysalis didn’t know what to do with a “Metal” band. With virtually no promotion, the band never exploded as they were predicted to do. Yet, every record that they put out was a high quality product. Five guys with incredible talent and song writing prowess. The golden throat of John Bush cannot be touched. His voice is the epitome of timeless. No surprise that he would be asked by Metallica to be their singer in Metallica’s early years when James Hetfield was not interested or confident in his vocal abilities. In fact, to this day I personally feel that James tries hard to pull off some John Bush, but fails miserably. And equally unsurprising would be when Anthrax recruited John Bush to sing for them for a long string of very successful records. When JB joined Anthrax, it catapulted that band into territories that they had never charted. John Bush’s vocals would defy Anthrax’s Thrash Metal roots and added a whole new dynamic and dimension to their sound. Sadly, in 1990, D ave Prichard (guitar) would pass away due to a battle with leukemia. The band pulled in long time friend Jeff D uncan of Odin fame and released their “Symbol Of Salvation” record in tribute to their fallen friend and band-mate. This is the time that JB would join Anthrax. It seemed that The Saint was over. Joey Vera (bass) would also go on to many other projects – Fates Warning, also a stint in Anthrax, Engine, OSI, and Seven Witches. Jeff D uncan also has his own band called D C4. Fast forward eight years and the Saint boys would come together to write, record, and release “Revelation”. I saw them on the “Revelation” tour at Fitzgerald’s here in Houston . Once again though the Saint would go dormant. John Bush had a falling out with Anthrax. Anthrax screwed John over, but he was nothing less than a class act about the whole thing. To this day, the entire Metal community knows how great a guy John is and how un-cool Anthrax treated him. It would only be so fitting that Anthrax would come crawling back to John in the last few years and he would have to politely pass. John took a major break from music and would concentrate his time and energy on his wife and children. There’s so much more to tell about this great band from a historical perspective, but I want to get to the new record. It’s been ten years since “Revelation” came out and thank our lucky stars that John Bush and Joey Vera came together to write some tunes and put the great Armored Saint back together for a new record. It’s called “La Raza”.
When I brought “La Raza” home, I first noticed the very un-Metal packaging. A white cover of a busy street corner with blurry images and birds flying. I wondered if the tunes would be more calm and mellow. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t want to put my expectations too high. I nestled into the couch, put the C D in the stereo, and set the volume at 12. Right out the gate, the boys impressed me thoroughly. Every song on the record is simply genius. I found myself over come with happiness almost to the point of tears. Heavy, but not in a “Metal” way. Beautiful. Uplifting. Inspiring. Anthemic. Soaring. Catchy. Upbeat. A really fun album. It’s just a fantastic Rock record with extremely well-crafted songs. Joey Vera wrote all the music and JB wrote all the lyrics. Joey also produced and co-engineered the record. Sonically it is very pleasing. The tones on all the instruments are awesome. The dual guitar solo’s of Jeff D uncan and Philip Sandoval just shred. Gonzo is such a solid drummer and is tight and in the pocket. He does some really cool double bass licks on this record. But it is John Bush that bastes the record in his glorious vocal harmony and melody and steals the show. He is the greatest male vocalist ever. That’s right…I said it. John Bush sings his ass off and nobody does it better. I have nothing but copious amounts of respect and admiration for these guys. In a time where being “bad” is heralded, these guys are the opposite. Armored Saint are “good” guys. Talented, mature, nice guys. They could have easily jumped on a trend and made an album that sounds like everybody else, but they didn’t. They remained true to themselves first and fore-most and to their loyal fans. They have created yet another timeless classic that will not go out of style and be thrown away in exchange for the next soulless fad. True staying power…30 years and still here making great music that would put most new bands to shame. Thank you John, Joey, Jeff, Philip, and Gonzo for another masterpiece that will be enjoyed for years and years to come. I read in a recent interview when John was asked if they will be touring in support of “La Raza” and he said “it has to be right”. John isn’t interested in playing little clubs to 50 people. He’s beyond that. Not in a conceited way. He’s in a different place. He’s older and wiser and has a family. I totally understand what John is saying and thus I implore all the loyal Armored Saint fans and appreciators to mobilize. Let’s get a buzz going. Let’s band together and show how much we love these guys. Let’s show them that we’ll come out in droves to see the mighty Saint. Even if they only do a few shows in a few major cities, let’s make them the best shows ever. It would be just pure majesty to see Armored Saint on stage again.