New roars and creative chapters: talking Armored Saint with Joey Vera

 armored-saint_photo04_Reputation Radio/RingMaster Review

  There is no doubting that the new album from Armored Saint was one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2015, and in turn no surprise certainly to fans, that it showed the band like all the best malts, just keener and more flavoursome over the years, simply better with age. Win Hands Down is a proposition distinctly Armored Saint but ripe with stirring invention and adventurous attitude aligned to maybe their most explosive craft yet. It is beast of a release which meant we did not have to be asked twice when given the opportunity to talk with the band about their new triumph. So with thanks to bassist Joey Vera, we looked in on the making of Win Hands Down, the new freedom seemingly flowing through songwriting and invention, the band in the modern metal scene and…

Hi Joey and many thanks for taking time out to talk with us.

Let’s get straight to the chase and talk about new album Win Hands Down which is deservedly earning strong acclaim since its recent release. Do you find you have the same emotions and excitement with each record you unleash or does it vary with each release and situation?

Yeah the feelings are generally the same. We’re very proud each time we finish a record. But must say this time the fallout is somewhat more electric I have to admit.

In regard to creating the album, Jon (Bush) was quoted on the albums press release as saying, “When we started work on this record, I said, ‘Let’s pretend we are a really big band and can do armored-saint_photo03_Reputation Radio/RingMaster Reviewwhatever we want’.” Now I find it hard to believe Armoured Saint as a band and as individual musicians would allow restrictions to deflect ideas and intentions or have thoughts of being anything less than a ‘big band’ creatively. So could you elaborate on what he meant and how you used it as a spark in the creation of Win Hands Down?

We’ve pretty much done our own thing this whole time. But we always have this reminder over our shoulder that there’s some kind of expectation from us. But I think we started to feel freer from that starting with La Raza. We feel more than ever that we can do whatever we really want. But let’s be frank, there are SOME confines that we live in, but it’s a matter of how much you are willing to elaborate from those confines. It takes balls to go outside a comfort zone and we felt like we had to go past that this time.

Did you approach the writing and recording of Win Hands Down with any major differences to how for example you made last album La Raza?

Not really. The bottom line with us in the past 10 years is, just write great songs. When we were younger we were more likely to be concerned with making some kind of impression. But that’s all out the window now. We have nothing to prove to anyone.

There is a freedom in the songwriting of the new album, a more adventurous bucking of expected structures in metal and heavy rock songs. This in turn gave it a bolder energy and unpredictability which was maybe less pronounced in its predecessor; something you would agree with?

Absolutely, again, we’re at a point where we need to push ourselves and see what we’re capable of. We get very tired and restless if we feel like we are not moving in a forward direction, for better or worse.

What primarily sparked this different intent and exploration in the writing of songs?

Maybe our age? We truly enjoy making music. But we have to create something that is interesting and fun for us first. Seems obvious when I say it, but it’s fun and exciting to take chances, and horribly boring playing it safe.

Cover_Reputation Radio/RingMaster ReviewThis freedom in exploration will be continuing in future releases we can assume such the potency it gave Win Hands Down?

Well I sure hope we continue to explore what we are capable of. Otherwise, time to hang it up.

How so does the songwriting process generally emerge within the band?

They last two records have pretty much been done by John and myself. There’s just some kind of snow ball effect that happens when the two of us start writing. It’s genuine and honest and the results are great, at least to us. We take contributions from the other guys of course but the shapes have to fit inside the puzzle. It can be difficult sometimes but the guys all know what’s right.

Were there any specific inspirations fuelling the lyrical side of the album and its tracks?

Well as John writes, some of it comes from a personal place and some it reads like fiction. But in either case John has written this one wearing his heart further down his sleeve than in the past. A lot of it hits home.

Going back to that freedom point, and I guess you have already answered this but I get the feeling that the band and again you all as individuals are now in a place where you primarily do, write, and create things for you rather than when expectations of others whether it be fans, labels etc.?

Ha, you’d think I’d read ahead on these questions but I didn’t. Yes, we have to please ourselves first. We are very fortunate that we have a loyal fan base and loyal support from our label that allows us to do this.

This also allows other projects and opportunities to fit in with the band’s ‘exploits’ without difficulties I assume?armored-saint_photo02_Reputation Radio/RingMaster Review

Managing our lives is tricky these days, no matter what.

Armored Saint has been a greedily devoured and potent proposition within metal since the early eighties and over three different ‘chapters’. I wonder though that even with all the thrilling and impressive releases you have given us, hi-energy quality shows you have played, that the band is the most relaxed with itself right now and subsequently blossoming even more creatively taking Win Hands Down as evidence?

Perhaps, we are in our golden years. We’re very tired of stressing the small stuff.

Where would you say the band has most dramatically changed since its early days?

Well I guess the fact that we are more at ease now, more than ever.

And where do you see Armored Saint in the landscape of metal today?

Just recently I began to think that we’ve always been on our own island and in the past, that bothered us a little. But now we love it and embrace it.

As mentioned you have been and are involved in numerous other projects and bands, would you say this has also played a big part in the evolution of the band’s sound and in your albums consistently having a fresh and modern feel whilst retaining that distinct Armored Saint sound?

Sure. I’ve become a better player and musician all around, largely due to all of the amazing musicians I’ve have the pleasure of being with. I learn so much from each guy I jam with, I listen and learn.

What is next for Armored Saints?

We will be playing some great shows the rest of this year and into 2016. We will be shooting a new video in late summer and more tour dates. A live DVD is also in discussion.

Big thanks again for chatting with us, any last words for the readers?

We must give thanks to our fans that have followed us since day one, and since they’ve come on board. We cannot do any of this without them. Thank you for coming with us.

Read our review of Win Hands Down @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/armored-saint-win-hands-down/

https://www.facebook.com/thearmoredsaint    http://www.armoredsaint.com/

Thanks to Andy at Metal Blade for arranging the interview.

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 19/06/2015

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Armored Saint – Win Hands Down

Photo byStephanieCabral

Photo byStephanieCabral

Some things are at their pinnacle straight away and some just get better and more potent with age. Taking Win Hands Down as evidence, Armored Saint is definitely one of the latter, the release for us the most inventive and exciting proposition from the LA band in a long time. The album has all the essential ingredients which have made Armored Saint one of the ‘unsung’ but generally devoured heavy metal propositions of the past three decades, but equally a fresh attitude of invention that explores ideas the band want to pursue rather than feeding expectations bred from previous offerings. The result is an album which has you rocking like a dog in heat.

It has been five years since the release of previous album La Raza, time that has seemingly seen vocalist John Bush, guitarist Jeff Duncan, bassist Joey Vera, and guitarist Phil Sandoval with brother and drummer Gonzo explore arguably even bolder ideas and imagination in songwriting and sound. Major departures are not rife within Win Hands Down but openly unpredictable and striking ideation lines the album to fine effect.

The album opens with its title track and a slab of prime Armored Saint persuasion which never gets tiring though this is one song which does feed expectations a touch. The song is an instant cauldron of rhythmic and energetic aggression, the band launching itself at ears with a sonic tail wind as things slip into place for a thumping stomp of an encounter. Things settle a touch as Bush with his ever alluring voice sets the song’s narrative and heart in motion. Fair to say, the frontman’s vocals have always been a major attraction for us, his Anthrax days seeing of the finest moments of that band with his rich and explosive tones at the helm, and his potency again lights things up here. The opener proceeds to rumble in ears and appetite until sparking the imagination with a melodic, almost spatial passage. It is a thoroughly engaging and intriguing moment, though for the main the track is a highly agreeable if, to go against the grain of other opinions, a little underwhelming. Simply it offers what you assume you will get from Armored Saints, a highly accomplished and enjoyable encounter, which of course is no bad thing either.

Cover_Reputation Radio/RingMaster Review     The core adventure really starts with Mess, the second song a bone shuddering barrage of rhythmic bait in its first breath and a volatile predator of ears thereafter. Gonzo Sandoval continues to sculpt a web of antagonistic and inventive rhythms whilst the bass of Vera snarls with every groove expelled. Riffs are equally as imposing and at times bestial in tone whilst the superb guitar enterprise and imagination shared by Duncan and Phil Sandoval mouth-watering, especially when adding some eastern mystique and melodic unpredictability into the mix. It is a treat of a song swiftly backed by An Exercise in Debauchery, a song about “people’s fascination with porn.” Thick basslines and spicy grooves collude with the rich roar of Bush, whilst drums revolve in aggressive and anthemic prowess. The tapestry of the song continues to get more involved and fascinating with every passing minute, samples and funk fed grooves amongst many things turning a potent rocker into a major pinnacle of the album.

Muscle Memory mellows the intensity and air of Win Hands Down a touch with its opening reflective power balladry, though in no time Bush is leading a powerhouse of sonic expression and rhythmic tenacity. The song continues to entwine elevated intensity and impassioned drama with calmer temptation, again as its predecessor and subsequent tracks, avoiding going down a more formula route of simply repetitious verse chorus etc. The creative freedom offering from that intent is as potent and exciting as the sounds sculpted within the album, and a quality explored further by the power metal predation of That Was Then, Way Back When. Like a muscle-bound stallion leaping from a race starting block, the song grumbles as it voraciously strides through ears, cantankerous rhythms flexing as carnivorous bass lines prowl with heavy incitement within the brew of creative hues cast by guitars and vocals over the song’s narrative.

Rock ‘n’ roll does not get much better, though it does get persistently replicated within Win Hands Down, as proven by the outstanding With a Full Head of Steam. Pop, rock, metal all collude for a fiery romp of a proposal, a rampant adventure energised further by the guest vocals of Pearl Aday which share the spotlight with Bush and co. The vocal union is a delicious success matched by the increasingly sublime enterprise of guitars and the contrastingly intimidating and animalistic qualities of bass and drums. The album’s title track is the lead song but as next single and enticement for the release, it has to be this gem of a thrilling persuasion.

Inspired by the Boston Marathon terrorist attack, In an Instant is an emotively fired and provocative proposal whilst Dive straight after provides a piano led, shadow blessed ballad, which from a lean opening evolves into a smouldering seduction of melodies and vocal reflection within a hug of evocative strings. Both songs take longer to inflame thoughts and passions but instil the album with further magnetic diversity and given attention become pungent proposals to increasingly and greedily devour.

The album finishes with Up Yours, a dirty and adversarial bruiser with punkish inhospitality but equally equipped with melodic imagination and sonic invention. Like it started, the album finishes with a strong and thoroughly enticing invitation impossible to turn down, but the prime creative meat and majorly exciting richness of Win Hands Down comes in between.

Surely destined to be acclaimed one of the heavy/melodic metal triumphs of the year, it feels like Armored Saint is entering a new creative chapter with this album whilst staking their place again at the fore of the metal scene.

Win Hands Down is available now via Metal Blade Records @ http://www.indiemerch.com/metalbladerecords/item/32456

https://www.facebook.com/thearmoredsaint   http://www.armoredsaint.com/

RingMaster 05/06/2015

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Chainfist – Scarred

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It is fair to say that Danish metallers Chainfist with their new album Scarred, has not ventured too far from the roaring core which made their debut album Black Out Sunday an acclaimed and greedily devoured storm. To that easily agreeable seed though, the quintet has found a bolder, fuller, and melodically driven freshness which makes second full-length and even stronger and gripping proposition. The release still wears the inspirations of thrash metal’s founding fathers openly and proudly on its sinew bulging sleeve but twists them into a new creatively exciting and voracious adventure.

Formed in 2007 by members who have the likes of Infernal Death, Epicenter, Panzerchrist, and Frozen Sun to their pedigree, Chainfist made their first major impression in their homeland and around Europe with Black Out Sunday in 2010, it gaining further recognition when the band signed a management deal with Rock N Growl two years later. It was a release making strong first impressions before growing to be an increasingly persuasive potential soaked thrill. Scarred makes the biggest impression right away, the band fulfilling the promise offered on their debut whilst building a more distinctive presence of sound and invention. There is still not a massive uniqueness about the release but with a melodic emprise and imaginative resourcefulness which inescapably captivates ears and emotions, the album stands as a thoroughly riveting and anthemically powerful proposition.

The Michael Hansen produced and Jacob Hansen (Primal Fear, Volbeat, Anubis Gate, Pretty Maids) mixed and mastered release swiftly grips ears and imagination with the start of opener Scars of time. A lone guitar within a chilled ambience offers a haunted and portentous yet inviting coaxing which soon opens up the door to rugged riffs and thumping beats. It is prime thrash antagonism which gets the blood running urgently through ears and emotions but also carries an infectious swing leading to a rampant chorus. In no time vocalist Jackie Petersen is driving the song to greater ferocity, his clean but welcomingly raw tones backed perfectly by group harmonies whilst the guitars of Michael Kopietz and Thomas Hvisel provide an abrasing and melodically bracing temptation to fire up the senses even more. It is an impressive if not startling start, in comparison to things to come, which sets the tone for the album perfectly.

1000 ways to bleed strides intimidatingly in next, the rhythms of drummer Jesper Heidelbach flirting with hostility whilst bassist Braca Pedersen provides a heavy compelling lure around which vocals and guitars cast their addictive ChainfistScarredCoverdesigns. Less aggressive than its predecessor in some ways and more intimidating in others, the track explores a melody rich but imposing scenery of invention and enterprise before making way for the outstanding Black rebel noise. A spicy groove wraps ears early on before the track finds a swagger to its punchy incitement. There is a definite Volbeat feel to the energy of the song whilst musically and vocally it is hard to look past Metallica and John Bush era Anthrax as references but the track soon develops its own contagious suasion to enslave body and passions.

Both Another day in hell and Poison moon keep the thrills and quality coming, the first bursting from an evocative stormy ambience coloured by a melodic caress of guitar and the continually impressing vocals of Petersen. It subsequently evolves into an emotive reflection which is at ease whether smouldering with melodic calm or raging with virulent hostility. Melodic meets classic heavy metal within a thrash bred predation the track is an unpredictable and impassioned blaze of sound and craft. Its successor goes for the jugular from the start, almost moving in reverse as it brings warm washes of melodies into its unrelenting tempest of intensity and ravenous riffery. It is a striking and richly pleasing provocateur but soon shaded by the next up 10.000. Prowling ears from the start with menacing riffs and brutal beats, the song stalks with tenacious vocals and sonic enticement, guitars spinning a caustic and infection soaked web to bind ears and thoughts. It is a glorious muscular anthem unafraid to explore its more devilish side through toxic addictive hooks and a scorching solo.

Know you hate similarly sets the heart afire with its ridiculously catchy temptation within an aggressive weave of riffs and rhythms. Volbeat again comes to mind whilst also thoughts of Disturbed make their suggestive hints from within the exhilarating slab of addiction. It is not quite matched by Seven minutes of pain, but the following song powerfully lays down a bordering on savage assault of riffs and rhythms which is prone to scythes of sonic intrigue and melodic radiance vocally and musically. It is another song where its infectiousness is irresistible for feet and voice, an aggressive provocative fuel for the passions.

Through the similarly structured and creative Statement, band and album reinforce their potent persuasion whilst Mass frustration provides the most intensive and volatile track on Scarred without neglecting the radiant melodic side of the invention running through the release. It is a powerful encounter which leaves ears on an agitated high for the final acoustic version of Black rebel noise to restore calm and peace to. It is an enjoyable and skilled end to the album but the meat is in the richly flavoursome meal of the previous songs.

Chainfist have moved their sound on to a striking new plateau with their album and it is easy to feel there is still more to come even as impressive as Scarred is. The album confirms the Danes as a major proposition in the making and a thrilling encounter of insatiable metal in the now.

Scarred is available now through Mighty Music @ http://www.amazon.co.uk/Scarred-Chainfist/dp/B00M9JLS06/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1412602534&sr=8-1&keywords=chainfist

http://www.chainfist.net/

RingMaster 07/10/2014

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Artillery – Legions

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With more charge to it than the national grid and stronger adrenaline fuelled rapaciousness than a swarm of ladies on day one of the sales, Legions the new album from Danish metallers Artillery unleashes a horde of riotous and rampant melodically sculpted furies. The album is a magnetic beast of enterprise and passion and one which takes the accomplished and acclaimed presence of the band to new heights.

To be honest the evolution from earlier releases from the Copenhagen hailing quintet is not as dramatic as you might anticipate but something has clicked within the band, whether it is the addition of new members or the finding of a certain element in their intent and songwriting, but where personal tastes could previously take or leave Artillery, Legions has sparked a definite hunger and compulsion for its exhaustive adventure. Formed in 1982 the band released four enthusiastically received and acclaimed albums before disbanding in 2000, for the second time. 2007 saw Artillery reform and release two years later When Death Comes, to be followed two years later by My Blood, both again earning success and acclaim. With a few changes across the years the current line-up  emerged last year with vocalist Michael Bastholm Dahl and drummer Josua Madsen joining founding members and guitarists Michael and Morten Stützer, and bassist Peter Thorslund who joined in 1989. Following a triumphant European tour this past May, the band entered the studio with producer Søren Andersen and what has emerged is a thrilling unrestrained ride of thrash soaked speed metal within an album which simply ignites the imagination.

The Metal Blade Records unleashed record opens with the intriguing entrance of Chill My Bones (Burn My Flesh). A tribalCover rhythmic coaxing is soon joined by a folkish dance, both aspects reserved yet wrapped in an eagerness which is hard to resist. It is not long before the song erupts into a blaze of sinew powered riffs and thumping rhythmic provocation whilst still leaving room for the initial beckoning to continue its call. Mere moments later and the band is rampaging through the ear with bass and drums adding a fiery predation aligned to the scorching of guitars whilst the immediately impressive vocals of Bastholm Dahl add their particular melodic flame to the proceedings. It is a magnetic onslaught which drips craft and imagination whilst chewing the senses like a rampant wolf.

The immense start is instantly continued through the following God Feather, the track taking over where its predecessor left off, riffs and rhythms a torrential provocation and contagious persuasion ridden by the outstanding clean and fluid vocals. Imagine Testament meets Flotsam and Jetsam with a healthy dose of John Bush led Anthrax and the track and album comes into view whilst offering plenty more for the appetite to breed a real hunger for. The song is a virulent anthemic lure matched by the exceptional title track. As with most the song gnaws on the senses from the start, riffs a corrosively seductive temptation punctured by the potent rhythmic antagonism of Madsen. With an almost waspish irritancy to its grooves and a swagger to its breath the track is a breath-taking blitz on ears and thoughts.

Both Wardrum Heartbeat with its stalking rabidity and Global Flatline through its inventively shifting and evolving raid of diverse metallic flavours reinforce the towering start; the second of the pair simultaneously unpredictable, enthralling, and expectations satisfying, a pinnacle to match the opening two songs whilst next up Dies Irae provides an unsurprising and safe but still riveting anthem all great speed metal conjuring requires. The guitar play of both Stützers is stunning across the album with this track and the following Anno Requiem open showcases, the pair’s ability to savage and seduce within a blaze of time irresistible.

It is fair to say that the album is not smashing down metal walls but as shown by the individual majesties of the epically sculpted melodically drenched Enslaved to the Nether and the sinister Doctor Evil, where menacing predacious riffs and enchanting sonic ingenuity hold hands as they rush the senses, Artillery rigorously embrace thoughts and emotions in a storm of adventure which stands side by side with some of the very best this year.

Closing with the Middle Eastern seeded insatiability of Ethos of Wrath, the song a sultry muscular temptress which excites in every aspect, Legions is a scintillating and arguably unexpected treat for ears and passions to indulge greedily in. It is also a release which just gets stronger with greater captivation the more sorties you take within its exceptional siege, right now Artillery is at the top of its explosive game.

http://www.artillery.dk/

9/10

RingMaster 27/11/2013

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Heart Attack – Stop Pretending

heart attack pic

It may have taken French metallers Heart Attack six years to unleash their debut album but the time was well spent honing their rapacious sound as Stop Pretending is one impressive and attention grabbing encounter. Consisting of ten mighty and finely sculpted aggressive provocations, the release instantly marks the band as one with a formidably promising future and an already accomplished and carnivorous enterprise.

Hailing from Cannes and formed in 2007 by schoolmates vocalist/guitarist Kevin Geyer and bassist Flora Capello, Heart Attack with guitarist Chris Cesari and drummer Chris Icard alongside the founding pair has built a strong reputation around the French Riviera through their mass of shows which has seen them play with bands such as Dagoba, Loudblast, The Arrs, Headcharger, Lolicon, Vetha, and Cliche Boys. 2009 saw the release of their Lullabies For Living Dead EP and though it is fair to say the release did not take their awareness far from home you can only suggest that the Apathia Records released Stop Pretending will amend that situation.

The promo labels the band as groove and thrash metal and though you have to agree with both suggestions there are other rich heart-attack-stop-pretending-webessences of sound ripe for use in their invention. The title track ravages the ear first, its intense riffs a heavy suasion on the ear backed up by the immediately impressive and continuing to thrill drum attack of Icard. Finding its muscular stride with a more thrash laden intent to its combativeness, the song barracks the senses with a tight acidic groove, throaty bass menace, and that already thoroughly compelling rhythm attack of the drums. Vocally Geyer grazes the ear with a strong and expressive delivery, one which reveals its ability to shift tact and attack as the album progresses along its sinewy course.

The adrenaline fuelled impressive start is immediately backed up by the following Face the Music. Emerging from a sample from Gladiator, the track rampages with the artillery of rhythms parading their irresistible might to instantly have knees buckling and a surge of intrusive riffing that leaves the appetite thoroughly awoken. Geyer mixes a death coated guttural attack with his cleaner delivery whilst the strings of Cesari dance with melodic flames trailing from their creative notes and narrative especially in a quite delirious solo. Primarily though the song is another piece of metallic rabidity that seizes and commands attention whilst employing neck and leg muscles in its predacious storm. As with a lot of the album it is fair to say boundaries are not being challenged in originality on the song but it is impossible to dismiss or refuse the craft and potent imagination at work.

The next up Sweet Hunting, which features Dagoba vocalist Shawter, again works its intensive charms on the passions with skilled antagonism and thought, its tsunami of crippling force merging with colourful enterprise. Like a mix of Machine Head, Hatebreed, and maybe John Bush era Anthrax, it is a blistering tempest of sonic danger and temptation, something you can equally apply to the likes of Lazarus and Raging Load too. There is surface chastisement across the album which does at times does blend tracks together if not paying attention but the rewards for that extra concentration are plenty and imaginative as shown by the again stunning guitar work across the first of these two songs and the rhythmic tsunami of excellent which especially makes its successor an incendiary proposition though the guitars again make their declaration openly clear. With the vocals again twisting in another dimension to their incitement the track stands out amongst numerous highlights.

If there is one niggle of the album it is that the fine bass craft and invention of Capello is often in the shadow of the rest of the sound. It is always there and you feel Capello’s presence throughout but sadly not always with enough clarity, though thankfully Down the Way is one song where she is allowed space to shine, and the lady can play as shown on further album pinnacles, 1902 which features William Ribeiro of Moghan Ra, and the scintillating and dirty Wasted Generation. Every song it should be said is a beast of a collision for senses and heart on this album, Thrash Your Neighbour especially savage and memorable, and leave only thorough satisfaction.

If Stop Pretending does as stated lack enough original inspiration to stand as a best of year contender it does stand as one of the better corrosive and inventively sculpted releases, one which for most is one formidable introduction to Heart Attack, a band we will hear a lot more of.

https://www.facebook.com/heartattackmetal

8.5/10

RingMaster 24/07/2013

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