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Punching The Sky – Armored Saint

The ongoing legacy of Armored Saint and their status as one of the greatest classic metal bands of all time seems to be reevaluated with every release the band offers. From their 1983 EP and 1984’s March Of The Saint to this Punching The Sky release, Armored Saint has been dishing out wickedly great songs to remain one of metal’s most consistent and dependable bands. As a fan that got interested in this band at the very beginning of their history, I have come to expect all the elements of a classic heavy metal record each and every time. There’s never a shortage of thunderous drums, creative bass lines, crunching riffs, and wailing guitar solos on any Armored Saint record, and Punching The Sky is no different. On top of all of those classic metal tools you have one of the most impressive vocalists in the history of metal music. John Bush has been adding muscle and might to Armored Saint’s brand since the very beginning. He left the band to beef up Anthrax for a number of years, but he returned to his Armored Saint family without ever losing a step. The title is Punching The Sky, but Bush’s vocal fist plants itself right in your gut after it punches you square in the face.

As Saint’s frontman, Bush captains the ship with his powerful tone and brilliant phrasing and lyrics, but the vessel wouldn’t get far from shore without the crew mates he has next to him on deck. Armored Saint is still working with all of its original members, with the exception of their fallen comrade, guitarist Dave Prichard. When Prichard was lost to leukemia in 1990, the band eventually hired Jeff Duncan on, and he remains part of the brotherhood. That cohesive bond between band members has never been more evident than it is on this album. Bassist Joey Vera and drummer Gonzo Sandoval bounce and grind through these songs like they are cogs in some giant metal music machine; the teeth of each guy fitting together perfectly as they churn out the bottom end. There are a number of songs where I find myself grooving to the drum rhythm and following the bass line around like it’s a tour guide. In the song “Bubble” I sit and wait for Vera’s bass to do this little cascading thing at the end of the second verse. It’s the highlight of the track for me. Then you have Gonzo’s intricate and complex cymbal work in “My Jurisdiction” that adds so much texture and flavor to the song. We also get Gonzo bringing a little bit of the Native American flavor of his Black Raven side project into the final track on the album called “Never You Fret,” in which you can hear him play a short Indian flute part. It only lasts for about ten seconds, but it sets a mood and adds a mystique that makes the song instantly identifiable. This kind of stuff happens throughout the songs on Punching The Sky. It’s chock full of “moments” and ingredients that make it a delectable listen. 

Of course, one of the key ingredients in any great heavy metal album is guitars. The band brought back veteran producer Bill Metoyer to record the guitars and work with bassist Joey Vera to put it all together. Metoyer is the man responsible for producing the very first recordings of Armored Saint back in 1983, and he does a brilliant job here as well. Guitarists Jeff Duncan and Phil Sandoval are at the very top of their game on the record, and Metoyer caught every precious moment. Check out the razor sharp riffs of “Missile To Gun” and “End Of The Attention Span,” and feel the fire from the solos that are traded back and forth in “Lone Wolf.” The tones will change a bit on a few of these tracks, too. “Bark, No Bite” has a classic Thin Lizzy tone in its solos, while “Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants” has a bright tone that somewhat mimics the Uilleann pipes that start the track. And of course, when you’re not getting served a smorgasbord of these kinds of tasty guitar treats, you’re getting punished with some of the heaviest guitars in the business. Again, this record is just littered with expertly crafted solos and heavy-yet-harmonic guitar work.  

Some of my favorite songs in the Armored Saint catalog are the power ballads, with Delirious Nomad’s “Aftermath” being the pinnacle. Punching The Sky has another one of those great power ballads called “Unfair.” Bush wrote the lyrics for this song after learning that two children his daughter went to school with were killed in a car accident when they were struck by a drunk driver. The parents survived the crash, but lost their children. The song is dedicated to those parents, and it’s extremely powerful. Bush takes his beautiful, soft tone and slowly builds it up to an emotional explosion of anger and sadness.


My favorite record in the Armored Saint catalog is Delirious Nomad, but this record is coming up on it fast. The Symbol Of Salvation record is probably my number two, and Punching The Sky is shaking hands with that one as we speak. Some of the strongest tracks for me here are “Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants,” “Missile To Gun,” “End Of The Attention Span,” “Bubble,” “Fly In The Ointment,” and “Unfair.” But, the wonderful thing about this album is that every other track is chomping at the bit to make that list. Ask me next week and I’ll be adding another to the list. They’re all intelligent and expertly crafted compositions that have perfect amounts of angst and heaviness, and perfect amounts of rhythm and melody. 

You know, it’s a typical Armored Saint record.     

Armored Saint is:
Gonzo Sandoval - drums
Phil Sandoval - guitars
John Bush - vocals
Joey Vera - bass
Jeff Duncan - guitars 

Armored Saint website:

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Armored Saint movie trailer:



I can't even explain to you what an honor it was to talk with Gonzo Sandoval, the legendary drummer for Armored Saint, one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time. 

I walked the halls of my high school with the band's full length debut record, March Of The Saint, shredding my eardrums every day. And when the band released Delirious Nomad soon after, I knew I would be a fan for the rest of my life.

Gonzo and I had a chance to discuss the history of Armored Saint and the details of their brilliant new album, Punching The Sky. We also talked about our shared passion for photography, the song he would play for someone that was hearing Armored Saint for the first time, the Armored Saint movie, and much much more!!

I'm so very happy to present this conversation to all of the hardcore fans and brotherhood of Armored Saint.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the great Gonzo!!!

[Please excuse some of the frozen screens and broken audio. The cellular skies weren't working with us on this day! Thank you!]

Official website:

Gonzo Sandoval on

Gonzo Sandoval on

Black Raven on Facebook:

Rosaura Sandoval's photography:

Igor "Rockxposure" Vidyashev:

....and stay tuned for and under construction now!!!

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