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This album contains the true spirit of heavy metal. Even before hearing a whole Armored Saint album, I was drawn to their name. There is something in that moniker that is definitively metal; it's triumphant, glorious, and admittedly a little silly. However, the music presented on this disc is nothing to laugh at.
The cover art is a good indication of what you're getting here: the creepy half-faced figure stares blankly into your soul, beckoning for you to enter his dark world of end-time prophecy. Even the band logo is less frilly than on previous albums, while maintaining the iconic calligraphy that lets you know you are about to bang your head to some solid tunes.
"Solid" is actually the operative word here. None of the songs are bad; some are solid rockers, some achieve greatness. The consistency is really what keeps me coming back to this record, and it is certainly better than the debut (unfortunately the only other studio album I own from AS) in that regard. Not all of the tracks are equally memorable (the last 3 songs are good, but just don't have the same impact as the rest of the album), but the meat of this record is loaded with great riffs, hooks, fills, licks, thunder, lightning (GODDAMN!), and diz-busters. "Pay Dirt" starts the battery with a raucous energy that doesn't often let up until the 6th song "Damaged", which grooves its hook right into your skull. "Den of Thieves" and "Control Issues" bring the energy back up, followed by the eerie "No Me Digas" (bonus track), and the last 3 songs round out the album well (although they are not as essential). "Revelation" is mostly well paced, although front-loading the goods seems to make the last songs sound a little dry.
Now, what about the whole "true spirit of heavy metal" crap I opened this review with? Well... "Revelation" isn't perfect, but the spirit is certainly there. The energy is up front without relying on speed alone, and the riffs are forceful without feeling forced. Even the atmosphere is riff-based, just like God intended. John Bush's voice is gruff and he adds to the grit without sounding like he's trying too hard (no grunge YEAHAAHH's), and the lyrics fit the energy of each song really well. Even the weird funk breaks and clean sections work; they spice up the songs and add flavor without being gimmicky. But... "true spirit of heavy metal"??? What could be "true" about a 2000s US metal album with groove elements?
Well. I could argue about this shit all day (and I have), but it's really hard to put into words without sounding like an idiot. You really just have to feel it. I could write a book about metal riffing and sounds, but it's what the words can't describe that makes it so metal. "Revelation" makes me feel like I'm riding a chopper through the desert; the mountains and trees in the distance want my mind to wander, but the smell of fuel and the rumble under my seat keep my mind focused on the horizon line. I see no other vehicles to distract me from my goal, and with that sight comes the realization that there are no other humans around to aid me if I crash. There is only the road.
I guess that's another important element to the feel of a metal album (an element which is sadly lacking in most "revivalist" bands), the lurking loneliness of the lone wolf. Where once there was a group of rebels, now there is a single road warrior. His gang of misfits had long jumped ship, citing "the times" as a primary reason for change. Our hero knows the real reason: no one wants to be alone when the gas runs out and the vultures circle overhead.