Punching the Sky

Punching the Sky

On their first album in five years, LA metal veterans Armored Saint deliver an updated version of their classic ’80s sound. Punching the Sky sees vocalist John Bush and bassist and main composer Joey Vera addressing society’s ills on “End of the Attention Span” and “Missile to Gun” while paying tribute to fallen neighbors on “Unfair” and offering a glimmer of optimism with the anthemic “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants.” Meanwhile, the song “Bubble” took on a prophetic tone when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. “These songs were written before the pandemic, but it’s weird how some of them take on different meanings now,” Bush tells Apple Music. “That’s the beauty of music and art. It can constantly take on a different face depending on the way life goes.” Elsewhere, Guns N’ Roses keyboardist Dizzy Reed contributed to “Fly in the Ointment” and “Lone Wolf.” Below, Bush discusses each track on Punching the Sky. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants “I originally didn’t want to have this song first because it’s the longest song on the record. But Joey thought we should open with it, and I agreed because it’s a great song and it’s very, very classic Armored Saint-sounding. The lyric and title came from a quote I read—I think it was from Isaac Newton. The idea is, you’re standing on this mountain that’s giving you a great view of the landscape, and you’re also on a giant—someone who inspired you—and you’re standing on their shoulders, so you’re even higher. It gives you a better perspective of how you want to conduct your life. It’s a way to remind yourself to do right and be a better person.” End of the Attention Span “Smartphones and computers basically do everything for us, and it’s affecting people’s focus. There are certainly amazing pluses to technology, but we’ve got to find the balance so computers don’t do everything for us and actually impede our growth and progress. There’s one verse of the song where I poke fun at people at the show who watch the band through their phone. Like, ‘You’re at a concert and you’re staring through your screen?’ It’s bizarre. On the other hand, I’m grateful when people record shows, because if I want to look back on something, I can usually find the show.” Bubble “The verses on this song have a big open-air kind of sound—a lot of space to sing through or over. It was challenging, but I liked it. Lyrically, it’s kind of about getting into a secret world—it could be a political world or an elitist club that alienates other people. It could be a circle of friends that you’re trying to break into. And then there’s a reversal as you say to yourself, ‘Oh, I see this now and I don't think I like this anymore and I want to get out of it.’ And then there’s this difficulty that you may find trying to get out of this world that you wanted to get into—the bubble. Again, all these songs were written before the pandemic happened, so it’s weird because now we’re seeing that term used all the time.” My Jurisdiction “This is a hard rocker with a big, cool riff. It sounds like vintage Saint, but modern. [Drummer] Gonzo [Sandoval] playing the ride cymbal brings this giant groove when he locks in with Joey. I think it’s a funkier way of playing than a lot of metal bands do, and we try to embellish that. There’s little shades of Aerosmith, too. Lyrically, I was caught up in all the political upheaval that’s taking place and just the silliness of it all. Whether it’s the courts or the government, you think, ‘I don’t even want to be a part of it because I just think it’s a mockery.’ It’s not directed at one particular political arm or anything—I just think sometimes the whole thing is ridiculous.” Do Wrong to None “The very beginning of this song is a recording of this weird creature, and we still don’t know what it is. We were in Italy doing a show near this boggy creek, and this animal sounded really scary so we recorded it. Then the song goes into a drum march, which Gonzo does with Jacob Ayala, the son of a good friend of ours. Jacob was in marching band in high school and he’s really talented. Some people have said the riff here has shades of [Pantera’s] ‘Cowboys From Hell.’ I don’t think that was intentional, but perhaps there’s a little inspiration there. The title is a Shakespearean quote that I felt was really fitting for the times we’re in.” Lone Wolf “I love this song—it’s one of my favorites on the record. I’ve said it’s like our Faith No More meets Earth, Wind & Fire meets Armored Saint kind of song. The background vocals that Joey did on the chorus are huge—it sounds like something you would hear on an Earth, Wind & Fire record. The verses have this bluesy thing that reminds me a little bit of Faith No More. Lyrically, it’s for the people who are on their own and don’t have a family or siblings or really good friends. I have a family now, but I was single for a long time in my life, so I can relate to the idea that you need to be strong to get through life if you don’t have the luxury of a support system.” Missile to Gun “This might not sound like a peace song musically, but it is. The first verse was inspired by one of the numerous school shootings that have happened. In the old days, if you had beef with somebody, you would pick a fight with them—or not, depending on your size. I’m a small guy—I haven’t had many fights in my life. But with a gun, you don’t need to be big. You can take out a lot of people, including the person that might be bullying you or whatever. The chorus is asking, ‘With more powerful weapons, are we possibly regressing?’ You can go as far as a nuclear missile, but reverse it all the way back to throwing stones at each other. We still act like cavemen but we’ve got insanely powerful weapons.” Fly in the Ointment “I think this is one of those songs that’s a sleeper. I really love this one—it’s got a big riff and a huge chorus. The title comes from the idea that no matter what happens, there’s always a fly in the ointment—something that is the irritant, the thing that prevents things from going smoothly. Like sometimes you get a flat tire on your way to work and you’re like, ‘Fuck, I don’t have time for this!’ and then you’re late and your boss is giving you shit. I actually wrote almost all of the lyrics when a pipe broke in our house in Big Bear and water leaked all over, so it’s got some references to the road signs you see on your way up there, like ‘Icy Conditions’ and things like that.” Bark, No Bite “There’s a lot of humor in this one, which I think Armored Saint doesn’t get enough credit for. And certainly there’s a little bit of Thin Lizzy influence with some of the double guitar leads and melodies. They’re probably one of the most underrated rock bands of all time as far as I’m concerned, and we channel our best Lizzy whenever possible.” Unfair “We’ve written numerous ballads in our past, but this one really had this melancholy feeling to it. And coincidentally, a tragedy happened right around the time that Joey gave me the music for this. These two children that my daughter went to school with were killed in a car accident. It was a drunk driver that killed them, but the parents survived. We’ve all had people around us die, and you try to find the silver lining, but with this it was just impossible. I felt I had to write about it, and I played it for the parents kind of reluctantly because I don’t want them to think I’m trying to capitalize on this tragedy, but I also wanted them to know I was paying tribute to them. So we dedicated the song to them, and I think it ended up being one of the best things we’ve ever done.” Never You Fret “We wanted to end the record on an uplifting note after ‘Unfair.’ Gonzo had this idea of playing a Native American flute on this, which really changes the color of the song in a cool way. And those monk voices are actually Joey, which I didn’t realize until he told me—I thought he pulled them off some chant record. To me, this song has a slightly Ministry feel, because it’s just relentless. Lyrically, I just wanted to write a song about our band and how, no matter whether we play in front of 10,000 people or 10 people, we bring it. It’s just who we are. We’re not always tight, but we always give it our all.”

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