The new Satan album comes 26 years after they released their last full length ‘Suspended Sentence’ in 1987. With Brian Ross back on vocals, ‘Life Sentence’ kicks off from where their debut, the NWOBHM masterwork ‘Court In The Act’ left off.
Where Venom came across as a more Satanic version of Motorhead, and Raven came across as a hyperspeed, ballsy amphetamine fuelled take on the speedier elements of Judas Priest, Newcastle natives Satan’s take on the NWOBHM took on an upfront tempo that hinted at the beginnings of speed metal, and combined it with the melodic knack of Angel Witch and Iron Maiden, and a sense of neoclassical proficiency and technique in the guitar work. They almost came across as an English parallel to Mercyful Fate.
The production is distinctly modern, with a decent balance between the guitars and the rhythm section, which have a direct, rehearsal-like sound to them that is devoid of the constraints of overly compressed, digital sound jobs. The only potential obstacle the listener might have is the tone of the rhythm guitar, which is rather trebly and contrasts the thick, more thudding bass guitar and tight, boxy drums.
Brian Ross is on brilliant form, and his vocal lines and falsettos, a trademark of his perfectly wrap themselves around verse and chorus, hitting crescendos where necessary and only emphasizing it where needed. This comes on top of songs that are written with a precise sense of counterpoint and a strong understanding of what appeals within the listener, maintaining a strong accessibility but with a progressive edge. A major difference to ‘Court In The Act’ is that on ‘Life Sentence’ they are perhaps more linear, more direct.
It’s all the more impressive that Satan could have just pulled off a modest effort that would be received with mild appraisal. Rather, their professionalism and sense of dedication pays off, and they create an album that is lively, energetic, proficient and above all, memorable in all the best ways. Proof that age does not equate to faltering. Amidst a highly consistent album, highlights include the opener ‘Time To Die’, ‘Tears Of Blood’ and the title track.