Satan - AtomByAtom 01NWOBHM legends Satan are one of the greatest comeback stories in recent memory. Formed in the UK in 1979, the band’s early work was part of the blueprint for what became thrash and speed metal. However, Satan themselves had a rough career, plagued by lineup issues and multiple name changes, resulting in nearly two decades of non-activity. They eventually returned to the live stage in 2004, but no one could have predicted 2013’s Life Sentence, a blast of well-crafted, authentic, damn-near-perfect heavy metal that had seemingly been frozen in amber since about 1982. Two years later, the band returns with Atom By Atom, another collection of classic metal that threatens to put all other old-schoolers to shame.

Singer Brian Ross’ glass-shattering scream kicks off opening cut “Farewell Evolution,” a speedy number that splits the difference between “Aces High” and perhaps Kill ‘Em All-era Metallica. Ross’ voice is seemingly ageless, capable of the same piercing highs and rich midrange displayed on 1983’s classic Court In The Act. “Fallen Savior” is a more midtempo rocker with a chorus so anthemic, I can already hear thousands of old-schoolers singing along to it at metal festivals next summer.

Production-wise, Atom By Atom is nearly identical to Life Sentence, which is very much a good thing. The instruments all sound appropriately raw and 1980s-vintage, Ross’ vocals are given just enough reverb to make it work, and the performances sound remarkably like an actual band playing in a room together. These are all admirable qualities in a metal record, and I commend the band for sticking with them.

“Ruination” is another extremely well-composed track, utilizing guitar harmonies and a slightly prog arrangement as buildup to a waltz riff that makes me want to hit people with a mic stand. Throughout this record, the guitar interplay between Steve Ramsey and Russ Tippins is incredible to witness, and is a huge part of what makes Satan‘s comeback feel so right. The vintage tones, semi-technical riffage, and tradeoff solos are practically a clinic on how heavy metal guitar should be done.

The title track boasts yet another top-shelf classic riff and yet another monstrous chorus. At this point I’m wondering how the world didn’t already have these songs in it until now, because they feel like they’ve always been there. “In Contempt” is another master class of technical and harmonically complex guitar work, with some sections that border on thrash metal and some flashy fills from drummer Sean Taylor. (Side bar: considering Satan‘s history of courtroom puns as album titles, I’m surprised “In Contempt” wasn’t the name of this record.)

Side 2 of Atom By Atom takes a slight dip in quality from the material on Side 1. “My Own God” is a little hokey lyrically, although I certainly agree with the sentiment. And after all the ridiculously tasty guitar work preceding it, “Bound in Enmity” can only be seen as somewhat redundant. However, the band still has one ace up their sleeve: closing track “The Fall Of Persephone.” Satan goes all-out on this one, with harmonized leads, exotic guitar textures, and huge choirs of vocals, among other things. This song is, frankly, fucking stunning, and ends the album on an extremely high note.

Proving that Life Sentence was no fluke, Satan continues to churn out white-hot classic metal and make it look easy. There are very few bands from this era who are still making music this vital and high-quality. Atom By Atom is another nearly-flawless victory, and if you enjoy heavy metal music, I suggest you check it out.


Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Listenable Records
Websites: Facebook.com/officialsatanpage | Satan (Official Website)
Releases Worldwide: October 2nd, 2015

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  • These guys are having the career comeback of all time!

    • Even better than Carcass Surgical Steel ?!

      • Dr_Fisting

        So far, comeback-era Carcass has made one excellent album and one kind of blah EP. Satan has made two kickass full-lengths. So yeah, that honor might go to Satan.

      • Philip Pledger

        I’d say so, even as a Carcass fan. Comebacks need momentum, which can’t be produced by a single album alone no matter its quality. Surgical Steel is one of the best records Carcass has ever made, but it can’t carry the band forward if they don’t follow it up with new material. From a career standpoint, Satan achieved much more by releasing two quality albums one after another.

        • I hope, as another Carcass fan, they do something to follow up Surgical Steel… it’s too good a record to let sit. :)

    • Comeback from what, though? :P

      Srs: I remember seeing Court in the Act in Hit Parader’s mailorder ads in the early-to-mid-eighties. I don’t remember ever ever ever hearing of anyone who actually ordered it though. If that album sold over 15,000 copies in seven years then I’ll be a monkey’s bare-assed uncle.

      Now they’re hailed as legends and pioneers. Tr00 metal revision. If these guys had never existed there’d be no pheckin’ butterfly effect at all in metal then or today.

      But that doesn’t mean they’re not pretty damned cool. I wish I had heard them then.

      • I had Court in the Act way back in the day, and on cassette not less!

        • I believe you.

          My brother had one friend who listened to really really underground stuff at that time. I remember him getting a dubbed-copy of “Legions of the Dead” by Tyrant from him. …now I’m wondering if he ever had Court in the Act…

      • Óðinn

        You make a good point. They’ve been around for 30+ years, and this is only their 4th LP.

        • Well, they’re certainly enjoying a decent measure of recognition now.

          • Óðinn

            Yes. That’s true.

  • VenomousHulk

    So stoked to hear this record was well received and can’t wait to listen to it myself.

  • Stefunal

    All hail Satan.

    • mauler77

      m/

  • Jonny

    128kb? Jeez, listenable must hate you’s.

    • André Snyde Lopes

      If the label sends them a 128 kbps promo, that’s the version they are going to review. Not much can be done about that, I think.

      • Jonny

        True, you would still want to sell the bands you’re promoting to the best of your ability.

        • André Snyde Lopes

          I am just speculating here but I think it’s a way to mitigate leaks. If they give out a lower quality version to reviewers and that version gets leaked, the people would still feel the need to go buy the real thing since they are listening to a lower quality version of it. Probably the same reason bandcamp, by default, streams at 128 kbps as well.

          • Jonny

            I like your thinking. You might be right :3

          • In bandcamp’s case, it’s more of a reason of bandwidth economy. If you have thousands of people streaming at the same time, bandwidth costs add up very quickly.

          • André Snyde Lopes

            That does not explain why labels do it but I see how it’s VERY advantageous for them.

          • Labels most likely still think of most metal sites as freeloaders. They just have PR people who honestly don’t care as much (or at all) for high fidelity and DR scores, because to be perfectly honest the vast majority of metal reviewers will not even mention production troubles like shitty mastering or mixing. Unless they have a knowledge of how the site works or have a working relationship with the reviewers I doubt they would even bother to think back and consider how they should properly encode and distribute their promos.

            But to be fair back in the Hydrogen Audio test days 128kbps was considered statistically near transparency. Maybe not ideal for critical listening but it’s really not that bad. And every major encoder has seen improvements since then. Only a few extreme cases may create some encoding artifacts, but that’s as much blame on the production decisions as poor encoding settings. Cases in point, Fallujah and the clipping artifacts that were audible in the promos or Vattnet Viskar’s most recent.

    • Óðinn

      At 128kb, they should be called “Unlistenable.” Amirite? ;)

      Sorry, bad joke.

      • Jonny

        you cheeky sausage

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Yep, this album is certified awesome. I agree with every word of this review, even the low points like “Bound in Emnity”.

    BTW, the lick in the main riff of “My Own God” completely redeems the hokey-ness.

  • brutal_sushi

    That track/album opening scream, that album art, the drum production… So much FUCK YES going on here.

  • Mark McKeown

    I think the release date (at least in the U.S) has been pushed back. It drops here on the 16th Oct. Freakin’ great album!

    • Dude, don’t buy your shit from amazon. Just go on bandcamp, it’s already available there worldwide.

  • groverXIII

    Great album, and a perfect followup to Life Sentence. I mean, the two albums are pretty similar, but let’s be fair, no one wants to hear Satan experimenting. You listen to Satan to hear rock-solid NWOBHM, and that’s precisely what you get.

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    Album of the year material

  • IamRipper

    Damn, I didn’t even know this was coming. The last one still gets plenty of play time at my house, I’m fired up for this.

  • Martin Knap

    ROTM: September = Gloryhammer; October = Satan?

    • Elton Chagas

      Probably yes… doesn’t seem like The Book of Souls will make it hahaha

    • If September goes to Gloryhammer over Ares Kingdom… then we have come to a sad state of things, friends.

      • tomasjacobi

        I don’t know who the fuck Ares Kingdom is, but Gloryhammer absolutely need to be RotM especially since their first (and just as brilliant) album was completely ignored by AMG.

        • Look, I’m a big fan of Dethklok, so I understand how you can want a reward to be given to your parody power metal band. But there are actual bands that are actually creating art, and maybe, just maybe, they deserve recognition over the jokers.

          • tomasjacobi

            Not when the jokers are making better albums than the “serious” bands. Gloryhammer have made the hands down best power metal album of the year and the fact that the lyrics poke fun at the genre doesn’t make it any less awesome or, indeed, artful.

          • Uh, maybe, but since you don’t even know who Ares Kingdom is, I kinda don’t think you’re qualified to make that call.

          • tomasjacobi

            Oh, I’m qualified all right! Maybe our taste in music just differs….
            Have a nice day, sir.

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    Has Brian aged at all? How on earth is he still able to sing with the same intensity as he did in 1983??
    But hot damn, this is GREAT stuff. This band has not disappointed once.

  • Kmill

    So you guys tried to get in good with the Lord on the Wasp review, and now you come right back with Satan. Is there any news of a Stryper album on the horizon?

    • The yellow and black are waiting to attack!

  • What a year for metal scene…

    • Elton Chagas

      Just for curiosity… you mean like… what?

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Kudos to you Dr. Fisting for reviewing the album referring to Side 1 and Side 2. That was a fun nostalgic touch.

    • We dwell in the past.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        It is OK to dwell in the past since the future is not what it used to be.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Are you sure thats not ‘lurk’ that you meant

        • Some lurk, others dwell. Still others haunt.

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            All better options than stumbling around lost asking for directions!

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Dwell in the Past, Lurk in the Dark and Haunt The Chapel.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    I love how some of the guitar work sounds like “regular” music played back at a higher speed. One more admirable quality in a metal record.

  • Wilhelm

    Does it bother nobody that the sound drops out like every second? I’m listening with headphones and this mastering sounds HORRIBLE, it sounds like when a cassette goes really bad. The music sounds amazing but wow, I physically can’t listen to this.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Weird, sounds bloody great to me. Ive listened through abut 6 or 7 times and not noticed…

      • Wilhelm

        Very strange, are you listening with headphones? Every time that he hits, I think the bass drum, it sucks the entire sound down a notch in volume. The problem is that it happens every half of a second or so. I wish this wasn’t the case as the music is total kick ass. I’m going to listen to this in the car to see if I get the same effect.

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          No I’ve had it on in my car stereo which is ok and through my iPod speakers…I’m listening to the MP3 files downloaded from bandcamp…maybe I should listen through headphones.

    • Shangsean

      The kick sounds super distorted and over powering. It sounds horrible. The songs sound pretty bland too. This is just from listening to the Bandcamp stream.

    • Simon Shrimpton

      That kick is HORRIBLE. Sounds like somebody is finger tapping my headphones with every hit.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Symphony X, Riot, Pentagram, Satan, et. al. seem to be disproving Angry Metal Guy’s Law of Diminishing Recordings™.

    • Martin Knap

      It doesn’t make much sense to me – how can really good musicians be doing their best music in their 20s? But there are surely many examples where the AMGLoDR applies…

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Now that I’m sober, I must amend my earlier proclamation. I think it still holds true, but there are countless exceptions.

        It’s pretty much the reverse when it comes to classical composers, as I’m not the first to point out. Even here there are anomalies. Mendelssohn composed his killer Octet when he was 16. What the hell was I doing at 16? Probably looking at the women in the Sears catalogue bra ads.

        Happy Thanksgiving to fellow Canadians.

        • Martin Knap

          Or it isn’t true but countless exceptions can affirm “the Law” :-)

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Great review Dr. Fisting!
    I’ve been really looking forward to this one and god damn it’s great. There’re so many highlights on this, the instrumental passage in Ruination is just perfect. The Devils Infantry is an excellent piece of ass whooping metal. The title track is so god damn catchy it’s hard to resist pulling out the air guitar… I’d have to say it also has probably the best start and finish to an album I’ve heard in a while.

    Definite contender for record of the year theres at least 5 options for best song of the year too!

  • Tentacles

    This record = 100% stone cold awesome. Thanks Satan, and thanks AMG without which I would never have known about it.

  • I want to hump this cd’s leg it is so good.

  • They’re reissuing court in the act soon for the umpteenth time. Since I’m not about to check their site to see when, but I assume they’ll let you guys know, maybe you remind us all when it happens? Otherwise the album is like 50 bucks. I love metal and all but that’s beer money.

  • Óðinn

    That’s a new record. At 0:00, I knew that I did not like this song. That opening scream was a deal-breaker. I can’t stand Ross’s vocals, and the riffs are okay, but nothing extra special. I’m not surprised though. I don’t really understand the recent love for these guys. I didn’t really like Life Sentence either. I know that James Hetfield is really into Satan too. They’ve never been that great in my opinion. But this is just my opinion about this particular band, and has no reflection on my opinion of Dr. Fisting as a reviewer of a person. I like Dr. Fisting.

    • tomasjacobi

      Thank you. Happy to see I’m not the only one who don’t see what the fuss is all about!
      This is OK at best. Completely forgettable IMO.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      What!!! The opening scream is killer, great way to start the album.

      • Óðinn

        I respect your opinion Carlos. It’s just not my cup of tea. I’m really picky about clean vocals. I seem to be in the minority though. I like a lot of retro stuff, but some of the Power/Speed/NWOBHM that’s been coming out over the past couple of years that everybody just raves about, I just can’t get into. It’s seems to be hit and miss with me. All of the sudden, everybody loves Satan and Manilla Road. To me, the are just “meh.”

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          I would agree with you on Manila road but this is so good :)
          I still enjoy Life Sentence and was really looking forward to this one… though it could be a case similar to when you first meet a woman and you’re so happy that you don’t notice they’re a narcissistic sociopath with a drug problem…

    • Dr_Fisting

      Flattery will get you nowhere, son.

      Seriously though — this is a really well-done album IF, and only if, you’re into NWOBHM-style metal. If screechy vocals and 1980s-era riffage are not your thing, you wouldn’t like this album no matter how good it is.

      Side note: James Hetfield is into Satan because Brian Ross is/was also the singer of Holocaust, original composers of “The Small Hours” (which Metallica covered).

  • Having a name like “Death” or “Satan” for your metal band is like getting the closest parking spot at the supermarket. Especially in today’s world of bands having complete sentences for their names.

    • Just realized that with the courtroom themes, “Complete Sentences” could be one of this band’s song titles.

  • mtlman1990

    I was waiting for Curse You All Man to kick in.

  • Luke_22

    Not generally being a huge fan of trad metal or the NWOBHM, I was blown away by Life Sentence. This hasn’t impacted on me in quite the same way but it’s early listening days yet. Great review.

  • Crapola

    This album is absolutely AMAZING Heavy Metal! One of my faves this year.

  • Kronos

    Just got around to this and it’s fantastic. These riffs are twice as impressive as most of the tech death I review.