Satan's-Host-Pre-dating-god-Part-1This is a strange metal saga, so bear with me. Satan’s Host formed way back in 1977 as a classic American metal band not far removed from Priest and Maiden. Though lurking in the shadows for years, they weren’t able to get anything released until 1985 when the band was joined by the ever mighty Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin of Jag Panzer fame. Their Metal From Hell debut attained a sort of cult status for its hijacking of Mercyful Fate‘s sound and the mystery of who was and wasn’t in the band (thus making them the original Ghost). They broke up immediately thereafter, only to reform in 2000 to record a follow-up that never saw the light of day due to Spinal Tap-esque drummer issues. Conklin walked and the band inexplicably shifted direction, releasing five albums of thrashy black metal. Unbeknownst by this deeply shamed Tyrant fan until a few weeks ago, Conklin came back for 2011s By the Hands of the Devil, which combined their more extreme direction with their traditional roots and power metal, and 2013s Virgin Sails continued the evolution.

And that convoluted history lesson brings us to their new double album, Pre-dating God Parts I and II. A double album you say? Why would such a marginal, chronically unstable act attempt such a thing? Well, obviously they just don’t trust fate to be kind, so they recorded everything they ever scribbled on a cocktail napkin or bathroom wall. But can such a metallic version of Use Your Illusion actually work?

Pre-dating God continues the band’s multi-faceted approach, mixing thrash, Mercyful Fate and Painkiller era Judas Priest, with nods to Jag Panzer and American metal acts like Helstar, but it’s way heavier with black metal influences creeping in and out. Though Tyrant has always been a metal wailer of the Dickinson, Tate school, he ups his game considerably for the more extreme material. And they don’t call him Tyrant for nothing. He may look like your dad or Assistant Regional Manager, but the man is a leather-lunged demon of the netherworlds. Opener “Hell’s Disciples” is typical of the modern Satan’s Host sound, with heavy, thrashy riffage providing the foundation upon which Tyrant wails and screams like a vengeful banshee. Progressive it ain’t, but for sheer metal giggles it definitely works.

Satan's Host_2015

This is the pattern throughout Part I and II ; lots of speedy, angry odes to excess, with Tyrant’s booming baritone and insane screams commanding center stage. He also lapses into King Diamond falsettos (“Embers of Will”) and borrows King’s sinister crooning (throughout “Valley of Blood” and “Soul Wrent”). “Fanning the Flames of Hell” features quirky riffing akin to Falconer or Tyr; they dabble in grinding proto-doom on “Soul Wrent” and  adopt a classic metal style during “Lady n’ the Snake.” All work and entertain.

The best moments come when they dial back for more epic, Dio-esque brooders like the classy “After the End” and the oversized “Descending in the Shadow of Osiri.” Both allow Tyrant more room to breathe and paint with the broad brush that is his golden throat. The latter features touches of Iron Maiden and as Tyrant’s vocals slowly build toward the epic, it’s tough not to think of Dio during the Heaven and Hell / Mob Rules era.

While no song is bad, all suffer from chronic Metallica-itis and run two – three minutes too long. This has the same feeling as …and Justice for All, where songs make their point, then stick around drinking your milk and eating your sandwich meat. On the standard length album, this is a problem, but on a double album it becomes a blight.

Harry the Tyrant ConklinThe bigger issue however, is the same that haunted Metal From Hell. Not all songs are truly memorable or catchy. You’ll enjoy them while they play, but several don’t stick and you’ll be hard pressed to hum them as you powerwalk to Sunday mass.

Issues aside, Tyrant is a helluva unholy ringmaster, sounding like classic Tyrant, but also like Russ Anderson of Forbidden and a whole lot like King Diamond too. It’s amazing how well his voice has held up considering he’s been at this since the early 80s. His highs are as high as ever, and though he goes off-key here and there when hitting the stratosphere, it’s hard to criticize the man’s mammoth pipes. Founding guitarist Patrick Evil has a solid outing too, providing a mighty host of power thrash riffage and solos of the manic and tasteful variety. He does a lot of interesting things, even on the songs that don’t fully click.

At over 80 minutes (just shy of the average Dream Theater platter), Pre-dating God is mighty long-winded and tough to absorb in one sitting. It’s also pretty brickwalled, making for an even tougher listen. Overall, Part II is the stronger of the two albums, with more memorable moments, but Part I certainly has its merits.

It’s great to have Tyrant back commanding the mic, and while I wish he was still fronting the vastly superior Jag Panzer, this is a respectable fallback, likely to appeal to fans of HelstarIced Earth and Overkill. A strange, but interesting release by a very strange band.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Moribund Records
Websites: satanshost.com | facebook.com/SatansHost
Release Dates: EU: 2015.01.19 | NA: 01.20.2015

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  • Vlad Invictus

    Interesting thing is that I recently tried unsuccessfully to write my first review ever and guess what, it was for their previous release. I too started with some history facts and there I gave up on it. Having said that, this is very likely going to be on my best of 2015 list. Always been a fan of Tyrant in every band he was. Satan’s Host is no exception. They keep getting better.

  • Daniele Cerin

    I love satan’s host. I remember i was blown away by “by the hands of the devil”. And after that i was waiting anxiously for the sequel that was everything i would have wanted. But this release was so unexpected i thought it would be at least 1 year more for the next album.

  • Wilhelm

    The several songs I heard from this album were good, although not stellar. I was impressed most by Tyrant’s vocals which still sound as good as they did in the Jag Panzer days. The problem i have with Satan’s host is that some of their songs just seem too long, not that I don’t like long compositions, but many times it feels as though they go through the motions and at times, although the music is fine, it doesn’t seem to meld together too well, or at least to the level of rising above the standard. Add to that intense brickwalling (which renders any kind of unique guitar tone null and void) and a double album (remember when bands used to release albums of 40-45 minutes?) then we have something I don’t exactly want to return to.

    • end720

      I would argue that these guys did release albums of 40-45 minutes. Just because it’s a double album doesn’t mean you have to listen to them both. I get your other issues with the albums, but it’s not fair to complain about the length when you have the power to change it to something more palatable.

      • I alternated between approaching them as unified and separate albums as I worked on the review. They work better separately in my opinion. My point was more about the length of the songs. Each album on its own feels like a 3.0 with Part II better and approaching 3.5.

        • end720

          That’s fair enough. I guess your mention of the 80minute, Dream Theater length misled me a bit. I haven’t had the same problem with the song lengths yet myself though.

          • Yep, that was me taking a cheap shot at DT. I’m a goon.

        • This is my major issue with the band.

          Conklin’s singing is fucking epic and I enjoy the songs, but they just drag on and on. Well, there’s also the fact that every solo has the same sequence of hammer-on/pull-off widdling that couldn’t be unheard once noticed.

          Seriously though, shaving 2-3 minutes off each track would do wonders for the band.

      • Wilhelm

        I could, but it’s the job of the artist to dictate and produce creations that are the appropriate lengths. This band, unfortunately composes songs that I believe are too lengthy; I don’t have problems with double albums or long compositions, but as someone said below, they would benefit from shaving a couple minutes as they always seem to lose steam (and it would be able to fit on a single CD). I will admit to not hearing all of the songs yet so I’m making a judgement bases on their past release and several songs I heard from the new one. Conklin is a beast though, what a vocalist!

        • end720

          Yeah, I kinda misinterpreted your comment to be more about the double album than it was. I don’t mind the song length myself, but if they had cut them down just enough for it to work as a single album that would be fucking awesome.

  • end720

    I don’t understand how people can complain about the length of this album. It’s two albums, you don’t have to listen to them both together. Either one on its own is a perfectly good, and perfect length album, and I think they should be treated as such, rather than trying to power through all 80 minutes just because they’re named Part I and II.

  • El Lado Oscuro

    I agree. A 3 is fair… the voice was not my favorite, though

  • Danno

    Review gold. I couldn’t give a ferret’s fart about this band, but I am TOTALLY wantin’ to powerwalk to Sunday mass.

  • Our Fortress Is Burning

    Not to my taste, but I’ve heard worse.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Im very pleased to see this review
    I bought (2nd hand) Metal from Hell wwwaaayyy back in the late 80s or early 90s and god damn I’d forgotten how much I loved it. Such an eccentric record sounded god awful but brilliant with Tyrants vocals really standing out as something special. Great to hear him sounding so good on this, as you say very impressive little bit of black magic there. After reading your review I went through my collection and my vinyl copy is gone arrrrggg… Ive either sold or lent it to someone and forgotten. Im not ashamed to say I shed a little tear, yelled at the cat…then found it on you tube.
    I’ve kind of missed everything in-between can I yell a request from the crowd?… Can masters Druhm and Kikuras can do a career retrospective?

    • Unlikely. They have a weird catalogue, but not one really deserving of the Career Retrospective treatment.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        booooo

        • Oh, booo yourself!

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            Im not surprised and strangely relieved that their catalogue could be summed up as weird…kind of like the night of the living dead franchise.
            I do appreciate that potentially cash saving heads up :)