Satan – Earth Infernal Review

Satan is the original Benjamin Button band. By this I mean the older they get, the better and more youthful sounding their output becomes. Part of the original NWoBHM phenomenon, their 1983 debut Court in the Act made the rounds at Casa Druhm back in the days of denim and high tops, but I was never especially taken with their sound, which felt like a less catchy version of Diamond Head or Angel Witch. I didn’t bother with their 1987 follow-up, Suspended Sentence, and I all but forgot about them as I got deeper into thrash and more extreme styles. Fast-forward 26 years to 2013 and they made a comeback with Life Sentence, and virtually nothing about them sounded the same. This was faster, harder, and way more fun while maintaining that classic NWoBHM flavor and I couldn’t believe it was really the same guys I was so underwhelmed by in the 80s. From there they unleashed 2 more killer platters with Atom by Atom and 2018s Cruel Magic, and in the process made me a big believer in the power of Satan. Now after a 4-year wait we get the fourth platter in their raging second act. Does Earth Infernal keep their demonic renaissance burning?

Yes indeed, the power of Christ still repels them, and their age-defying high wire act continues. Earth Infernal picks up where Cruel Magic left off, giving you one finely crafted NWoBHM barn-burner after another loaded with wild riffs and fist-pumping harmonies. It’s difficult to spin enthusiastic opener “Ascendancy” and not feel the need to party grow until you’re raging like a drunken speedhorn. The riffs are full of piss, vinegar and Adderall, the harmonies are sizzling, and Brian Ross seems immune to the effects of aging, with his vocals sounding spry and vital. The whole thing is whiskey-fortified chicken soup for the metal soul, and the fun is just getting started. The manic guitar work kicks up several notches on “Burning Portrait” as Steve Ramsey and Russ Tippins go hog wild with furious shreddery without throwing the song’s flow out of whack. It’s quite a feat of sonic engineering and the fretboard gymnastics will curl your nose hair. The ear-friendly rampage continues on the rowdy slop chop of “Twelve Infernal Lords” and the hyperactive speed metal of “A Sorrow Unspent,” which almost wanders off the NWoBHM reservation due to its sheer intensity and fury. And those riffs…hot damn!

Song after song smacks you in the face with a leather dueling glove and then makes you smell it. “Luciferic” is pure 80s metal to its core and there’s a faint whiff of Wytch Hazel and Ghost in the song’s marrow. “From Second Sight” is a total rager, again pushing into speed metal while still delivering NWoBHM-faithful glory, and “Poison Elegy” is one of the best traditional metal songs I’ve heard in some time. It’s so classic in its sound and structure and also manages to remind me of both Slough Feg and Hammers of Misfortune, which is always a plus. It’s as if the past 40 years never happened and we’re right back in 1982 listening to high-quality metal in some smoke-filled van. Glorious! As is the monster penultimate cut “The Blood Ran Deep” where you get hit with so much wild guitar shrapnel that you’ll be plucking lead out of your flesh for weeks. So what are the downsides? There’s some minor bloat on a few tracks like “Burning Portrait” and closer “Earth We Bequeath,” though the energy quotient camouflages it well enough. Aside from that, there’s little to complain about and the album’s 47 minutes flies by in a blur. The production is authentically 80s, though I liked the sound on Cruel Magic better due to its meaner low-end punch.

This is a guitar maniac’s ultimate dream album. Steve Ramsey and Russ Tippins are highly talented gunslingers and they’re given free rein to riff and shred all over the lot. The sheer volume of sweet riffs and banging harmonies is a wonder, yet you’re never left feeling like you stumbled into an Yngwie appreciation convention. Adding to the mayhem are the ageless pipes of Brian Ross who sounds like a blend of Cities’ Ron Angell and Hammers of Misfortune’s Joe Hutton. The guy has to be pushing 70, but he sounds like a 26-year-old with venom in his throat and a chip on his shoulder. Add in rock-solid performances by Graeme English who also logged time in Skyclad, and Sean Taylor who saw time in both Raven and Blitzkrieg, and you have one helluva high caliber crew working at an exceptionally high level.

Shocking as it is, Earth Infernal is even better than Cruel Magic, which I loved. Weirder still, every release Satan have put out since 2013 would have been one of my favorite albums back in the 80s, as they all absolutely smoke what most other NWoBHM acts were doing. Why these chaps couldn’t find this much unholy fire in their youth is a mystery we’ll never solve, but they found it eventually, and that’s all that matters. Satan lives and Earth Infernal is the best metal I’ve heard thus far in 2022. Get this, play it loud, and embrace your new olde dark lord. Hails and horns.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade
Releases Worldwide: April 1st, 2022

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