While there’s no arguing that the terms “retro” and “revivalist” are absolutely appropriate when describing certain acts, they tend to feel a little reductive to me, diminishing a band’s efforts as little more than a novelty. Sometimes facts are facts, however, and Chicago’s Satan’s Hallow are undoubtedly retro yet unequivocally awesome, having dropped the best classic metal record of the year. This debut has spurred my adrenal gland through moving house, a new job and train journeys sitting next to some of the most genetically deficient aberrations known to man. And yet ever has this album managed to bogart my attention, thanks, in no small part, to the dedication that has been poured into its Lucifer loving creation.
Clearly, Satan’s Hallow‘s adoration of the classics is emblazoned upon each and every cut. Dual harmonies abound throughout mercilessly memorable rhythmic structures, propelling opener, “Reaching for the Night,” with a speed metal inflection and gluttonous helpings of searing leads. Vocalist, Mandy Martillo, maintains her instantly familiar vocal lines with care, channelling a combination of Warlock era Doro and Leather Leone of Chastain, whilst never wanting for some Hetfield swagger on the faster tracks. But the real hook in the gut comes courtesy of guitarists, Von Jugel and Steve “Lethal” Beaudette – their authoritative pairing ply the ears with immediate riffs and the kind of soloing that seduced many of us with that metal malediction in the first place.
Where the title track and “Black Angel” exemplify the pristine NWOBHM sound, it’s “Choir of the Cursed” and “The Horror” that allow an electric melancholy to preside over the melodies, redolent of early Iron Maiden or Tokyo Blade. This quality is particularly present in my personal favorite, “Still Alive,” marching with a fantastic mid-paced riff that irresistibly bores into the brain as Martillo extols her haunted lyrics, before an emotive guitar tandem dominates. The album’s true victory, however, lies in the open acknowledgement of its content’s linear nature; Satan’s Hallow champions the original real deal without labouring under any pretence that its identity is anything but. These are guitar lines that entire musical proclivities were built upon, and closer, “Beyond the Bells,” is a fine celebration of such. It riffs the hardest, it harmonises with ease and it shreds to its very last, leaving replay as my one and only option, come those final notes.
Much of my time here is spent parsing dense and suffocating examples of extremity, and by my own choosing, but Satan’s Hallow, with their effortless ability and adroit songwriting, have insistently interrupted a year of brutality with an album wrought of sheer immediacy and quality. As they themselves swear sacrosanct that most venerated of beasts, I insist you give Satan’s Hallow their due, now, and not a moment later.
Tracks to Check Out: “Choir of the Cursed,” “The Horror” “Still Alive” and “Beyond the Bells”.