The New Wave of British Heavy Metal was easily one of the greatest musical movements of all time. It was the most important step in the transition from the hard rock and early heavy metal of the 1970’s to what we know today. Through my historical revisionist perspective, however, I can identify one huge flaw with this movement: it was too obscure. With the exception of a handful of bands, you’ll rarely hear about greats from this era, and their music is extremely difficult to find. It is for this reason that I am only now getting to hear Satan for the first time (and they really aren't even that obscure relative to other bands in the movement). Their comeback record “Life Sentence” literally made my jaw drop from beginning to end.
As soon as this album opens you’ll notice how skilled the guitar plays are. “Time To Die” is a great example of how guitarwork can be technical without sounding like a Malmsteen clone. Adding in leads underneath the verses also helps to break the simplicity of a standard song structure. As you progress through “Life Sentence”, the shredtastic theme continues. This record reminds me a lot of albums like Kill ‘em All, or any number of Saxon or Black Sabbath albums because the guitarists are completely unhinged. It truly feels like it’s 1983 when you are listening to this. Perhaps my favourite part of this record is that, if listening with headphones, you can clearly hear how each guitar is recorded. Both guitars have a slightly different tone, and it is very reminiscent of the way things were done in the 80's. That nostalgic feel is aided by the old-school production. “Life Sentence” isn’t overbearingly loud, and the guitars don’t sound mechanical. It’s very clear that the band spent a lot of time working on getting the ideal tones for their guitars, and it compliments the riffs perfectly. Aside from the guitars, I really enjoyed the vocals of Brian Ross. He tends to stay in an upper-mid range, but his voice has a lot of character. Ross’ singing tone lends itself to that feel of impending dread. This is most noticeable on “Twenty Twenty Five”, but his performance is solid on every track. In terms of songwriting, Satan does an excellent job of making each track different. After the first listen, I can assure you that at the least, a couple of songs will stick with you. None of these songs stand out in a bad way, so it will mostly come down to which melodies and riffs interest you most. For me, those happen to be on “Time To Die”, “Twenty Twenty Five”, and the charging “Siege Mentality”, but you can’t go wrong with any of these songs.
“Life Sentence” is one of the most surprising records of the year. Satan was always a band I planned to hear eventually, but this record is proof that I should have listened to them earlier. “Life Sentence” is an energetic, old-school lesson in how to play heavy metal, from what I can only assume were one of the genres best bands!
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"Time To Die"
"Twenty Twenty Five"
4.5/5 or 90%.
Written by Scott