As summer swings round towards autumn, there are no shortage of odes and tributes to the Gods of power and glory that brought us traditional and classic Heavy Metal. Ghost Cult dives in amongst the raised fists and studded wristbands to round-up the latest album releases.
I’m still undecided as to whether Brian Ross‘s piercing scream which opens Atom By Atom (Listenable) is a surprising thing or not. On one hand, Satan were part of the now legendary NWOBHM scene and screaming vocals were sort of their thing. On the other hand, you have to remember this is a band who started life way back in 1979, so including lengthy hiatuses for transformations into other bands (Pariah, Blind Fury), and key members departing to form entirely new acts (Skyclad), they’ve been doing this for well over 35 years. They’re clearly no spring chickens any more (sorry, chaps), so the fact that this, their fourth full length release, begins with such a pointed statement of intent is not only refreshing but also, happily just a sign of things to come.
The speedy, yet surgically precise riffs come thick and fast as the album gallops along like a thoroughbred racehorse, the twin guitars of Russ Tippins and Steve Ramsey locked in an endless, but perfectly timed, competition to get across the finishing line first. Even mid-paced songs like ‘Bound in Enmity’, ‘Ahriman’ and ‘Fallen Saviour’ appear to get frustrated by their own lack of athleticism and have to kick themselves into shape just to keep up.
It’s not all about lightning fast speed though. There are slow-burning riffs, riffs which twist and creep out of your speakers like long legged spiders, and riffs which sound like a knife-wielding maniac gave Ozzy Osbourne‘s ‘I Don’t Know’ an adrenaline shot and chased it down an alleyway. Yeah, okay. Speed is definitely a key element here. However, for all of its near relentlessness, the album never once feels cluttered or rushed. There’s always room to breathe, and even enough time for a choral section and brief spoken word passage.
When some previously defunct bands decide it’s time to try and grab a second bite of the cherry, there’s a tendency to come back with just a name and, if we’re lucky, two or three original members. A year or two down the line and the old problems which caused the band to split in the first place rear their ugly heads and everything begins to fall apart again. Thankfully, however, and much like fellow NWOBHMers Hell, Satan are not only more confident than ever but also still pushing themselves in what really should be their comfortable slippers and gardening years.
When Ross shouts “Ten Thousand Hiroshimas, it’s the end for you and me!” on album closer and mini-epic ‘The Fall of Persephone’ you can picture the scene with crystal clarity.