Once an NWOBHM badge wearer, always an NWOBHM badge wearer, I suppose, and for Satan, the band who were part of that movement as the seventies moved creaking into the eighties, it’s a label that they are quite happy to display.
Satan – Earth Infernal (Metal Blade Records)
Release Date: 1 April 2022
Words: Paul Hutchings
Earth Infernal is their fourth album in a decade, a decent output for any band. Satan can truly claim to be authentic with the line-up comprising the same musicians that played on ’83s Court In The Act.
It’s been eight years since Satan headlined the final night in 2014s Bloodstock Open Air in a set that saw Brian Ross famously thanking Megadeths’s Dave Mustaine for pushing their slot back to ensure no clash, thus allowing Satan exposure to a much larger crowd.
It was a good set and end to the weekend if my ageing memory recalls correctly. Two albums, including 2018s excellent Cruel Magic, have come and gone, and now Earth Infernal keeps the quality.
Brian Ross (vocals) is once again joined by Steve Ramsey and Russ Tippins (guitars), Graeme English on bass and drummer Sean Taylor for ten songs of solid Heavy Metal on an album that is well worth a listen.
For all their various leanings towards the dark side, Satan in 2022 are very much on topic. Earth Infernal dips a toe into the melting pot of global warming, environmental crisis and climate change, all en vogue until two years ago and now once more pushed way down the political agenda. Yes, Satan are getting political.
Having been genuinely stunned by the reception to Cruel Magic, the pandemic provided Satan with more time for writing. Although they, like every other band on the planet, saw their touring plans halt, it did allow them to explore those creative ideas in more detail.
The result is impressive. From the powerful opening duo Ascendency and Burning Portrait, it’s clear that Satan have not wasted their time. The songs are anthemic, full of hooks and lit up by Ross’s clear vocal delivery.
The band have grasped the heaviness that has always been a part of their sound, moulding it to a classic approach whilst supporting a freshness that allows their music to breathe and expand. Tippins and Ramsey’s guitar playing is phenomenal, their dual interplay working magnificently, and the whole record screams quality.
It’s reasonable to suggest that this is an album that may just be a career highlight, such is the stellar musicianship. As Tippins notes in the press release that went with this album, Ramsey and play dual leads in unison throughout, something that few guitar partnerships manage these days.
It’s an organic flow that works so well, natural and relaxed, whilst keeping a modern feel that places the record directly in the middle of 2022. Diving deeper into Earth Infernal and you discover no title track but two linked songs in Earth We Bequeath and Twelve Infernal Lords. Both share the theme of the earth slowly cooking away as humans continue to plunder and disregard everything around them.
It’s hard not to nod in agreement at the waste and destruction around us. And perhaps permit a wry smile to those who think that all Metal is about Satan, wizards and dragons.
Earth Infernal is an album crammed with interesting themes and well-crafted songs. A short but welcome instrumental in Mercury’s Shadow leads directly into A Sorrow Unspent, which features some interesting percussion at the start before building dramatically into a ferocious speed Metal track.
There isn’t a bad song on the entire album, with Heavy Metal anthems like From Second Sight, which looks at conspiracy theorists and those who ignore science, and Poison Elegy ensuring there is real quality throughout.
When you learn about the various traumas that the band experienced in the creation of the album, it’s even more astonishing. Engineer Dave Curle suffered a pulmonary embolism which took him to death’s door, whilst English broke his arm before the studio experienced a crash in the recording system.
Earth Infernal keeps a gritty, old school feel whilst being contemporary at the same time. The band haven’t over-polished the record. There is the odd bum note hidden away in the album, and that’s the way Satan would have it.
As Tippins puts it, “It all adds up to something that sounds engaging. Real. It’s something which I feel I’m hearing less and less in modern recording. I’m not saying bands should go out of their way to mess up, but if it happens on a take that’s really cooking, why meddle with it?”