Album Review: Satan – Earth Infernal

Album Review: Satan - Earth Infernal
Reviewed by Sam Jones

Within the annals of heavy metal, Satan might be one of the more underrated acts of the NWOBHM movement that began in the late 70s to early 80s of the British metal scene. Formed all the way back in 1979, Satan have had a rather tumultuous existence with multiple reunions and lineup changes and their early material, Court In The Act and Suspended Sentence, were each released in two different segments of the band’s existence; that is how frail the band could be back in the day. Stunningly we’re actually in the most stable and long-running period of the band in decades, which has seen the band release a slew of modern albums that have really demonstrated what an underrated force Satan have become in this day and age. Eleven years now since their modern era reunion, the band have for us their sixth studio album titled Earth Infernal. I always get a little glee when I see an upcoming Satan record and this time was no different. So let’s have a look at what these long running guys have managed to cook up for us this time.

It’s a very crisp and well produced sound that Satan sport here. In a way I’m not surprised as this kind of ultra clean aesthetic is precisely what the band have been showcasing for years now, ever since their modern day reunion. There’s very little difficulty in making out what is happening or where the band want to take you, you’ll be able to listen to the compact drums alongside the subtle tings of the cymbals all the while the vocals cry out and the riffs, deliciously tasty as they are, play with nothing sonically holding them back from demonstrating what they’re playing to what your ears are picking up. What they are playing in the recording studio is effectively what you’ll hear throughout this record with 100% accuracy, and nothing lost within the mixing process. Now granted, this is a band that formed originally at the end of the 70s so they’re naturally going to gravitate towards that crisp and transparent style of production, yet even by today’s notions of what a “clean” album production is, its extremely polished to the point where if the sun were to shine on it, you’d run the risk of getting blinded. It’s smooth and glistening to an extraordinary degree. Anyone looking for a muddied or rougher aesthetic won’t find anything of the like here.

With that said though, we mustn’t fool ourselves into thinking Satan don’t possess any power to their performance. The riffs feel fat and bold within the band’s collective performance, the record may harness a super smooth production that doesn’t mean the instrumentation just blends together. Credit therefore belongs to the mixing which has enabled riffs and the other individual, instrumental components to stick out profusely well. Even when the guitar work is a little more intricate and comes off with methodically planned flair, they still manage to stand out and fix themselves on your senses. But moreover, I enjoyed how the guitar work wasn’t massively in my face, the band knew it was best for their sound to allow the riffs to remain within the same spheres as the vocals, bass and drumming. It genuinely feels like a real band effort, so even though the riffs do have that bold feel to their performance it’s not like they try to dominate at any point.

Album Review: Satan – Earth Infernal

It legitimately baffles me how Brian Ross, Satan’s longtime vocalist from way back in their early days, has managed to take care of his ageing voice whereby he’s still able to put forward his voice on record, and it’s able to instil genuine enjoyment from modern fans. What’s more is that when you’re listening to Ross perform, it’s an honestly competent vocal performance despite his approaching 70 years of age. Granted he isn’t out here pulling off any Bruce Dickinson or Rob Halford-class vocal deliveries utilising any banshee wailing or stratospheric-reaching screeches, but Brian Ross manages to evoke real class and ability throughout this record that doesn’t feel forced or sympathetic due to age. A truly underrated old school NWOBHM vocalist for sure.

This album from Satan, more than the last few, really seems to have got the pacing down to a much steadier and relaxed fervour. A 5 minute track off this record actually feels like you’re spending 5 minutes on it. Often when a band are playing quickly that span of time naturally feels much faster because you’re invested in the band’s energy, performance etc. But in this instance, Satan have worked on their songwriting whereby it feels like you’re fully enjoying the music they have here without rushing from one track to the next. The album definitely feels like you’re spending over 45 minutes on it, and I’m not saying that in a negative light. It’s refreshing to encounter an album that isn’t just screaming in your face and rushing from A to B without giving you an opportunity to breathe. Tracks have this “we’ll get there when we get there” attitude to them, not that they’re glacially slow of anything along those lines but, they revel in the moment; riff segments and sections of songwriting can change and alternate on the fly. That slower pacing throughout the record allows the audience to remember segments with greater ease and really allow the record to embed itself in their minds, preferably as something they’d like to return to.

In conclusion, while I don’t think it’s the band’s strongest release since their reunion it’s still a wondrously fun album to listen to. It’ll keep you thoroughly engaged throughout its nearly 50 minute runtime with plenty of tricks and twists within the songwriting to make sure you’re attentive from start to finish. Ultimately, I like how this album really decided to dial back a touch on the rampancy of pacing and really let their audience stew amidst the songwriting put forth. This record isn’t a fast food meal, nor is it fine cuisine however it’s something you’re more than happy to take your time with because of how familiar and comforting it is. You could have never heard a Satan album before, dive into Earth Infernal and feel right at home due to how inviting the band present themselves as herein. Earth Infernal won’t judge you for never having heard of Satan before and it’s more than comfortable to introduce itself to you. All in all, this was a really fun experience and I’m glad to see that Satan are still going strong, hopefully to give us yet more material in the coming years.

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