Ripped straight from the heart of the 80s.
British heavy metal band, Satan, have had an awkward run of ever-shifting band names and members, releasing albums under the titles Blind Fury and Pariah, the entity of Satan only ever released two albums: their seminal, yet cult classic 1983 debut, Court in the Act, and their 1987 “sophomore” effort, Suspended Sentence. The most notable difference between the two being the change in vocalist, Suspended Sentence being fronted my Michael J. Jackson, who wasn’t a bad vocalist, but didn’t live up to the standard set by Brian Ross. And with the less-than-stellar standard of face-melting riffs, Suspended Sentencefaded away into the shadow of the band’s debut, the band abandoned the Satan name and remained largely overlooked in the metal scene. To the joy of fans everywhere, the band reformed under the Satan name, and with the original Court in the Act line-up, in 2011. Thirty years after the fact, Satan have returned with a true successor to their debut and an album that could barely be fathomed in 2013; Life Sentence is the essence of 80s heavy metal, epitomised in forty-four minutes of the catchiest riffs and solos you’ll hear in modern metal.
Picking up where Court in the Act left off, Life Sentence throws the listener right into a barrage of riffs and linear, yet rhythmically satisfying drum beats. Ross’ vocals kicking in without so much as losing a single ounce of familiarity in thirty years, “They say there’s no future for me/locked in the tower, I be/until the day the hangman calls my name/the gallows’ rows stand straight and tall/until it’s time to die”, each little vocal inflection expertly covered with an alternate riff that just adds to the excitement in these opening moments of ‘Time to Die’, the song progressing, changing time signatures to make way for a deep, melodic guitar solo and Ross’ unforgettable falsetto. It’s as the track finishes and the listener is left with a heavy head that the full realisation of Satan’s return is comprehended.
The production, as is to be expected, holds a much cleaner sheen compared to the band’s previous work, decades ago, but still holds up with a crisp and audible sound protruding from each instrument. The guitars sound harmonic and sharp, the bass is deep and percussive, yet not too in-the-way, the drums sound a tad too crunchy, but not so much that it would detract from the album’s quality. Drummer, Sean Taylor, tends to stick to simple drum patterns, playing basic beats that accompany the music with a noticeable groove, the way your head, feet, hands or entire body will prove evident with the amount of exercise this album finds you in. Taylor still manages to pull out some mind-bogglingly terrific fills, in the sense that it all feels so simple, yet is so fluidly perfect for the style of music, most evident on ‘Testimony’, in which the song opens with a delicious snare fill and a riff that can tear down walls. Everything about this song is as on-point as it could be, Ross’ vocals fling hook after hook, Steve Ramsey and Russ Tuppins on the guitars just blast out some of the most memorable riffs in recent times; midway through the song, the guitars breaking into a fantastic arpeggio and solo that make the (arguably) best moment on the album. Bass shines all throughout, but takes centre stage to intro the track ‘Tears of Blood’, in which I could also write a paragraph about in terms of how coherent and just damn good it sounds.
In point of how one could almost unwillingly choose to talk about each and every song on this record, each song having defining moments for the album: bringing about the consciousness of how each and every moment of this album takes the audience in depth to completely engage and please the listener. While nothing new for the band, Life Sentencehas no need to be, taking inspiration straight from the band’s roots and delivering on every front, this album is nothing short of a sheer delight to listen to. And despite all the album does well, it has one shortcoming: there are not nearly enough falsettos.