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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Satan

Life Sentence

Review by Mike Korn

Where would heavy metal be without Satan? No, not the guy with horns and the Van Dyke, but rather the band hailing from Newcastle, England. They have been kicking around since 1979 and in fact were a big part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal that conquered the world in the early 80s. Their album Court In The Act is an acknowledged classic of the metal genre, but they have been very erratic in their output since then.

Now the original Court In The Act  lineup has returned with Life Sentence and I could not conceive of a better or stronger comeback. So many older bands stay past their prime and turn out sub-par material, but not this time, bunky. This is a textbook example of how to stay true to your original sound and yet adapt to modern times. Life Sentence is simply a stunning album, combining classic British metal with speed metal to create memorable songs.

Don't be fooled by the band's name, this is not black metal in the style of Venom, but something that has much more in common with Iron Maiden, Angelwitch and Diamondhead. Life Sentence deserves to be every bit as celebrated as Court In The Act and is an indispensable purchase for any metalhead!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Time to Die
A swirling vortex of lead guitar sucks you into the lead-off track. This is crisp, ripping speed metal that's clean and direct. The classic vocals of veteran Brian Ross (perhaps most famous for his work with Blitzkrieg) lend an elegant touch to Satan's music. This track features some more subdued passages but it's a worthy introduction to the album and the guitar tandem of Steve Ramsey and Russ Tippins immediately prove their worth.
Twenty Twenty Five
This song proves Satan is not just content to rehash the sounds of 30 years ago. This is quite a modern sounding and even progressive song that's pretty complex.  There's a quirkiness to the chugging thrash here that is really original, and Ross does some screaming multi-tracked vocals. The sci-fi lyrics are cool and ominous, as well.
Cenotaph
Very Maiden-esque double guitar kicks this off. This is a killer cut with deep roots in the NWOBHM. It's got a great heavy galloping feel to it and the vocal lines are super catchy. This is pure heavy metal at its best. 
Siege Mentality
The lid really comes off with this one. Not too many songs you can describe as “perfect,” but this is one. The chorus and accompanying riff is just faultless. Songs like Maiden's "The Trooper" and Priest's "Victim of Changes" come to mind, not in terms of actual resemblance but more due to the fact that they are stone cold classics the minute you hear them. This is a standout track on an album full of great ones.
Incantations
There is no let-up in quality here as this cut delivers another slicing example of British steel. Speaking of which, the riffing here does have an echo of the mighty Judas Priest, but combined with Satan's own brand of metallic excellence.
Testimony

The Ramsey/Tippins guitar duo strikes again. This song is bursting at the seams with smoking dual axe work, like Thin Lizzy on speed. There's another awesome chorus courtesy of Brian Ross. This is a great track to just lean back and get carried away by a tide of awesome precision guitar work and great riffing. Honestly, this is much better than anything Iron Maiden has done since their "comeback.”

Tears of Blood
The pace slows a bit here, allowing more of the crunch to sink in. It's not as immediate a song as "Siege Mentality" or "Testimony," but it's very good in its own right and doesn't slow the album at all.
Life Sentence
The needle hits the red zone here with a great galloping riff and a pace calculated to make you sweat. Honestly, if this doesn't make you reach for the air guitar, you better go back to your Bieber records.
Personal Demons

This simpler tune is a real throwback to the old NWOBHM days. The blues-tinged riff and vocal style harken back to those glory days. This is where Satan tip their hat to their roots.

Another Universe
The album has been full of breathless and relentless energy up until this point, but this song begins as a ballad. It kind of reminds me a bit of Maiden's "Strange World" from their debut. The tune builds in intensity and complexity but never loses the melodic edge. This is quite the powerful epic and features some of the best lead work of the whole album. It brings an amazing album to a rousing close.
 
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