Monday, June 24, 2024

Satan - Atom by Atom (2015)

Life Sentence was one of the greatest comebacks launched in all of British heavy metal history, and as far as I'm concerned, the band could have packed it all up, called it a day, and been content. But that was never an option, because Satan's reformation was going to become the rule, not the exception...they were about to surge into a period of productivity and relevance that very easily eclipsed their 80s cult classics. Touring, studio albums, the works, and not only remaining steadfast to their original sound, but bringing with them the experience that the members picked up in Pariah, Skyclad or Blitzkrieg. Yes, if this album resembles Blaze of Obscurity just as much as Court in the Act, I don't think that's any mistake, these were essentially the same band, and the modern crop of Satan releases are richer for it.

This is another incredible album, full of ceaseless, quality riffing that doesn't just honor the traditions that birthed it, but pushes the medium forward even so many decades later. That's what I love about these newer Satan albums, and why I enjoy them even more than the beloved debut, because there's very little here that seems stuck in the slough of nostalgia. Yes, that's the sound, but Steve Ramsey and Russ Tippins are bringing a wealth of creative ideas to the riffing which span all those decades of heavy, power, even a little thrash, and it sounds just as potent in the 21st century as it did during the era of spandex and hair spray. Just listen to the craftsmanship in "Farewell Evolution" or "Ruination", you can't go even a few seconds without some explosive of delicious ear-candy. The variation is expansive, yes they do focus in a lot on flighty, melodic, fast picking lines, but the leads are uniformly exquisite, and there's a lot of glorious emotion packed into every single moment of the experience. Graeme's bass playing is as thick and flexible as ever, still a match against the rest of the band, and even Sean Taylor sounds more invigorated than ever he was in the 80s.

As for Brian, guy doesn't sound like he's aged a day, although he definitely stays in his stronger zone here, with less of the stray screams that occasionally permeated the earlier material. Hell, I think he just sounds better, listen to how his pipes carry out over the melancholic and powerful bridge in "Ruination", or how he can inflect a little nastiness in there like Michael Jackson used to on Suspended Sentence. But most importantly, the guy is just totally distinct...he sounds nothing like Biff, or Bruce, or Rob, or Ozzy, or John G., and yet he's every bit as good of a singer. Sure, he's not who you turn for if range is your only thrill, but his voice flows so well over this material, there's a wavering quality to his performance which seems like a confident, spectral general guiding his soldiers to battle. Add to this the impeccable, organic feel to the production on this record and its neighbors...the guitars are crystal clear and mighty without needing tons of extra fuzz or gain, it all feels so warm and perfect without seemingly like it has some poppy overpolish. Eliran Kantor continues to capture the debut album's spirit with the artwork he's provided for all these new Satan albums, and while it lacks the total surprising impact I felt from Life Sentence, this one is very nearly in that ballpark of quality.

Verdict: Epic Win [9/10]

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