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The Satanic Legions Return - 90%

TheStormIRide, December 9th, 2013

Satan's Host is an illustrious blackened heavy metal band created in 1977. They've hovered in various incantations since their formation, but always with the band's creator, Patrick Evil on guitars. The band's debut release, Metal From Hell, came out in 1986 with Leviathan Thisiren on vocals, who is better known as Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin from the legendary Colorado based heavy metal act Jag Panzer. I'll admit that I'm a huge Jag Panzer fan, and have been since the release of their MacBeth inspired Thane to the Throne release in 2000. It's through Jag Panzer that I even stumbled across Satan's Host and I always thought it was odd that a vocalist like the Tyrant would sing for a black metal band. Little did I know, then, that the band had already released a legendary album in the form of Metal From Hell, which I know hold in sentimental regard.

In 2011, the metal world was dealt a blow with the announcement of Jag Panzer's disbanding. This was the second break up of Jag Panzer (the first being between 1988 and 1994) and after the exceptional Scourge of the Light, I was more than a little upset that the band was bowing out. Unbeknownst to me, Conklin had already re-joined forces with Satan's Host in 2010. After learning that news, I was ecstatic to hear that Satan's Host was releasing a new album with Conklin at the helm, By the Hands of the Devil. And what a freaking album that was, filled to the brim with heavy riffing, blast beats and trem picking underneath the soaring, anthemic vocals of Conklin.

Returning, once again with Conklin on vocals, Satan's Host dropped their eighth full length album through Moribund Records, titled Virgin Sails. As good as By the Hands of the Devil truly was, Satan's Host may have topped themselves once again. The opening lines of the album show the band's intent:

“I come not to send peace
But a sword to slay men
I form to the light
Creating darkness upon this earth
I am the bringer of evil”

Satan's Host have once again returned to spread their blackened gospel to the masses with the unholiest of intents. Whereas, their return to form was full of blackened atmospheres, epic vocals and scorching music, Virgin Sails does the same while buckling down with more focused songwriting and tighter riffs. Instead of blasting coupled with breaks into US power metal style, Virgin Sails sounds more like an extremely blackened traditional metal album, complete with one of Conklin's best vocal performances of his career, with soaring highs and snarling growls, as heard on tracks like “Reanimated Anomalies”. There are no lulls in this album, as it's all high speed, scorching blackened metal. The riffs borrow heavily from the likes of Mercyful Fate and Venom, but are more modern and geared slightly more towards a thrashier style of modern black metal. I know genres get thrown around, but blackened power metal truly fits the bill here.

Blasting yet controlled drums that sound like the hooves of He Who Crushes Teeth and He Who Gnashes Teeth stampeding upon the oblivious masses riddle the album. The drums are precise, tight and energetic as hell, with a double bass barrage mixed with a more traditional style. The guitar riffs are tight, thrashy and oh-so-blackened. There are solid leads thrown throughout the entire album, like the bluesy solo during “Vaporous Blood” or the scorching winding during “Island of the Giant Ants”. As good as the blackened music really is, the star of the show is Harry Conklin, as his soaring vocals completely steal the show. Switching between raspy snarls and his trademark high pitched wails, he delivers one hell of a performance (pun kind of intended).

Every track on Virgin Sails is killer, with blackened metal, fiery guitar riffs and blasting drums, but there are moments that stand out. The album's title track, “Virgin Sails”, shows the band opting for a slow building, epic sound with a slower, driving drum beat mixing with running double bass lines and chunky, palm muted riffing. The track continuously hints at something heavier and faster and doesn't really let loose until around four and a half minutes, when the drums just take off into warp speed and the guitars fly into fast paced trem picking, before building into the best solo on the album, which borrows heavily from Iommi's playbook, but it fits so well alongside the blasting drums.

When I think about my favorite metal genres, there is power metal and black metal. Hands down those are my favorites, so it's almost a dream come true to have a band like Satan's Host so expertly weave the two together. The music is ferocious and the vocals are stellar. Virgin Sails shows Satan's Host at their peak and as one of the most devastating forces to be reckoned with on this side of the Atlantic.