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Riff by riff - 90%

Xyrth, December 16th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Listenable Records

Satan's early output is the only one from a NWOBHM band I can think of which can stand face to face to Iron Maiden's first releases, at least in terms of musical awesomeness. Their guitarwork has always been outstanding, quite creative and highly sophisticated, setting them apart from the herd, just like the Irons. Brian Ross has enough power and personality in his voice to rival even Bruce, at least in studio recording, and since I haven't seen Satan live unfortunately, I can't neither ensure nor deny he can't rival him onstage. Sure, Satan was put away for almost three decades, and even before that, they changed vocalist once Ross joined Blitzkrieg. It's understandable they never grew as big as they should have. But in 2013 they came back with all of their former strength… and then SOME. Life Sentence was hands down the greatest heavy metal album of that year… and perhaps of the decade. Fortunately for us, that creative wildfire has scorched its way to 2015, and we've been sentenced to head bang to the sweet tunes of Atom by Atom, the band's fourth LP, their second of their grandiose rebirth.

They took back from their preceding release many of the awesome stuff that made it such a tour de force. For starters, they've carried on with Eliran Kantor's services as the great artificer of their 21st Century artwork. One of the best nowadays on his field, no doubt, Eliran's piece for Atom by Atom is of course top-notch, again featuring the hellish skeletal judge mascot that appears in most of Satan's covers. But the Brits good taste doesn't end there; that's just the icing on this unholy cake. Their compositional finesse is also spot on, and this record feels like a continuation of Life Sentence. And that's saying A LOT. Few modern trad metal albums have stirred such an enthusiastic response from my metal-craving being like their comeback. Now that most of the old guard metal gods just aren't as good as before, aside from Accept and painfully few others, and with only a handful of new retro metal bands managing to carry the torch with enough grandeur to make Dio proud (like Enforcer), Satan's recent material feels like a breath of fresh air. It's exceptional that they're this good at this stage in their career.

The album starts in a phenomenal, if pessimistic, way with “Farewell Evolution”, a fast-paced ode to today's Mankind nonsense and decadence. Brian lets his pipes loose with a banshee screech and then those signature propelling, vintage sounding riffs explode out of the speakers. A solid starter, but to be honest, this one and the following track end up being the least exciting tunes for me here. They do show that Satan's style remains pristine… and ballsy! Things really start to soar into the awesomesphere from “Ruination” onwards, all of the remaining tracks featuring an amazing array of riffs, solos, calm breaks and other changes of pace, though they never chew more than they need. These guys keep on sounding like it's 1983, with all the energy of their youth, but adding tiny doses of modern thinking man's metal. Some weird guitar sounds here, some proggy sections there… seems like they've been listening to some Mastodon or Slough Feg, and the combination of new and old tricks it's just as tasty as it is mind-blowing. They never stop sounding oldschool, but they don't sound old or dated AT ALL. That can also be attributed to Darío Mollo's stellar, balanced and suitable production work. He's 2 for 2 in perfection for this band's in studio sound.

Almost impossible for me to pick favorite tracks, as I really enjoy all of them, but the title-track is pretty badass with an extremely head-bangable rhythm and sharp melodies, a mid-paced dose of classic heavy metal which again has been empowered with intelligent, modern guitar sounds that separates them from your average throwback metal band. “I am My Own God” is another mid-paced number that may or may not have the best chorus of the disc, while also featuring an Eddie Fast Clarke-styled solo. “Ahriman” sounds a bit more like modern Iron Maiden, in a condensed and improved form. But the whole record is almost flawless. I'm not a big fan of the narrated part on “The Fall of Persephone”, the mandatory six-minute “epic” found in each of the Ross-fronted Satan albums, but otherwise is a solid tune as well. In reality all of the tracks are outstanding specimens of modern and at the same time oldschool metal done magnificently.

The band's just spot-on. Ross sings unbelievably good, like not a single year has passed since he sang on Court in the Act, and many songs seem to be pulled out directly from their debut, with only an enhancement in production values. Did he sell his soul to his band's moniker originator for eternal youth? Does he bathes in virgin's blood once every week? We may never know the answer, but he remains as powerful as ever, just like the guitar attack of Steve Ramsey and Russ Tippins, ageless and even richer than during the 80s. The rhythmic section of Graeme English and Sean Taylor may not be as stellar as their frontman or the six-stringer's dual prowess, but it's quite tasty and classy in its own right. Although perhaps not as engaging and flawless as Life Sentence by a tiny difference, again, in 2015 Satan has put the high standard by which all heavy metal albums of the year should be measured… and I believe none will reach nor has reached as high as this one. Now, if only they could come to tour here in Mexico… Maybe someday. I believe we have plenty of time for that to happen. Fortunately, Satan's here to stay… and to slay!