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In 1983, the year it came to be... - 98%

Caleb9000, April 14th, 2016

1983 was one of my favorite years of all time for heavy metal. There were such amazing acts that were releasing albums and too many were very underrated. It was the year that the genre had once again really broken into the mainstream, with albums such as Shout at the Devil, Holy Diver, and Metal Health. But there were albums that were lurking underground that were even better than the majority of their upper counterparts. This album's release was one that metalheads paid less mind than others, as there were a lot of those in the NWOBHM. However, Satan's "Court in the Act" is a criminally underrated album that can compete with the big acts in terms of greatness. The album has some of the best guitar work that you can find on a heavy metal album and the only thing that I can assume to be what threw some people off was the vocals. I think that the vocals help give the music the chilling atmosphere that it has. I don't think that some people realize what the typical raw and grit vocals would do to the rest of the music. It would throw listeners off tremendously.

The vocals that are delivered by Brian Ross do not possess all that high of an amount of power with them. They are not quite soft. In fact, there is a good amount of breath put into them. They are not comparable to the vocals Dickinson or Halford, but they are not something as thin as those of the vocalist of Angel witch, Keven Heybourne. The high notes that he hits throughout the album are actually quite powerful. He showcases that he has quite a range. The harmonized nature of his voice does well with the two sides that this album bestows upon the listener, gloomy and intense forms of eerieness... and blasts of power and catchiness, although the catchiness is not overly prominent in the music, which is in the album's favor. This kind of stuff should never be too catchy, but it is good to make an album that is fun to listen to, but not due to a tedious mashup of simplistically joyful radio material (this is far from that), but it is due to the atmosphere that this album creates, which is weighed down by its darkness more so than its joyfulness, as well as the insanely enjoyable guitar work, which I will get to later.

Some listeners could get a little thrown off by the third song, as that is when the mood of the album alters. The gloomy synth intro goes into track #1 from the album, "Trial by Fire". This is my favorite track from the album, as the frantic and dark nature of the song perfectly represent what it seems to be about, which is the narration of bombs being dropped on a city, which are strapped onto people. It gives the feeling of rushing doom and the epic and dark guitar melodies definitely do musical showcasing of a tragedy filled with action. Then the second track, "Blades of Steel" has a just-above-mid-paced tempo with a heavy, groovy riff. It gives me the feeling of an axe that is being swung through the air, fitting the topic of historical Vikings, going from town to town and massacring villagers. Ross showcases the highest notes of his range at the end of the track. But track 3, "No Turning Back" is more focused on joyfulness and catchiness. It gets a little too much for me, although I do enjoy the melodic and catchy chorus, as repetitive as it truly is. Luckily, It gets back into the fun and atmospheric sound afterwards. It never gets too catchy and it's no follower of high joyfulness. It actually gets to its gloomiest point on the last two tracks, an atmospheric and soaring instrumental and a ballad of gothic nature. What I find to be remarkable was that it created this atmospheric wall of sound that usually is only made by music that is driven by keyboards. This is very guitar-oriented, which is good, considering the overpowering cheese that would follow, would it have been otherwise.

What remains spot-on throughout this entire album is the guitar work. Russ Tippins and Steve Ramsey solid lead work... but the rhythm goes off the charts. These riffs have a lot of complexity, but they manage to not get too complex for their own well being. Despite this, the music structure as a whole is not all that adventurous. But that is not what its goal is. It has a structure at the level of many, but it really explores with the riffs. I'll also note that the tone perfectly fits them. The only word that I can truthfully comprehend at the thought of it would be "electrifying". It's driven by treble more than some other bands, but when riffs such as these come at the listener, it sends a lightning bolt right to your brain. Even during the moments when the riffs go on a more abrasive, sort of proto-thrash path, it just makes everything turn out to be as straightforward as possible. It also helps to thicken the atmosphere when that is more present, which is more so the case than the previous. Very creative and inventive for the time and still incredibly enjoyable.

This is an album that is outrageously overlooked, even by followers of the movement that was the NWOBHM. The members of Satan have done work with other acts, but this is where greatness truly lies. Everything comes together in an amazing way and there are hardly any aspects that I can fault it for. No individual is lacking in performance and although one may sometimes go unnoticed in the light of another, they have moments to shine later on and when they do, you marvel at them. Even though they may not always be phenomenal players, they just fit the music so well for this to even be a flaw. Do not ever let yourself be pushed away by the dated cover art (as much as I love it), as this truly is a vigorous album that never ceases to grasp ahold of my attention.