Review Summary: Satan bring the demons back, to bring you guys down to hell.
I'm going to go ahead and say it: Satan are the greatest band to emerge from NWOBHM 80s scene who haven't endured mainstream success yet. Why? Because the band have been consistent all the way through, from their excellent 80s output to the more menacing latter material, such as Life Sentence
and this year's latest effort, Atom By Atom
. You can argue that Satan are overrated because of their cult following, but nobody can deny the enigmatic instrumental influence the band has left for countless newer bands to adopt and adapt.
Atom By Atom
, just like Life Sentence
, is one hell of a way of saying to the world "We're back". Not just that, but it's also a representation of how brilliant songwriting and instrumental performance are in Satan's music, carefully considered to bring out the most effective sound the listener can get. The band's latest album begins with a piercing, demonic scream flowing into a majestic, speedy riff which in turn delivers some of the tastiest guitar licks in a heavy metal record. Indeed, opener "Farewell Evolution" certainly sets the bar damn high. Brian Ross' shrieks and screams are just as effective as his solemn warble over the inspirational rhythm section throughout every song, proving to be as much of an outstanding aspect of the band's sound as the instrumental performance. "Farewell Evolution" is a certain reminder of this, but his delivery extends beyond screaming and singing. On "Ruination", he almost attains a higher pitch than usual, at times proving as vicious as the infectious main riff, and the album's closing epic, "The Fall of Persephone", sees Ross adopt a narrative style where he briefly describes the presence and power Persephone held in her reign, before the song borders on symphonic and epic territory.
The real gem in Satan's latest album is its versatile songwriting approach, which is naturally rife in previous albums too. The instrumental delivery helps this to become more refined of course, but the way in which the quieter, more acoustic moments of say "Ruination" are complemented and balanced by the insane amount of aggressive solos in "The Devil's Infantry", showcasing the powerful twin lead work between Ramsey and Tippins. Elsewhere, as in the title track and "In Contempt", the band adopt a more progressive route towards musicianship, and it proves to be fully flavoured with intricate guitar patterns and that unmistakeably effective bass rumble in the background, providing an extra bout of heaviness for the rest of the song to lead from. The album does lose its effectiveness after "In Contempt" slightly, with the weakest songs notably being "My Own God", "Ahriman" and "Bound for Eternity", before "The Fall of Persephone" reminds us all of how we fell in love with Satan to begin with. These weaker aforementioned songs aren't even that much of a problem however, because despite cutting the fluency of the instrumental gusto, the effect earlier songs have had on the listener will likely still have delivered a powerful punch to the eardrums. Each song is virtually memorable from start to finish, and certainly leaves a mark which few of Satan's peers unfortunately cannot match now.
Satan have outdone themselves again, essentially. Whilst there is little difference in songwriting or instrumental delivery compared to that of Life Sentence
, Atom By Atom
still proves Satan have buckets of confidence and creativity in their wake, as well as the fact that they're just not going to go away anytime soon. The cohesive and unforgettable instrumental delivery connects with Brian Ross' vocal menace, leading us all to believe that Satan should really be more well-known than they currently are. Nonetheless, it's an excellent record to put up there with the best of them.