Satan - Atom by Atom

Satan Atom by Atom cover
Atom by Atom
Listenable Records
Satan is one of the cornerstone bands of the NWOBHM movement – releasing the seminal “Court in the Act” back in 1983, featuring Blitzkrieg’s Brian Ross on vocals, future Skyclad guitarist Steve Ramsay and bassist Graeme English as well Russ Tippins, another superb guitarist, and Sean Taylor on drums who was more than an adequate skinsman... although the album was and is still considered as a classic with bands like Blind Guardian for instance covering “Trial By Fire” in the past, cementing the belief that the band influenced a great variety of bands, on both sides of the pond with their proto-thrash/speed heavy metal style that set them quite apart from most of the rest of the “NWOBHM” bands at the time that were more “hard rock” or “prog” based.
Relationships with the band were turbulent at best and so the chaps underwent quite a few line-up and name changes, first to Blind Fury and later to Pariah, before, Ramsay and English got involved in Skyclad and their success caused the then formation, “Pariah” at the time, to go into a rather long hiatus that was however briefly interrupted in the late 90s with the release of the quite worthy “Unity”. A Live “Satan” album got released in 2004 and interest in the band slowly begun to grow again so in 2011, the band reformed with its original line-up, since Taylor who was in the States for a while had returned to his hometown a couple of years earlier. 2013’s “Life Sentence” surprised a lot of people by almost matching “Court in the Act” every single bit, the band performing in pretty much the same way they did some twenty years earlier, a great feat by all means.
The band has performed quite a few shows in the years since the release of the album... building its audience back from scratch and their live shows have always been reviewed very favorably, since the band manages to match their studio output quite closely... actually 2014 saw the release of another live album in the form of “Trail of Fire – Live in North America” with the material for the album taken from recordings that took place on the band’s East Coast tour earlier that year, which amply proves the band’s live prowess...
Not slowing down the band continued their “Trail of Fire” tour activities into 2015 with some dates in Europe (Germany, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Belgium and Holland) and a successful South American tour (playing shows in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Colombia) completed just recently. Somehow in between all these tour dates the band managed to go to Italy and record another album produced once again by Dario Mollo, who’s become a bit of the man to go to for all the Satan/Skyclad etc. production needs. It contains some ten new tracks in the band’s familiar style, only maybe on occasion a bit more “aggressive” and as a result sounding like a mix between “Court...” and the band’s two releases with Michael Jackson (no not tjst Michael Jackson!) “Into the Future” & “Suspended Sentence”… which I can’t complain much about, really, as I’ve loved most of what the band has released through the years (under all the various names) with a few exceptions!
“Farewell Evolution” begins with some intense riffing and things do sound quite familiar as soon as Brian Ross opens his mouth… with the band sounding like a small tornado that’s raging, but quite a riffy one... the song eventually slows down a bit for a rather idiosyncratic middle section and a solo, before reprising the initial riff barrage once more and the conclusion is reached.
“Fallen Saviour” is similar, but has some more melodic rhythm guitars riffing away and a quite interesting build up, but does have a bit of a cling in its armor, a couple of not so great backing vox, possibly by Tippins that do however mar the overall impression.
“Ruination” has quite a hellish atmosphere and a more “tech” approach, mixing the typical melodic heavy metal with a couple of more thrashy ideas a few riffs and the overall percussive work in particular.
“The Devil’s Infantry” is defacto among the best tracks the band has written with a riff that’s totally Satan-ic, but which Metallica, for instance, would have “killed” to have written… typical of the band’s ability to push the pedal to the metal, it switches effortlessly between some semi thrashy parts to some incredibly melodic ones, always exercising perfect control! Hell is here!
“Atom by Atom” is by no means a bad song, but it’s more reserved nature at predictable mid-pace, make it somewhat less impressive than its predecessor, which is really a shame, because while its main riff and idea are not that complex, it’s still a nice display of chops.
“In Contempt” has me wondering whether someone in the band is or wanted to be a lawyer or a judge… (well I can write two of them off) as they always seem to have some title or other being either a wordplay or a direct reference to legal proceedings. It’s not bad at all and while it’s not terribly quick, it manages to keep the atmosphere quite tense, maintaining an air of urgency… somehow I find the solo to be quite “out of place” – it’s not bad by any means, but it almost sounds as it was just grafted on the song with actually the next verse beginning rather abruptly after it… still it’s not a bad song and maybe I need to listen to it a few more times...
“My Own God” is quite “bleak” and obscure at first, but its chorus has a riff running through it in a way that makes it stand out quite a bit, here the solo as well sounds quite spot on… one of the better songs here!
“Ahriman”... the Zoroastrian spirit of destruction manifested hypostasis, forms right before us, in this melodic, riffy specimen. Damn, Satan are one of those bands that might use more riffs in an album than some bands use in their entire discography... haha…
“Bound in Enmity” is yet another scorcher, which for some reason reminded me how much I enjoyed songs like “Siege Mentality” in the band’s previous album...
Last but not least, definitely not least, “The Fall of Persephone” is in fact one of the most ambitious songs that the band has ever composed, a nearly seven minute epic that goes through every possible speed and mood variation, including a spoken word middle, drawing parallels between the ancient Greek myth of Persephone being taken to the underworld with an impending “apocalypse” due to mankind’s complete and utter downfall caused by an “impact event”… only in the myth, Persephone manages to get some “time” to return to earth as “springtime” being the daughter of Demeter and all, in Satan’s version – humanity ends and that’s that ! Lol!
Wow, even if I had some slight doubt whether Satan could pull another rabbit out of the hat, against any of my doubts, they’ve managed to come up with a rather spectacular album once again! Congrats are in order… I have another album to add, in my list of “kick-ass/must have” albums of the year...