Satan – “Cruel Magic” (Metal Blade)
Brother, NWOBHM never sounded so good! Now 3 albums into their resurrection since 2011 featuring the band’s original line up, Satan have never sounded better. If you wanted to know the true essence of this band, often denied to them in their fledgling days, then “Cruel Magic” goes a long way into answering that through the 10 astounding songs here, deep and alluring in all their glory yet resonating the raw and some might say reckless performances of their 1983 classic “Caught In The Act”. Indeed, there’s some true magic here although the band’s name has little to do with any real devilry, instead dealing with real world issues such as injustice that are more prevalent than ever before in today’s world. Likewise, while Satan are still fast, the attitude these days is to shred through the intensity of the material itself, crammed with hooks, breaks and fretboard technicality rather than just speed through it all – although there was still a definite intention to record on first takes – so do expect to hear the odd mistake! Led by legendary Brian Ross, whose stratospheric highs yet incredible soul remain as potent through the decades as before, the dexterous interweaving guitars of Russ Tippins and Steve Ramsey add the hefty meat onto the bones of this stylish skeleton right from the racing opener of ‘Into The Mouth Of Eternity’ with its powering melodies galloping alongside the NWOBHM heaviness propelled by Graeme English’s rollicking bass and Sean Taylor’s hammering drums. It’s all undeniably trademarked British standard from Ross’s screams to the twin fretboard burning and drum rolls, but most of all, the crucial blending of catchy air punching melodies and headbanging heaviness no better exemplified than on the high energy of ‘My Prophetic Soul’ as Ross’s passion effortlessly morphs into screams and likewise the guitars intensely deliver warbling melodies time and again, including an ambient jazzy section with tambla drums ha ha! Best of all for me was ‘Death Knell For A King’ with its killer hooks and Ross’s brilliantly sung out chorus that just grabbed and shook me into headbanging self combustion while the twin guitars exploded, rocked and raced around me with NWOBHM bliss – awesome! A more than worthy successor to “Atom By Atom”, “Cruel Magic” continues the excellent return to form of this magnificent band. Indeed, the true success of this record is that while still being undeniably NWOBHM, it goes well beyond ‘retro’ in bringing the glory of past into today’s modernity for new generations and older fans to revel in – me being one of them!