Satan – an absolutely legendary band in the underground and one of the foremost bearers of the NWOBHM banner from the 80’s until today. Their classic album “Court in the Act” is probably my favorite NWOBHM release and its dark yet fierce atmosphere together with Brian Ross’ unique vocal style have earned the band a strong cult following. When they returned to the scene back in 2013 my personal expectations was set sky high, and the band delivered in the form of the amazing comeback album “Life Sentence”. Since then they’ve also released “Atom by Atom” in 2015, which I personally found good but a bit less on par.
So, Satan in 2018 then? Well, the new album “Cruel Magic” continues the great cover art suite that started with “Court in the Act” way back in 1983. This concludes the fact that Satan is a band that isn’t prone to make big changes. The same goes for their music, in 2013 they sounded like they’d just recorded a follow up for their debut album in 1984 or so but then waited until 2013 to release it. Not much has changed since then, but who needs change and development when you can just get great songs?
Satan really can write great material and Brian’s voice delivers it with power and that certain Satan/Blitzkrieg element that only he possesses. The album is dark yet rocking, just as expected with Satan, and the lyrical themes are more on point, down to earth and in touch with reality than your ordinary run-of-the-mill dragons and fantasy or metal is the law stuff. The twin guitar playing and guitar solos are great and overall the musicianship of the album leaves nothing to be desired. You get both faster numbers as well as heavier mid-pace stuff and great choruses like in “The Doomsday Clock”, “Cruel Magic, and “Death Knell for a King”.
There’s also some things that are less well executed. Like the sound, especially on the drums, which I found sounding a bit too much like a demo pre-production instead of a finished album. There’s also maybe one song too much, considering the total playing time of about 50 minutes. I would say the last song, “Mortality”, could’ve been cut out. If it necessarily had to be ten songs the formidable “Catacombs”, b-side on the 7″ released before the album, could’ve taken its place. Despite this I would say this album is almost on the same level as their comeback “Life Sentence”. So if it’s some new songs by classic Satan you’re after this album pretty much delivers that on the money. A very strong 7 points, which would’ve been an 8 if it wasn’t for the sound (and a bit for leaving out “Catacombs”). Satan lives!
Title: Cruel Magic
Label: Metal Blade
Date of release: 2018-09-07
Playing Time: 49.50
Stand out track: I’ve found myself waking up with “Death Knell for a King” in my ear more than once.