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‘Life Sentence’ by Satan | Sentenced to Metal


Last Updated on 09:16 PM by Giorgos Tsekas

It is astonishing that the manual ’The road to commercial failure of a N.W.O.B.H.M. band’ subtitled ‘even if you have the best voice, great composers, an amazing guitar duo, perfect timing and the coolest band name out there’ was written by the same people that also wrote ‘The best Reunion in the metal universe’. Astonishing as well is the fact that in the period between those two, they gave us some of the most glorious moments of heavy sound (Just to mention: ‘Prince of the Poverty Line’, ‘A Time of Changes’, ‘A Burnt Offering for the Bone Idol’, ‘Unholy Trinity’, ‘Jonah’s Ark’ and  ‘Irrational Anthems’ which are all timeless diamonds). Moreover, how can you not be astonished by the existing chemistry among the band members even 30 years after the last time this particular line-up went into the studio together? Earlier, sometime in 2004, their short lived reunion for Wacken Festival didn’t presage anything more than an one off show. And indeed, as if not one day has passed…. Yet the last time that Graeme English (Bass), Brian Ross (Vocals), Steve Ramsey (Guitars), Russ Tippins (Guitars) and Sean Taylor (Drums) recorded all together was in 1983. Their troubled career suffered by constant singer changes and let’s not forget also the name change to Blind Fury and the release of Out Of Reach in 1985 with Lou Taylor as a singer (Persian Risk, Saracen) that substituted Ross. It is noteworthy and kind of ironical to point out that Brian Ross had substitute him once (while Trevor Robinson was the singer in the legendary first demo in 1981, as also in the legendary first single ‘Kiss Of Death’ in 1982 and Ian Swift was the singer in the great Into The Fire in 1982). Besides the ones behind the microphone, there were changes in the musical direction flirting with speed and thrash, but also in the name of the band that contributed to the course their career took. They released two albums up until 1989 with the name Pariah, when they disbanded to reunite in 1998 under the same moniker for another record. As individuals, the band members did not disappear in any case after 1983 and Satan’s commercial failure, since they participated in legends like Skyclad and Blitzkrieg and you can’t really say they went back to some boring jobs. On the contrary they left a mark in the history of heavy metal (check also the very good but neglected ‘Into The Future’ EP from 1986 and the full length studio ‘Suspended Sentence’ from 1987 with Michael Jackson from Pariah and Rough Edge as singer.) And if their debut established them as something more than just a cult band in the collective memory of metalheads, their obscure content indeed had already make them heroes of the idiom. The biomechanical environment where they grew up bred the rage of Satan members and made them constantly seek for Justice. Sometimes following the left path that seemed as a one way street, even in the allegoric sense, for the working class kids from Newcastle (a big city in North England that has given birth to Tysondog, Avenger, Raven, Hollow Ground and of course Venom) since the ruling class with one hand was rewarding their sweat with leftovers and with the other was holding the cross…. Life Sentence’s cover brings in mind that of Court In The Act having as central figure the British judge with the characteristic wig and the skeletal face in an imposing piece of art made by the already acclaimed Eliran Kantor. But the similarities with the glorious past do not end there. The sound is so modern and timeless at the same time that it marked a whole new era for the whole of N.W.O.B.H.M. Even Blitzkrieg with the vocally never aging Brian Ross that are back in discography since 2013 sound weak next to new age Satan. And if Ross’ voice is majestic and full of lyricism and pulsation what can we say about the stunning and intense guitars that burn everything in their way like lava. The performance, individually and collectively, seems mesmerizing with power and melody being in perfect balance. If the first reunion I remember is that of Mercyful Fate, that of Accept the most honest (I mean that with Udo in 1993), that of Priest the most predictable judging from the course of things after Bruce’s return to Maiden, then if any reunion has any trace of dignity, it should be compared with the huge Life Sentence to find an appropriate adjective to that. The compositions are to be shown in seminars, they are charged but they still retain some starkness and a clarity as far as the message they give to the listener is concerned. At the same time the atmosphere they create is bleak and dark as hell. ‘Time To Die’ is exercising a suffocating attraction to headbang and while you are looking for a ray of light to save yourself, you know you have already surrendered yourself in Satan’s appetite. And it only gets better with ‘Twenty Twenty Five’ which is one of the best songs of the 10’s standing out among equal songs, ‘Cenotaph’ is a short epic, in ‘Siege Of Mentality’ the guitars flirt with eastern riffs (something we come across also in ‘Incantations’ where the lyrics are inspired by Egypt) that alternate fiercely with the leads. ‘Tears Of Blood’ is an explosive mixture of Maiden melodies and Angel Witch magic, ‘Personal Demon’ is the closest one to Bltizkrieg and the title track has instant classic qualities, while the album as a whole moves in similar patterns being consistently cohesive and having a flow that one comes across only in concept albums, sonically as well as musically. In the same vain work its successors or better the continuators ‘Atom By Atom’ of 2015 and ‘Cruel Magic’ of 2018 that complete an unholy trilogy that should be in every collection.

Giorgos Tsekas
Giorgos Tsekas
"Κάποτε Όταν Θα ‘χουμε Καιρό... Θα Σκεφτούμε Πάνω Στις Ιδέες Όλων Των Μεγάλων Στοχαστών, Θα Θαυμάσουμε Τους Πίνακες Όλων Των Μεγάλων Ζωγράφων, Θα Γελάσουμε Με Όλους Τους Χωρατατζήδες, Θα Φλερτάρουμε Όλες Τις Γυναίκες, Θα Διδάξουμε Όλους Τους Ανθρώπους" Μπ. Μπρεχτ

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