Satan – Earth Infernal (Metal Blade)

It marked the return of British metal legends.

A band synonymous with the NWOBHM movement.

An act whose twin harmonies duck and weave through thunderous, anthemic songs.

Yep, Iron Maiden’s Senjutsu was, unsurprisingly, on everyone’s lips last year.

But as Maiden’s 17th album was gathering column inches and celeb endorsements across the globe, another act, born from the same NWOBHM scene, was conjuring up a very special record.

And if Bruce Dickinson et al showed they could still cut it on Senjutsu, then Satan have proved they’re a cut above, thanks to Earth Infernal.

Satan are on fire

The Tyneside quintet – formed the same year Maiden released The Soundhouse Tapes – have been in a rich vein of form since their 2011 rebirth.

Life Sentence, Atom By Atom and the spectacular Cruel Magic were rapturously received by both NWOBHM veterans and young metalheads eager for classic metal’s warm embrace.

The Newcastle outfit’s appearance at metal festivals across the globe, from Brofest to Keep It True, built their momentum.

But even the most devout Satan worshippers could be startled by Earth Infernal’s majesty.

Brian Ross has seldom sounded better as he rails against environmental destruction and science denial.

His voice – and lyrics – cuts through. The frontman adds drama and tension to every track. Yet he never reverts to histrionics in what is a powerhouse performance.

Guitarists Russ Tippins and Steve Ramsey, so essential to Satan’s style, have raised their game even further here too.

Yes, their glorious dual leads and dexterous melodic interplay fires songs such as Ascendancy into the stratosphere – which is what we’ve come to expect from the pair.

But across the whole of Earth Infernal, their riffs bite that little bit harder than before. They’re razor sharp. Consistently addictive. Everything heavy metal fretwork should be about… but often isn’t.

And it helps that the duo are backed by a rhythm section – in bassist Graeme English and drummer Sean Taylor – who play an intuition born from decades on metal’s frontlines. From Second Sight, where English threatens to out-do Satan’s six stringers, is just one example of their supreme skill.

But what really makes Earth Infernal so compelling is the titanic songcraft which underlines it.

A subtle flourish here, a wild, dizzying fret-run there? Yes, of course it’s there.

But few bands could weave the energy which crackles around A Sorrow Unspent or Earth We Bequeath into a cohesive whole, or do it with such panache.

And even fewer could write an album that, from the incisive Burning Portrait to the battle charge of The Blood Ran Deep, holds your attention throughout. In contemporary parlance, Earth Infernal is just ‘wall to wall bangers’.

Indeed, Satan’s progressive, cerebral music is the antithesis of the stodgy, plodding ‘meat and potatoes’ style that continues to blight a lot of trad metal. Its enthralling and exhilarating in equal measure, a testament to the North Easterners’ ambition.

Satan keep up the devil’s work

Way back in ’83, when they were recording Court In The Act, Brian and the boys probably couldn’t imagine that in 2022 they’d be together as a band, let alone creating records as strong as Earth Infernal.

But Satan move in mysterious ways… and their reign continues.

Enjoyed this review? Check out our Top 10 Trad Metal Albums of 2021.