Some bands evolve and adapt, morphing into forms that incorporate diverse and growing influences. And some band keep on keepin’ on. I have no idea how bands a band like Satan is able to continually harness that NWOBHM flame they first stoked on 1983’s Court in the Act and not only keep it alight, but keep it fresh and new and completely unique from other bands out there doing the same. All of which is to say that Earth Infernal, the band’s sixth album and fourth since their 2011 re-emergence is another standard bearer for the cause, 10 tracks of righteous rock signal another classic entry in the annals of traditional metal.
It’s incredible to hear how clear the band’s vision has come through almost 40 years of the genre turning in on itself again and again. Go back to “Trail By Fire,” the band’s leading song on Court in the Act, and then check out “Ascendancy” which kicks off Earth Infernal. The guitars sounds even better, keeping that not-too overdriven gain in check so that every note rings clear. The riffs are just as ferocious in their technical flourishes, and damn if Brian Ross doesn’t sound even better, the passing decades adding a richness to his voice. The album feels like a continuation of Cruel Magic, their 2018 album that at the time felt like the pinnacle of what the band had been aiming for since the beginning (I had it on my Best of 2018 list at #6). Each song takes the foundation laid over 40 years ago and injects it with the experience and vitality of veterans playing at the top of their game.
Having that album’s touring cut short gave the band plenty of time to hone in on the next batch of songs, and if anything positive can be said to have come of this pandemic, it’s that the track on Earth Infernal have all the fat trimmed: each track is lean, mean, and exactly the kind of thing you want coming out of this band. “Burning Portrait” rises in intensity until the chorus which slows things down to impart the theme of crushed idealism, the decline and destruction of your self due to the moral decrepitude of greed and avarice. It’s dramatic, it’s socially relevant, but most of all it just kicks with vicious riffs and solos and an almost progressive take on traditional metal.
That socially conscious take on continues with the rest of Earth Infernal. The plight the planet is addressed in both the totally ripping “Twelve Infernal Lords” and closing epic “Earth We Bequeath” with its majestic gallop. Ross’s voice makes it easy to key in on the lyrical content but if that’s not your thing there’s plenty to still be excited about, whether it’s the masterful guitar work of Steve Ramsey and Russ Tippins or the superb rhythm work of bassist Graeme English and drummer Sean Taylor. The drumming in particular sounds fantastic – from a production standpoint you can feel the weight of every kick and the clash of every cymbal hit. Things get a little more expansive on the opening of “A Sorrow Unspent” before the arpeggios blend in to kick off the opening riff. Just the guitar tone that leads off “From Second Sight” is enough to bring me back in time to discovering the genre – Ramsey and Tippins trading fast licks enter a slick whammy to pick slide combo welcomes us to the song proper. It’s all righteous, and it’s all executed to perfection.
Coming so soon on the heels on me crowing about the trad metal concoction led by Nite last week, the masters of the form have returned to show everyone where the bar is. Earth Infernal is another modern classic, and Satan are now 4-4 when it comes to their reunion run of albums. Break out your air guitars and rock this…it’ll cure all your ills.