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Satan - "Life Sentence" (CD)

Satan - "Life Sentence" CD cover image

"Life Sentence" track listing:

1. Time to Die (3:43)
2. Twenty Twenty Five (4:52)
3. Cenotaph (4:08)
4. Siege Mentality (4:43)
5. Incantations (5:22)
6. Testimony (3:57)
7. Tears of Blood (4:16)
8. Life Sentence (3:25)
9. Personal Demons (4:01)
10. Another Universe (6:19)

Reviewed by on June 14, 2013

"Revisiting an old sound, while not being stuck to the past, Satan comes off as hungry and motivated as they must have been when writing classics like 'Trial By Fire' and 'Alone in the Dock.'"

Through multiple name changes, a legendary debut with “Court in the Act,” and surviving trend after trend, Satan has finally steadied itself. With the “Court in the Act” line-up together again, playing live shows and sounding as sharp as they did back in 1983, a new album seemed inevitable. The prospects of a Satan record in 2013 could have been all over the map, yet “Life Sentence” avoids any chance of negative connotations. This is what the follow-up to “Court in the Act” should have been all along (no disrespect intended for the solid “Suspended Sentence”).

The hardened veterans of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement have come out for their curtain calls in recent years. Out of all of them, Satan comes out looking the best. While Angel Witch’s “As Above, So Below” had something off about it, and Hell’s “Human Remains” was bloated at times, “Life Sentence” is a stirring achievement. Revisiting an old sound, while not being stuck to the past, Satan comes off as hungry and motivated as they must have been when writing classics like “Trial By Fire” and “Alone in the Dock.”

For having not released an album in 26 years, there’s little rust in their ranks. It’s as if they have just come off the road after touring in support of “Court in the Act,” and are readying the follow-up. This is a tightly constructed album, with none of the instrumentals or interludes that popped up on past releases. Ten songs are present with not a trace of filler to be dug through. Even when a track may get almost shaky, like “Tears of Blood,” they come back with a scorcher like the title track.

Satan doesn’t relent on their dual guitar interplay and uptempo progression, saving the momentary relapse into melodic calmness for the introduction to the phenomenal “Another Universe.” That reprieve is short-lived, as the band crunches out one of the best riffs on the album a few minutes into the closer. For the large part, “Life Sentence” slays. “Time To Die” is about as perfect of a start to any album this year, and it’s not even the best track. “Siege Mentality” is a guitar fan’s drooling fantasy, with extended solos getting more impressive as the seconds tick on.

Guitarists Steve Ramsey and Russ Tippins have stuck with each other through each incarnation of the band. That’s over 30 years of combined experience as a unit, and how they aren’t labeled one of the best guitar duos in metal is inconceivable. No one member gets the lead over the other; their harmonizing is mind-blowing and trading off solos is a cake walk. They would be the prime reason to check out “Life Sentence,” if it wasn’t for Brian Ross putting in arguably the top performance of his illustrious career.

Ross originally left the band after the release of “Court in the Act,” but has kept busy over the years with Blitzkrieg. Maybe that’s how he kept his voice so crisp and powerful, as he shows off with pride on “Life Sentence.” He sounds better than he did on Satan’s first album, never short of belting out a falsetto or a layered vocal harmony, like on “Twenty Twenty Five.” Age has only seemed to strengthen his vocal chords, to the point where he boosts the lyrics lamenting about injustice and personal demons.

It shouldn’t be possible that a band like Satan can still maintain a significant volume of excellence, especially with such a lengthy period between albums. However, “Life Sentence” is that good and more. Satan doesn’t miss a step, and proves to have their songwriting chops shined up and ready to go. It’s exciting, it’s full of crazy solos, it’s not just a rehash; all together, “Life Sentence” is what any NWOBHM band looking to relive past glories should strive to accomplish.

Highs: Feels like the proper follow-up to "Court in the Act," band sounds as hungry and motivated as they did back in 1983, every musician is at the top of their game, excellent songwriting

Lows: Very little to find at fault with this album, save a few shaky moments on "Tears of Blood."

Bottom line: Satan comes back with their first album in 26 years, an accomplished effort that is as fresh and invigorating as their debut "Court in the Act."

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)