Album: Atom By Atom
Label: Listenable Records
Satan as a band are proof that not every band that put out amazing material in the early to mid 80’s can’t replicate that material nowadays. After putting out one an essential NWOBHM release, Court in the Act, in 1983 and its strong follow-up Suspended Sentence (1987) the band broke up but continued to release good albums under two bands; Blind Fury and Pariah before finally closing up shop in 1998. Outside of a live album in 2004 the Satan camp was quiet from ’98 until 2011 when they reformed and released two compilations before dropping their 2013 comeback album Life Sentence, which by all accounts was an absolutely phenomenal release and topped plenty of AOTY lists. Now in 2015 Satan have dropped their second post-reformation album, Atom by Atom and safe to say this album rips hard.
Compared to Life Sentence, Atom By Atom comes off as a darker sounding affair, although not immensely so, and the frantic, speedy riffs that were found throughout Life Sentence have more of a presence in Atom By Atom. These two factors, and the lean towards more complexity in the riffs than Life Sentence leaves this album with a slightly less memorable but very interesting feeling to it. Farewell Evolution, the opening track, shows this off exceptionally well with a high pitch yell before dropping into frantic, somewhat complex riffing and a more sombre vocal delivery throughout the verse before hitting those catchy refrains that Brain Ross manages to pull off so well throughout Satan’s material.
The frantic riffs and darker vocal delivery continues throughout the rest of the album, very noticeably on tracks like The Devil’s Infantry and In Contempt. The intro/outro to In Contempt as well as tracks like Ruination, My Own God and the ending track show off Atom By Atom’s darker end, taking a more sombre, slowed tone despite featuring energetic sections; especially so during the later part of Ruination. The great thing about the riffs, frantic or otherwise, throughout Atom By Atom is that they sound so energetic and authentic; there’s no atmosphere of a cynical cash-in on an internet driven renewed interesting in the band, there’s real emotional backing to Atom By Atom. Alongside the riffs is great drumming which does more than just provide instrumental backing; between the militaristic march pace of The Devil’s Infantry and energetic drumming throughout the album, there’s a real drive to it.
Brian Ross’ vocals throughout this album are remarkable in terms of the quality. For a man who’s been doing vocals since the debut release his vocals in general hold up extremely well to other acts who’ve been around as long as Satan have. Refrains like the ones in Fallen Saviour and Ahriman show Brian’s ability to hold notes extremely well, with Ahriman and Farewell Evolution exhibiting his ability to reach highs with seemingly no effort and sound fantastic. Not to mention, as per usual, the lyrics are pretty catchy, although it did take a few listens before these started becoming earworms, something that didn’t take as long in Life Sentence, a clear consequence of the darker and complex contrast to Life Sentence’s straightforward and brighter approach to heavy metal.
In terms of track strength, there’s no real bad tracks here although the title track, despite its catchy refrain, tends to become a blur throughout the rest of the track – a complaint that can be labelled to most of the album in comparison to Life Sentence and Court in the Act to be perfectly fair – and Bound in Enmity falls short of the quality of the rest of the album. The ending track Fall of Persephone does pick up the quality from Bound of Enmity with its slow, extremely sombre tone and spoken word sections about Zeus’ daughter’s and the world’s end, ending the album off so very well.
Atom By Atom is easily another album in Satan’s catalogue that one should not pass up and despite edging just below Life Sentence in quality for Satan’s reformation material, this is a late entry that’s basically shot up my list of albums of the year. Highly recommended!
Check ’em out here: https://listenable-records.bandcamp.com/album/atom-by-atom