SATAN: Suspended Sentence LP 1987. 1st press. NWOBHM with two Skyclad full (1990 to today) members. Check audio
Satan are a heavy metal band originating from Newcastle, England in 1979, known as part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement. Though generally obscure throughout their career, the band is considered influential for playing a form of proto-thrash metal that was fairly advanced by the standards of the early 1980s.
Satan Suspended Sentence
Label: Steamhammer SH 0069, Steamhammer 08-1837
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album (disc and sleeve in VG condition, inner bag in mint condition)
Style: Heavy Metal
A1 92nd Symphony 1:30
A2 Who Dies Wins 6:44
A3 11th Commandment 4:52
A4 Suicidal Justice 7:35
B1 Vandal 5:13
B2 S.C.U.M. (Socially Condemned Undesirable Misfits) 5:25
B3 Avalanche Of A Million Hearts 8:10
B4 Calculated Execution 4:30
Bass Graeme English [Skyclad 1990 to today)
Drums Sean Taylor
Guitar Russ Tippins, Steve Ramsey [Skyclad 1990 to today)
Vocals Michael J. Jackson [ex- Pariah]
Printed inner sleeve (one side has just photos the other just lyrics).
The music included here has less polish and, in my opinion, to their first album, “Court In The Act”. The blazing guitars are still present; full of energy and enthusiasm. Not particularly original, but it still has some great moments, with some interplay between the guitarists somewhat similar to JUDAS PRIEST and IRON MAIDEN, even if the bands style is completely different, and surely as outstanding. Couple of the tracks that had me sort of sit up and take notice were “Who Dies Wins”, “Suicidal Justice” and “F**k You”. Saw that their previous vocalist Brian Ross had apparently left to rejoin up with his other outfit – Blitzkrieg only to be replaced by Pariahs crooner Michael Jackson. Enjoy.
New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) underdogs Satan returned in 1987, this time with former Pariah vocalist Michael Jackson. Solid collection of hard-hitting British heavy metal, but by 1987 most of the early NWOBHM mainstays had developed their sound to a greater degree. There are some great tracks here, like the epics “Suicidal Justice,” and the crushing “Avalanche of a Million”. Well worth picking up if you’re a serious NWOBHM collector.
Bucking the sophomore slump trend, among others. – 90%
In a year where Death, Possessed, Slayer, and several others were redefining the extreme fringes of the paradigm, these Brits have been content to remember 1982s version of extreme, which was a big influence on the glory of earlier versions of what those bands were doing. By todays standards it might not be all that daring when we have blast beats and morosely garbled vocal ramblings that would make Venom blush, but for the early 80s it was quite shocking.
At its most extreme, this album could perhaps be likened to a slower version of Nuclear Assault, though in truth the closest band to the overall character of this middle road between NWOBHM and proto-thrash is Metal Church. The guitar sound is moderately crunchy and somewhat fuzzy and overdriven in character, not all that different from the sci-fi character of Screaming For Vengeance. The drum and bass work is large sounding, though a bit restrained in comparison to the wandering, semi-Black Sabbath character of the early demos. In short, minus a somewhat overly rough and wicked vocal performance on Michael Jacksons’ part, this album contrasts slightly with the old days in its strong sense of tightness and togetherness.
Perhaps the album could be described as a slight departure in light of a slight move towards a more melodic character. This is showcased right off the cuff with a somewhat consonant yet forbidding prelude in 92nd Symphony, which leads into a catchy and upper mid-tempo crusher in Who Dies Wins that reminds heavily of early 80s Judas Priest. The epic ballad Avalanche Of A Million Hearts goes a little bit into Neo-classical territory, but largely resembles that classic early Iron Maiden approach to roping the listener in with an easy to follow chorus. But there is still plenty of time left for ventures into rougher territory, as proven out by Suicidal Justice where Jackson goes a bit berserk with the gravely screams and Calculated Execution which thrashes it up quite nicely and reminds a little of early Metallica.
The only thing that is really unfortunate about this album is that it marks the end of Satans’ studio career (barring a comeback album in the coming years). It was a fine way to close out the 80s and a vital pickup for any NWOBHM junkies who like their metal heavier than Tygers Of Pan Tang and a little lighter and cleaner than Venom. It showcases a band that adheres to that same sense of stylistic consistency and apathy towards mainstream sentiments as that of Motorhead, though sadly they didn’t match their speed metal elders in terms of prolific studio output.
Very good – 86%
With Satan’s second album, Suspended Sentence, Michael Jackson joins the band, and the music immediately changes character. Gone are the beautiful melodies and NWOBM-ish feel of Court in the Act for a more aggressive, intelligent and tech-like approach. Theres something about the sometimes cold and mechanical riffing-style that draws my mind to the progressive thrash bands of the 80s such as Anacrusis, Coroner and Watchtower. Satan dont exactly sound like those bands, but they could be described as their heavy (traditional) metal equivalent. This, I imagine, was such a daring, even extreme, change of musical direction, that it probably turned-off a lot of people in the process, which I think explains why the band never made it big (big as in Iron Maiden). Like previously mentioned bands, Satan were simply too advanced and too many years ahead of their time. Admittedly, I didn’t like this new Satan much at first, but I simply couldn’t deny the talent which was at display so I kept on listening and after a while I was sold.
New vocalist Michael Jackson deserves his own paragraph since he plays such a crucial role. He sounds a little like Martin Walkyier (Sabbat), or perhaps Blackie Lawless (W.A.S.P.) and he has that same commanding presence as those two, but he has some glaring weaknesses. I like him, no doubt, but he has a tendency to go a bit overboard with his screams and some notes he attempts to hold sound slightly out of his range. The guys in the band couldn’t have made a better pick though as his rough and hard-edged voice serves as the perfect complement to the sound they were going for. He would later much improve for a more well-rounded performance in Pariahs Blaze of Obscurity, but he sings perfectly well here, especially on Avalanche of a Million Hearts, where he gets to mix up his usual aggressive style with some cleaner and actually quite ear-pleasing vocals.
Mentioned earlier, the absolute highlight is the epic, 8:11 long Avalanche of a Million Hearts. Flawless songwriting is a description that is a bit overused and misused, but it may never be as aptly applied as on this song. The build-up is slow it takes about two and half minutes before the song really gets going and we get our first distorted guitar but it never gets dull as the guitar work and melodies are killer all the way through. Michael Jackson sensitive singing adds another layer of quality to an already exceptional song. Think Iron Maidens Rime of the Ancient Mariner, but better, which some damn good criticism in my book. The second best song is clearly Who Dies Wins, which can be seen as a sign of things to come on Blaze of Obscurity, as the songwriting takes on that lush and dynamic complexity the band is capable of. The instrumental break that starts around the 3 minute mark and goes on for about 3 minutes is a definite hot chop, as it mixes the usual mechanical (I say mechanical when I mean really well-structured and executed-) riffs with some unexpected melodies. Another highlight is 11th Commandment. Its not the most dynamic song the band has ever written, but it has the catchiest guitar playing on the album and its paced masterfully. Suicidal Justice also deserves a mention; its refrain isnt too catchy, but theres something fascinating about the intense atmosphere, and sense of urgency that oozes throughout the song. The general mood of the album is predominantly dark and serious in varying degrees, sometimes evil, which suits me just fine.
To tell the truth, all songs are pretty good and worthy of mention especially Avalanche of a Million Hearts. Suspended Sentence stands on its own feet as a pretty damn well-written album, far better than the average and, as always when these guys are involved, exquisitely played.