Atom by Atom

When Satan emerged from the dead with their exceptional comeback album Life Sentence in 2013, one of the early pioneers of the NWOBHM triumphed emphatically, bringing their old school retro formula into the modern era with spectacular results. While I’m sure long-time fans were particularly enthralled, I was surprised by the impact it had on yours truly, considering their style of melodic speed metal meets NWOBHM generally resides outside my comfort zone. The band’s turbulent backstory and the significant passage of time between releases added considerable weight to Satan’s successful grab at resurgent metal glory. Exceptional song-writing, powerhouse vocals and super slick and proficient musicianship coalesced into incredibly powerful classic metal jams imbued with an ageless quality.

Well a mere two years later Satan returns to prove Life Sentence was no fluke with follow-up album, Atom By Atom. Although perhaps less immediately gratifying as its predecessor, Atom By Atom is nevertheless another triumphant album brimming with youthful exuberance, exhilarating guitar work and hooks aplenty across 10 galloping nuggets of classic metal gold. Part of the Satan appeal for me resides in the excellent vocals of Brian Ross. The dude possesses a rich and powerful set of pipes that sidestep the off-putting and cheesier vocal styling’s that often turns me off similarly minded bands.  And once again he delivers in a big way.

Of course a standout vocalist and some catchy choruses will only take an artist so far, but thankfully Ross is backed up by the electrifying axework of Russ Tippins and Steve Ramsay. The formidable duo are on top of their game here, ripping out engaging riff after engaging riff, along with textured dual guitar harmonies and slashing solos. Not to be outdone, bassist Graeme English and hard-hitting drummer Sean Taylor hold down a very solid and energetic foundation, rippling with their own individual nuances. Overall the musicianship and chemistry Satan’s band members share is top shelf stuff and when coupled with versatile and memorable songwriting, the combination is a surefire winner.

Opener “Farewell Evolution” kicks into gear on the back of one of Ross’ ear-splitting screams, galloping ahead with the kind of riffy spark and authentic old school bombast that defined much of the brilliant Life Sentence. Although speed plays a strong part in the album’s foundation, Satan’s dynamic songcraft and first class guitar work keeps things fresh and interesting. The technical aspects of the superb musicianship and vaguely progressive undercurrent snaking through parts of the album add to Satan’s multi-pronged offensive. “Fallen Saviour” and “Atom By Atom” are just a couple of prime examples of the incredibly hooky, riff-laden heavy metal Satan play so well, with the trade-off solos and anthemic choruses in particular burying themselves deep into the memory bank.

There’s little in the way of notable issues weighing Atom By Atom down. The album length is perfect and although songwise Life Sentence perhaps holds the slightest edge, by contrast Atom By Atom never drops the ball and maintains a high standard from start to finish. Production is top notch as well, sounding bright and punchy, with each instrument clearly defined whilst retaining Satan’s organic and endearingly retro crunch.

With Atom By Atom Satan’s remarkable resurgence shows no signs of slowing down. The band’s energy is contagious and they hammer out classic heavy metal tunes effortlessly, retaining their traditional old school values while striding confidently into the modern metal arena.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
January 26th, 2016


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