Life Sentence

Life Sentence marks the long-awaited comeback album from one of the underrated spearheads of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement. Satan were around and kicking at the tail-end of the ’70s before emerging with their debut album, Court In The Act, in 1983. That album has since achieved somewhat of a cult status and is widely regarded as essential listening for fans of speed metal and the aforementioned NWOBHM movement. That particular release was followed by 1987’s Suspended Sentence. Prior to, and following their sophomore album, the band went through an identity crisis with shifting line-ups and band name indecision resulting in albums under the names Blind Fury and Pariah. And then bassist Graeme English and guitarist Steve Ramsey flew the coup to form folk metal pioneers, Skyclad. After many intervening years the band reunited with original line-up intact to play some live shows before eventually knuckling down to write and record this third official Satan album.

Aside from a few exceptions, this whole NWOBHM scene hasn’t really captured my interest over the years, and I consider the style well outside my metal comfort zone. Yet this album strikes a chord that has resonated with great power, especially considering I was previously unfamiliar with Satan’s understated legacy. I have since discovered the excellence of Court In The Act and this album is every bit as vital and adrenaline charged as the debut, despite the obvious handicap of a 30-year age gap between the two albums. Life Sentence blends the classic NWOBHM style with incredibly energetic doses of melodic speed metal that sounds like a fresh and exciting modern update of their endearing formula. Speed, melody and blistering solos reign supreme throughout the album, yet Satan’s wonderful grasp of dynamics and hooky songwriting creates further depth and variety. On a production front, Life Sentence has a wonderfully balanced mix with a clear, crisp sound and organic tones that tie the whole package together beautifully.

The album positively brims with energy and the kind of enthusiasm expected of a band at the beginning of their career. That point itself goes a long way towards justifying the validity of this reunion, and it’s backed up with genuinely exciting metal anthems driven by impossibly catchy guitar and vocal hooks, inspired songwriting and energized drumming. Brian Ross’ exclusively clean vocal style comes minus cheesy trimmings, sounding assured and forceful with a great deal of attention put into crafting vocal patterns that are complimentary to each arrangement and catchy choruses that are not easily forgotten. He occasionally hits some ball-grabbing highs, although they aren’t overdone or distracting. Elsewhere, Sean Taylor’s drumming isn’t the most technical performance you’ll come across, but he puts in a tight, high-energy and aggressive performance. The wiry guitar work features an abundance of killer riffs, thrashy chops and blistering solos atop a darkly melodic heavy metal base.

The album’s pace is relentless yet never one-dimensional, with each song containing its fair share of nifty tempo changes and distinctive hooks and melodies. Opener “Time to Die” sets a hearty gallop before unfolding into a soulful melodic break and then upping the pace again with a dashing solo and full circle climax. “Twenty Twenty Five” has a darker vibe highlighted by a hard-hitting and catchy main riff, top-notch shredding action and strong vocal melodies. One of the catchiest and most enjoyable songs off of the album, “Siege Mentality,” bottles incredible energy, speed and infectious hooks into a dynamic structure. “Tears of Blood” again highlights the melancholic shades of the album with its catchy mid-paced surge, emotionally powerful vocals and superb guitar work. Again the aggressive drumming style brings an edgy appeal to the material. The lightning riffs and frantic pace of the title track defines another high-octane scorcher with an irresistibly catchy chorus. The darkly addictive stomp of “Personal Demons” features a versatile arrangement built on restless drum patterns, an edgy rhythmic backbone and foreboding melody.

There are no screams, growls, blast beats or anything that could be defined as ‘extreme’ in any way, which might be an immediate turn-off for some listeners. But for those with a certain disconnection with this style previously, I attest to the possibility of Life Sentence holding plenty of swaying power. While I can’t imagine fans of Satan’s classic debut being disappointed with what the lads have dished up here. With Life Sentence, Satan has delivered a fresh, adrenaline-charged collection of classy, old-school metal songs comprising one of the more vital and thrilling albums of the year.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
July 1st, 2013


  1. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    haha, this is pretty cool.

  2. Commented by: Old Pick Axe

    Satan lives. (Check out Blind Guardian’s boss cover of Satan’s “Trial By Fire” sometime…)

  3. Commented by: Old Pick Axe

    Satan lives. (Check out Blind Guardian’s boss cover of Satan’s “Trial By Fire” sometime…)

  4. Commented by: Odovacar

    Blind Guardian is where I first heard Satan. I kinda prefer their cover of it to the original. The new Satan album is pretty awesome though. Almost as good as Hell.

  5. Commented by: vugelnox

    This might be the strongest entry yet in the field of “old NWOBHM bands coming back to slay all the young upstarts” right alongside Hell and Angel Witch.

  6. Commented by: Old Pick Axe

    This album is tremendous.

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