Satan – Atom by Atom (Listenable)Thursday, 1st October 2015
Amazing how some of these NWOBHM bands keep going. For a lot of these groups, their debut album is over 35 years old, which is utterly remarkable. Talk about sustainability! However, NWOBHM had a definite dropping-off point around 1983 when thrash sent it packing. One such band who got caught up in thrash’s whirlwind was Newcastle’s Satan, whose debut album (from 1983) is considered a classic, and deservedly so. The band would eventually call it a day in 1984, reform under a different name (Blind Fury), then go into hibernation for various periods, until their full-scale reformation in 2011, which has now led to two albums, 2013’s well-received Life Sentence, and the album in question, Atom by Atom.
Guided by the sterling guitar work of Steve Ramsey (he of folk innovators Skyclad) and Russ Tippins, Satan’s sound is more aligned with the manic, complex guitar work of Mercyful Fate than rote Maiden gallops. There’s some serious adventure to a bunch of Ramsey and Tippins’s riffs, like on opener “Farewell Evolution” and in particular, “The Devil’s Infantry.” It essentially keeps Satan from sounding dated, to be honest. There’s enough jolt and ingenuity to the pair’s licks that you’d be certain they were a bunch of fresh-faced lads having their first go at things. (Don’t sleep on the wicked harmonic licks found on “My Own God” either.)
Coupled with the smooth, evocative vocal approach of Brian Ross (he of Blitzkrieg fame), and what you have on Atom by Atom is a solid grouping of ten songs, none of which resemble the other, nor the band’s age. Satan may always get lost in the NWOBHM discussion, but in terms of post-00 bands, they’ve fared rather well for themselves. Great to hear a bunch of veteran, done-it-all guys still have some fire in their chests.