Sunday, December 01, 2013

Satan's Host-Virgin Sails


Is "Virgin Sails" really a contender for the 2013 "Album Of The Year" award? That's what the promo material for Satan's Host's latest album claims. I may a few more spins of "Virgin Sails" before I'm ready to make such a bold statement, but I will concede that the latest release from vocalist Harry Conklin (Leviathan Thisiren) is damn fine. "Virgin Sails" finds a band that still sounds remarkably focused and inventive even after some 25 years or so together. That's not always easy folks, but Satan's Host, which was first active from 1977-1988 before taking a little break and reforming in 1994, certainly make it seem so! Along with ex-Jag Panzer vocalist Harry "Tyrant" Conklin the group released their excellent full-length debut, "Metal From Hell", back in 1986 and now they present a release like "Virgin Sails" that offers even the most cynical metal fan a lot of bang for their buck! Joining Conklin is original founding member/guitarist Patrick Evil and the pair of Margar (Marcus Garcia) and Evil Little Hobbit (Anthony Lopez). They are the bassist and drummer respectively and considering the fact that there are only four musicians involved here it's even more impressive how forceful and epic a release like "Virgin Sails" sounds! When I last checked in with Satan's Host it was for their reworked classic album "Celebration: For the Love of Satan". Back then (2011) I heard a band that had come full circle from power metal to near black metal  and back to power metal. This new one comes across as somewhere in between classic U.S. power metal, traditional heavy metal and N.W.O.B.H.M with the black metal vibe being kept to a minimum. Harry keeps his black metal rasp/possession in check on "Virgin Sails" and as the band works their way from opener "Cor Malifecus-Heart of Evil" onward the music takes some surprising turns for the better. One cut I'd point out would be the cool "Dichotomy". Here we find Harry, who re-joined Satan's Host in 2010. channeling all thing Ronnie James Dio from his days in Black Sabbath and Rainbow to his days fronting his own band. Does that mean there's some doom present on this album? Sure, you can hear it intertwined between the album's grooves, but then again the playing of our main man Patrick Evil also recalls the finer points of "Ride The Lightning" era Metallica! The same kind of despair that "Fade To Black" still fills me is hidden in plain view on numerous cuts on "Virgin Sails" and it's to his credit that Patrick Evil can make you envision Metallica while you also picture the likes of Merciful Fate, Candlemass, Satan and even Danzig! If there is any downside to be found here it would have to be that while the tracks overall do show a band at their prime and playing better then ever, "Virgin Sails" features a lot of recycled ideas. At times the album starts to blur and unless you were to listen to this one a dozen plus times over it would be hard to pick out some of these cuts from other cuts. Still, it's a minor qualm and it's not enough for me to fill in the least bit disappointed with the new Satan's Host disc. It might not be the 2013 "Album Of The Year" for me, but it's still a release that should be wholeheartedly embrace by the metal community at large!  

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