Satan's Host - Virgin Sails
Moribund Records
Blackened Heavy/Power Metal
10 songs (54' 18")
Release year: 2013
Reviewed by Andy

Satan's Host has seen it all. Started in 1977, their first album came out in '86 when the legendary Harry Conklin left Jag Panzer and joined them. A strange combination of black and power metal, their latest, Virgin Sails, whips up an even more scrumptious treat for listeners with a dab of doom for good measure.

If one has heard Jag Panzer and not heard Satan's Host before, one can be excused for expecting a traditional heavy band with Satanic lyrics, and indeed there is an ample supply of that. But the first and second tracks start out with slow, sullen riffs that don't get any faster than a Lowe-era Candlemass track, and it sounds like the vocalist belongs there too; somehow Conklin takes out all the high screams he normally lets out and puts a huskier note in his voice. He tries to do black metal growls too, which don't really come off as more than mere dramatic effect, but he can be easily forgiven for that given his fine vocal performance elsewhere on the album. In between the more straightforward thrashers like Of Beast and Men and King Diamond-style theatrics such as Reanimated Anomalies, there are little treasures; Dichotomy has a blunt but crunchy verse riff by guitarist Patrick Evil that I liked a lot, and Vaporous of the Blood switches from fast to slow, each time with fiercely melodic riffs and an excellent performance by Conklin, even on those black metal parts. The two intro/intermediary tracks are also worthy of mention; they don't last long, but they do sound good.

The biggest problem I see with this album is how little melody is present in the songs. Even the good ones lack it, but songs like Infinite Impossibilities start to grate as Conklin sings the same three or four notes again and again, and unlike several other recent resurrections of old-school heavy metal, the riffs and solos aren't particularly prepared to make up for any lack of melody in the vocalist. The final track, which is also the title track, makes up for a lot of this, however. This is mostly accomplished with a return to the doom-filled riffs of the first two tracks, with an equally slow and plodding delivery from Conklin that fits perfectly for the first four minutes, giving way to a fast-paced bridge in which the band hammers away with as much grim purpose as the slow parts. Really, I found myself liking their slow songs much more than the thrash-style pieces; they take advantage of the slower pace to provide more atmosphere and depth, resulting in a better overall song.

Virgin Sails turns out to be a good, solid metal album to listen to, particularly the slower tracks. It's got some problems, mostly caused by the songwriting, but the majority of the album leaves the listener satisfied nonetheless.

Killing Songs :
Dichotomy, Vaporous of the Blood, Virgin Sails
Andy quoted 80 / 100
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