Home > Music > Satan – Court In The Act (1983)

Satan – Court In The Act (1983)

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While Satan’s debut predates Michael Jackson*’s contributions to the band, Court in the Act is still one of the most influential and popular albums of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. It had the fortune of coming out just as people were beginning to notice the faster and more aggressive parts of the movement actually existed, and if the band hadn’t spent half the 1980s changing their name (because apparently they didn’t want to be associated with stuff like Venom and Slayer), it’d be even more famous than it already is today. Compared to earlier recordings from the scene, it far more closely resembles the speed/power metal explosion of the 1980s. Iron Maiden this isn’t… although without Iron Maiden and the like, this probably wouldn’t exist.

History aside, Court in the Act showcases its share of ambitious songwriting, although it’s a pretty low budget production. The recording, while intelligible, has this cavernous, reverb drenched quality that you could argue gives it a bit of a ‘live’ sensibility. To be honest, I prefer my mixing more immediate. It’d be especially helpful given Satan’s clear technical ambitions – in a move that set something of a band precedent (at least based on 2015’s Atom by Atom, which is a great pleasure to listen to and my main inspiration for uncovering this band’s roots), Court in the Act showcases some creative and intricate riffing in ways that weren’t very established in 1983. As a species, we’ve had over 30 years to pilfer from this repository, and I’m sure it’s been done over and over.

The rest of this album’s elements are more conventional; as I said in the intro, this album was from the only example of its subgenre, and the overall approach should be very familiar to anyone versed in early speed metal. Satan takes on less distortion and velocity than, for instance, contemporary Metallica or Jag Panzer, but they’re still recognizably a speed metal band. There’s a few other trends that are worth noting in this context. Perhaps most notable is Brian Ross’s vocals; his clean tones and occasional shrieks are easy to source, but while important, they’re less emphasized than what a generation of power metal bands would start doing immediately after. It’s also worth mentioning that even though the riffcraft is consistently interesting and varied, it doesn’t completely define (or overwhelm) the album with its character, and the “cool” riffs are bridged by more conventional albeit still appropriate material.

So while Court in the Act might not have anything as recognizable to the masses as a “Thriller” or “Smooth Criminal”, it rightfully deserves the praise it receives from metal listeners. While Satan has never quite conquered the planet and ushered in an apocalypse, this debut proves they had the chops to do so, and in the mean time, the band’s members have participated in many other bands – Blitzkrieg, Skyclad, and Raven are probably the most prominent.

Highlights: “Trial by Fire”, “Blades of Steel”, “Break Free”

*Well… a Michael Jackson. Not the famous one who recorded Thriller.
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