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Satan's Host

Virgin Sails

Review by Mike Korn

"Black metal" is a term of nebulous meaning that is usually applied to any dark and Satanically-themed metal band. Most associate it with a certain style emanating from Scandinavia in the early 1990s. To others, it goes back further to ground-breaking bands of the 1980s like Venom and Bathory. But rarely is it applied to a band like Satan's Host.

These sinister acolytes have been around for years but have flown under the radar because they are neither fish nor fowl. Musically, they have much more in common with classic metal like Judas Priest, Angelwitch and Iron Maiden than the raw and brutal stuff usually thought of as "black metal. But when it comes to lyrics, they are about as black as it gets and this separates them from "standard" metal fare.

Virgin Sails is a record of such outstanding quality that Satan's Host can no longer be safely ignored. This is epic, aggressive, melodic heavy metal featuring the god-like vocals of longtime Jag Panzer frontman Harry Conklin. This man is incredible and can easily stand with the likes of Geoff Tate and Bruce Dickinson at the head of the metal table. He brings a class to Satan's Host that cannot be ignored. Add the diabolical yet tasteful axe blasting of Patrick Evil and some truly towering compositions and Virgin Sails emerges as a metal classic...black or not.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Cor Maleficus - Heart of Evil

Something wicked this way comes! The album opens up as dark as a thunderstorm and soon the beautifully melodic vocals of Harry Conklin relate a tale of Satanic majesty. There are some "beastly" vocals in the mix, but they definitely play second fiddle to Conklin's classical style. Like many of the tunes here, this is a long and twisting epic that moves easily from riff to riff. And all of the riffs here are excellent, especially when the pace picks up to a point just short of thrash. This is a truly awesome introduction to the power of Satan's Host.

Island of the Giant Ants
If the first track didn't convince you how great Satan's Host is, then this one will blow you away! Holy Moses (pun intended), what a killer! An onslaught of thrash speed riffing that still maintains the class of traditional metal is what this song is. Think the best of bands like Nevermore, Helstar and Symphony X. Conklin's incredible vocals again cause your jaw to drop, and not an inch behind is the slicing guitar work of Patrick Evil. This man is a sorely underrated talent! This is simply one of the best metal songs you're going to hear.
Dichotomy
Here is another outstanding track, but done in a different manner than the preceding cuts. This really sounds like prime Queensryche from the Mindcrime/Empire eras, but boosted up with bursts of hammering power riffing of Slayer intensity. It's a complex song that has a more progressive feel to it and the quality of the riffing is faultless. The band is now three for three as far as blockbuster songs go. No other album I heard in 2013 started with three songs of such impressive headbanging capability.
Of Beast and Men
This furious headbanging assault keeps the quality going, but maybe is just a little more basic and less progressive than the tunes that have gone before. It's a killer thrash-oriented attack with some stellar bass/drum interplay from Margar and Evil Hobbit (yes, really). A comparison to Nevermore is certainly warranted here, but Satan's Host is so strong that they can't be accused of aping anybody. They stand on their own. Harsh vocals arise here and Conklin is just as good at those as he is at the more melodic stuff. This may be the most brutal tune on the album.
Akoman
We finally get a breather after the preceding crushers This is a brief, haunting instrumental with a very dark and classical sound.
Reanimated Anomalies
Witch-like black metal vocals trade off with Conklin's emotive cleans, adding a sinister touch to this spine-breaker. If there is such a thing as "black power metal, this is the ultimate expression of it. This is another aggressive, pounding tune with a lot of time changes and smashing double bass drumming.
Infinite Impossibilities
A Steve Harris-like bass run kicks this off before a razor-sharp and fast guitar riff takes over. Conklin's vocals are pitched higher on this tune than elsewhere and there are more of those evil black metal rasps. The song alternates between straight-up speed metal and more epic, mid-paced crunch. It took a while for me to warm up to this one, but I recognize it as another very strong example of progressive heavy metal.
Vaporous of the Blood
I have no idea what the title means, but the song itself starts out with a slow and evil vibe interspersed with a black metal section. Patrick Evil's melodic guitar soloing here reminds me of old Mercyful Fate and even Michael Schenker. If I had to pick any one song on this album as average, I would say this is it, even though it is by no means poor. It just doesn't seem to have the pure energy of the others, even though there's some very cool riffing inserted within.
Taromati
This is another necessary break before the final concluding epic. It's a brief instrumental with an almost soothing feel.
Virgin Sails
After such a monumental album, you would expect the last track to be a mighty crescendo. And you would be right. This starts with such a magnificent powerful slow riff, it makes the hair stand up on your neck. Harry Conklin's vocal work here is beyond phenomenal. More than ever, he sounds like the great Russell Allen from Symphony X. And indeed, this song matches the very best of that great band. The number builds intensity gradually and features some super-heavy, almost death metal riffing but never losing melody either. When the speed finally kicks in, your neck will break! The tune provides a shattering climax to one of the very best metal albums of recent times!
 
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