Melodic hardcore has gone to some frightening places in the thirteen year gap between Satanic Surfers releases and their return brings greater focus upon just exactly what makes the sub-genre notable. They might not be as old and ragged as Descendents and Bad Religion yet but ‘Back From Hell’ finds the band already spouting the same type of thoughtful wisdom and honesty of their peers at the clip of the heaviest Ignite records. Trading the saccharine leanings of late 90’s melodic hardcore for an even more earnest approach than their ‘Taste the Poison’ record pegs this as my personal favorite release from the band yet.
I first heard this band on a random Burning Heart compilation (‘Cheap Shots Volume II’) that a friend had made a CD-R copy of for me around 1998 and his recommendation was based solely on my insisting that Good Riddance‘s first album was the only good ‘melodic hardcore’ release. I dunno man, I was like fifteen years old and we had dial-up internet and Geocities sites to pull information from. Around that time Epitaph Records began a decade long partnership with Burning Heart and tons of Swedish hardcore and pop-punk exploded in suburban high school cliques of the day. Satanic Surfers definitely got lost in the mix a bit though I liked ‘Going Nowhere Fast’ a fair amount and I would eventually warm up to their debut album once I could find it.
For what it’s worth I think I was one of the few people who appreciated the changes to their sound on ‘Unconsciously Confined’ as they matured towards the relatively depressive ‘Taste the Poison’. After spinning ‘Back From Hell’ and re-listening to their entire discography, sans compilations, I’m not sure Satanic Surfers have ever sounded this fast, this melodic and exemplary of skate punk/melodic hardcore. The album sounds far more tuned towards Ignite‘s ‘A Place Called Home’ vocally but without the highfalutin’ melodrama, but also has the clever introspection and urgency of Descendents’ ‘Hypercaffium Spazzinate’ without losing the spirit of the band. It is a better version of what they’d done before that echoes classic hardcore without being too serious, too sappy or falling into the depressive slump so many modern melodic hardcore bands rest on.
In the process of nailing down it’s standout tracks I have to admit I like ‘Back From Hell’ from start to finish and think it flows brilliantly from start to finish and on loop. The opener “The Usurper” brings the listener up to speed and just fires me up for the rest of ‘Back From Hell’ but “Self-Medication” is probably the first song of 2018 that I’ve really connected with on a lyrical level at all, even if I don’t personally drink, and the second-wave ska/reggae break towards the end makes it all the more memorable. “Madhouse” has some of my favorite guitar work with the solo as they whip out a Phil Lynott moment for like a second after. Even though I have some nostalgia for this band they really weren’t absolutely first tier on my personal melodic hardcore hierarchy until they kicked out this jam, so I’m even more impressed by this record defying my expectations with gallons of piss and vinegar to spare.
|Released||April 13, 2018|
|BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!||Follow Satanic Surfers on Facebook|
Better off today. 4.25/5.0
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