Sathanas – Necrohymns (2018) REVIEW

A closer look at New Brighton, Pennsylvania cult blackened death/thrashers Sathanas‘ thirty year history reveals not only deep ties to the inception of hailed blackened death masters Acheron (and the forgotten brilliance of Bathym) but a rightful throne next to them. Originally formed in 1988 with key members from Acheron‘s earliest demo line-up and Bathym‘s vocalist/guitarist Paul Tucker, Sathanas‘ sound evolved alongside those concurrent collaborations but was made distinct by Tucker‘s black metal inspired vocals and talent for death/thrash guitar work. With Bathym assuredly dissolved after their brilliant ‘Demonic Force’ EP in 1991 and Vincent Crowley essentially restaffing Acheron with burgeoning collaboration with Mike Browning (Morbid Angel, Nocturnus) in 1992, Sathanas would become a priority for Tucker along with bassist Bill Davidson (Evisceration) from that point on.

Although the style of drummer Jim Baker, who played on Sathanas‘ first two full-lengths, was above par for most black/thrash groups that had arrived in the mid 90’s, the band’s style isn’t as long-heralded as similar efforts from by Aura Noir, Absu, and Gravewürm. Inspiration from east coast US death metal and helped differentiate Sathanas from the more popular black/thrash scene that relied heavily on polishing up old riffs from Teutonic thrash and Quorthon‘s past. Their debut full-length ‘Black Earth’ (1995) largely collected ideas from early Sathanas and Bathym demos into one bolus of blackened thrash metal but, it was ‘Armies of Charon’ (1997) that really set Sathanas on fire with a unique cacophony of precision death/thrash and venomous Goatlord-esque vocals. With the inclusion of ‘Thy Dark Heavens’ (2001) this triad would be my favorite era of Sathanas and I hadn’t followed their music since.

With the addition of drummer James Strauss (Acheron) in 2005 on ‘Enter the Diabolic Trinity’ some small modernization of Sathanas’ sound began to allow more black metal influences into their style. This change would be even more obvious in 2007 when the band put out two albums one unreleased since 2003 ‘Hex Nefarious’ and the other ‘Crowned Infernal’ with all new material, an album that remains a personal favorite. This marks a point of fairly significant change for Sathanas in terms of fidelity as their blackened death/thrash would then begin to resemble something even closer to Ares Kingdom beyond ‘Nightrealm Apocalypse’ (2009).

On their tenth full-length across thirty years Sathanas have both returned to their roots and built some new bridges in the process. Thought the band once again worked with Nic Kucel for the recording/mixing process, this time they’ve gone with former Necromorbus Studios’ Sverker Widgren (Centinex, Diabolical) for the mastering process. While I don’t like the drum sound as much as records previous, ‘Necrohymns’ feels like it could have been their follow up between ‘Thy Dark Heavens’ and ‘Hex Nefarious’ back in the early 2000’s. This is partially due to the odd balance of the drum and guitar levels but largely due to their focus on the black/thrash side of things. It is as if ‘Necrohymns’ seeks to claim the musical territory the project never really received due credit for thanks to a hypeless existence for most any US band playing black metal in the 90’s.

That is perhaps the most important note when considering the entirety of Sathanas, they’ve been incredibly consistent and persistent in their craft for decades. The band have put their sound through the paces across several full-lengths, but with a fully retained personality. Rather than rely on trends and insincere innovation, this is how cult bands best survive as a brand and entity. These aren’t the best riffs they’ve ever written, as I’m still hung up on ‘Armies of Charon’ personally, but it is a return to that early blackened death/thrash sound they helped spawn in the late 80’s. As a fan of underground extreme metal I couldn’t be more elated to listen to ‘Necrohymns’ and soak up it’s satanic fury, punching grooves, and black metal spirit.

I don’t personally have any great love for Nunslaughter, Gravewürm, or Usurper outside of a few choice releases but I find that style of Hellhammer-ed thrash and death hits hardest in a live setting whereas on record the variations (riffs) have less impact. I don’t think it’d be incredibly unfair to lump Sathanas into that realm but their style of black/death/thrash has it’s own rhythm. If you’ve been a fan over the years and wanting for a return to the sound of ‘Entering the Diabolic Trinity’ I think ‘Necrohymns’ will impress you most. I found it to be a good solid listen that did little to grip me outside of a few sharp riffs here and there; After roughly 5-6 spins it further cemented Sathanas‘ legacy but without really doing anything to stand out from the crowd of similar bands the world over.

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Artist Sathanas
Type Album
Released July 10, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on Transcending Obscurity Records’ Bandcamp! Follow Sathanas on Facebook
Genres
Black Metal,
Thrash Metal,
Death Metal

Spells of oppression. 3.25/5.0

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