In Case You Missed It: Satan’s Hallow – Satan’s Hallow
When Satan’s Hallow debuted in 2015 with their first 7”, I have to admit that I wasn’t particularly impressed; there was potential there, but the songs left me feeling like there was something missing in the songwriting, and I shelved the band until this year. Now, returned with an eponymous debut and another seven songs (on top of the two re-recorded ones from the 7”), Satan’s Hallow has totally sold me with one of my favorite heavy metal debut albums in the last couple years.
When I saw the initial hype over Satan’s Hallow I was skeptical, and the first listen through didn’t catch me much; to my ears, the melodies were more saccharine than I prefer in my heavy metal, and the vocals were almost too smooth. It had just enough to draw me back, and the second (and all other listens) totally blew me away; massive riffs, great songwriting, fantastic vocals, and enough catchy melodies, solos, and leads to make it stand out from the pack throughout the course of the album. Best of all, it’s succinct- one of my biggest problems with some of the stuff that’s popped up in recent years that tries something somewhat similar is an overreliance on repetition and extension, and Satan’s Hallow trust themselves enough to avoid that pitfall with short, catchy songs that pop up, enter, and vanish before a listener can lose interest.
According to an interview with the singer and drummer, the main songwriter, Von Jugel, writes just about everything, and his close attention to detail really shows; the little interplays between the drumming, the vocal melodies, and the guitarwork can be absolutely breath-taking, even at their simplest. Sometimes it almost feels like he’s writing directly to my preferences (such as with the several sections with slow riffs but fast drums, a songwriting technique that I’ve always adored), and even to the very end some of my favorite tropes are used in amazing ways as quick speed metal riffs build up to zeniths of harmony or galloping rhythms give rise to gorgeous leads. Though my favorites are the fastest songs, the several more mid-paced songs are handled incredibly well, staying interesting at all times. From the first notes of the first song to the final notes of the last, Satan’s Hallow is incredibly memorable (the ultimate litmus test of a good album versus a bad one for me), catchy, and most importantly, as I’ve said, riffy as all hell.
Another strength of the album is variety; some of the songs (see: the title track) are anthemic and vocal driven, while others rip through their short time in a startling show of guitar wizardry and speedy riff-worship. The band self-describe as just being pure heavy metal, and they certainly take influences from the entire spectrum of the genre. From the gallops and dual-harmonization of Iron Maiden to the pounding rhythm section of the most powerful Omen songs, the pacing bounces from place to place naturally, getting fast for a song and then slowing for another as the album leads listeners through journeys of self-referential metal might, of the horror of the Gorgon, and even through journeys of a more personal type.
Though I’ve talked mostly about the guitarwork (always the most important part of an album for me), Mandy Martillo’s powerful and smooth singing does an important job carrying the album, adding an extra amount of charisma to latch onto as she sails above the album’s mix. Her lines just scream out at you, sticking in your head and calling you back to listen to the album over and over again. Additionally, the drummer, one Patrick “Rüsty” Glöckle, does an admirable job of providing a solid rhythmic backbone to the album (despite sitting a tiny bit lower in the mix than I normally prefer for my metal), always pounding out fitting beats with a great instinct of when to play fills and when to avoid overplaying.
Satan’s Hallow is a great success for Satan’s Hallow’s first album, and I really hope that they keep doing more; until then, I’ll continue to listen to what’s proven to be one of my favorite albums this year, and I recommend that everyone do the same.
Pictures courtesy of Satan’s Hallow and Metal Kaoz.