Just last year we got a dose of wild, primeval '80s metal from the flamboyant Greek team Satan's Wrath, in the form of their debut full-length album Galloping Blasphemy (check out our review). Proclaiming a return to an era where “death, black and thrash genres were considered one in the same and only leather, spikes and bullets were real,” the core duo of heavily-tattooed frontman Tas Danazoglou (former bassist for UK doom-metallers Electric Wizard) and lead guitarist Stamos K – now flanked by guitarist V, bassist Costa and drummer Nathan Perrier – hold nothing back in their homage to bands like Venom, Slayer, Bathory and Possessed, and their deliberately shocking presentation sets them apart from the droves of thrash revivalists, masking a nostalgic thrill for fans of old-school sonic mayhem.
The team is back already with a new offering bearing the equally unsubtle title Aeons of Satan's Reign, and while it's not a vast departure from last year's release – in fact, the two are practically interchangeable – it's still a helluva lot of fun, especially if you grew up listening to the same music these cats did. On Galloping Blasphemy, the two core members managed to capture a live, jam-session feel despite the need for multi-tracking, and now with a full complement of musicians that vibe is even more genuine, with a gritty, punchy spontaneity that serves their style well. Lyrically, they're just as goofy as you'd expect – given the fact that virtually every song references Satan, witches or some combination of the same – but at heart the themes are just a splice of the rhapsodic horror/occult references of Mercyful Fate and King Diamond with the more overt devilry of '90s-era black metal, with just enough black-mass elements (Gregorian-style chants, church organ and some spooky sound effects) to prop up the Satanic imagery.
After the bombastic opening "Only Satan is Lord," a surly, chest-beating number reminiscent of the previous album's intro “Leonard Rising: Night of the Whip,” the band gets down to business with the sweet '80s riffage of "Die, White Witch, Die," adhering most closely to the proto-black style of Venom (which is clearly where this band's musical allegiances lie) and tearing up the mix with some smooth melodic leads from Stamos. Tas's grimy, caustic delivery straddles the fence between black and death metal styles, and if those aren't to your taste then you're in for a hard ride, as the vocals are very prominent in the mix. The same can't be said for Costa's bass, which is often dialed down to near-nonexistence.
There's a cool variety of tempos to keep the energy level high, from the crawling mid-speed of "Archfiend,” to the blistering rhythms of the maniacal "All of Us Witches" (which seems to be mixed a bit muddy, but it's still a pretty awesome party track), the galloping riffs of "Ecstasies of Sorcery" and the doomier elements of "Satan's Blood, Lucifer's Fire” (as you've probably figured out by now, you're going to hear the words “Satan” and “Lucifer” recited more times than you can count). The album closes with the gargantuan eight-minute title track, which begins with a pensive 3/4 time prologue before tearing ass through a punkish middle passage filled with callback vocals, lightning-speed tremolo riffs and some solid shredding from Stamos.
Clearly Satan's Wrath haven't forged any new creative paths since last year, as they seem quite comfortable remaining within their nostalgic niche, but thankfully they've found ways to make that work. After giving Aeons a spin, it's no longer surprising to me that they followed up Blasphemy so quickly, since the two records could basically be linked together without the seams showing. Still, they synthesize their raw '80s influences very well, and despite the rather goofy presentation, they remain an efficient, no-bullshit band capable of unleashing hell with real horns-up appeal.