Satan‘s Court in the Act exists in a unique space between the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and speed metal. As a wholly metal album that attempts no pandering to mainstream radio rock unlike seemingly every other NWOBHM band, Court in the Act is by far the strongest studio album of that sub-genre/movement and incredibly influential to American speed metal bands Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer.
Riffing is a combination of Judas Priest‘s dueling guitars, Motorhead‘s speed metal triplets, and Thin Lizzy style guitar harmonies as played by neo-classical shredders. Leads are strictly melodic, usually pentatonic, and so dynamically and aggressively played that they are almost Slayer-like noise bursts but of course far progressed beyond light-speed streams of chromatic-semitones. The guitar playing is by far the most dynamic I have heard in heavy metal, especially on the better CD reissues such as the recent Listenable Records one from a couple of years ago.
Vocals are sung along to the riffs but sound like they were recorded underwater. They are thankfully not aggravatingly awful like those in so many lesser heavy and speed metal bands. The great shrieking heavy metal air raid sirens are sure to pierce the eardrums of the unworthy. Bass lines are thankfully audible too and harmonizes nicely with the riff, occasionally complimenting them with melodic fills like Geezer Butler in Black Sabbath.
The pace of Court in the Act is relentless except for the opening intro, “Into the Fire”, and the interlude “Dark Side of Innocence” before the “Alone in the Dock” closer. No other record in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal dared attempt this forward thinking, uniformity of vision and compositional style with even Unleashed in the East having a couple rock covers and Motorhead‘s occasional croaked ballads.
The only flaw that could be said of Satan’s debut is that the songs are strictly structured around pairs of harmonized or counterpointed riffs in a verse chorus verse, rock-like format as almost all NWOBHM material is. This strict song structure is not a mark against the album and in fact keeps Satan from meandering as they would on their more seemingly randomly modulating technical speed metal works such as Suspended Sentence and Atom by Atom. Progressive rock inspired riff mazes would have to wait until Mercyful Fate with arrangement into death and black metal narrative composition by early Slayer. Compositional method aside, the almost neo-classical Court in the Act is by far the most aggressive, most relentless, and the best New Wave of British Heavy Metal record. Crank it until your ears bleed.