Satan – Court in the Act (1983)


Article by George Psalmanazar.

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.

17 thoughts on “Satan – Court in the Act (1983)”

  1. Panos says:

    > 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.

    You obviously forget Blood Money’s both LPs.

  2. “the best New Wave of British Heavy Metal record”

    Only if you’re a hipster, otherwise Killers wipes the floor with it.

  3. Bezoar Sarcoma says:

    Great album. In no way influential to Metallica or Slayer. Both of their debut albums came out the same year as this.

  4. Apotheon Praetor says:

    This album was released the same year as the first Metallica and Slayer albums. Only one month before Kill ’em All and only 5 months before Show No Mercy. No influence at all.

    1. Satan has demos that they heard.

  5. M says:

    Such a great album – see also Blind Fury, Pariah, Avenger, Blitzkrieg, etc.

  6. canadaspaceman says:

    I can’t find the magazine issue, but I read in the late 1980s / 1990-91, maybe was in Metal Forces mag, that EXODUS were bananas over SATAN. One of their fave bands.
    Now when I listen to Satan’s guitar work (riffs / leads / solos), guess it makes a lot of sense.

    1. canadaspaceman says:

      or maybe it was an issue of Mega Metal Kerrang, the over-sized mag. If that sucker had a hard cover and was thicker, it would have been great for a coffee table book!

    2. GGALLIN1776 says:

      I kinda miss wasting all that money/space on rags, the gas station down the street sold metal maniacs/rip/kerrang & a few others when I was a kid. I still have the garage days e.p. era glossy page of gaytallica from the first metal maniacs (or metal edge) I bought in first grade on my wall.i believe that it cost a whopping $1.50 that I otherwise would’ve spent on candy.
      Now all the mags suck & cost almost $10 last I checked. The last time I wasted money on any was in 04 when dimebag was shot & I bought all the tributes. Those are the only ones that I still have.

      1. Syphilis says:

        Were there at least graphic pictures of the corpse?

  7. reptile says:

    The lyrics are definitely fitting to that “socially conscious” SJW shit that greater bands saved the world from. Childlike lyrics about how nuclear war is bad, sorry for the the genocide guise indian track, oooh it’s even got the “you will be judged upon death by super spooky lucifer”. ***vomits on self and dies***

    1. They were definitely politically correct straightedgers compared to Maiden and Slayer.

      1. Falsehammer says:

        Really everything was pretty “straightedged” until slayer.

  8. King_Benny says:

    Regarding Slayer’s influence… please read this

    https://haggisbuffet.blogspot.my/2012/03/face-slayer.html?m=1

    from this page…
    For such a short piece it’s chock full of fun facts that will upset the revisionist history view of the Old Metal Days for a lot of people. Such as:

    “Band influences are Venom, Mercyful Fate, and Metallica.
    That’s it because that’s about all we listen to.”- Jeff Hanneman – 1983

    “I think it’s kind of obvious that we like Venom and Metallica.”
    – Kerry King – 1983

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