Review by Tymell for Satan (GBR) - Court in the Act (1983)
When we talk about the earliest thrash metal, 1983 is often cited as a birth year thanks to a few key releases: Metallica's Kill 'em All, Slayer's Show No Mercy, maybe Exciter's Heavy Metal Maniac too. I'd add Satan's Court in the Act into that mix, maybe not as a strictly "thrash metal album", but undoubtedly as an illustration of the emerging sound and an influence on some later bands.
At the core it might be classic heavy metal, but here Satan are clearly showing an increased focus on sharpened speed and aggression. It might not be overly progressive as an album, but it can still feel well ahead of its time, even sounding like a precursor to later mergers of power metal and thrash together.
All that genre waffle out of the way, it should come as no surprise that the dominate characteristic here is the sheer force with which all this is delivered. There's a wild sense of abandon, the very sort of thing that would help thrash define itself from speed metal, a hunger for refined discordance, an application of molten riffs to help push forward the whole atmosphere of rebellious carnage. Just listen to the mad dancing jig of "The Ritual" or the machinegun pace of "Trial By Fire" or "Break Free".
The only real thing holding Court in the Act back is the less refined production. You can tell what's under the surface is quality stuff, but it can at times sound muffled and sadly restrained by this point. Nevertheless, Court in the Act is a worthy investment for anyone looking for some traditional metal with a decidedly sharp, aggressive edge, discarding most of the genre's rock roots in favour of something entirely metallic.
Choice cuts: Trial By Fire, The Ritual, Blades of Steel