There’s something to be said for consistency. Now on to album number ten, Sathanas are the kind of band who have probably passed under your radar; their discography is one of solid black-thrash, that has – for whatever reason – largely been unheralded beyond their section of the underground. Latest record Necrohymns may be unlikely to change that, but it does serve as a demonstration of what the uninitiated have been missing out on. This is the sound of experience, of old hands who are utterly confident in their chosen style, and are seemingly content to keep doing what they do, regardless of whether anyone else pays attention or not.
Of course, with artwork like that, and a title like Necrohymns, it’s a pretty safe bet as to what the album contains – eight tracks of blasphemous, no-bullshit black-thrash, that has a sinister melodic undercurrent to it. The aura of unholy rites hangs heavy over the album, especially on the mid-tempo ‘Harbringer of Death’; and though it’s never quite as chaotic as, say, Aura Noir’s best work, there’s a sense of imminent violence throughout Necrohymns that you’d hope for from such music.
There’s more of a sense of groove throughout the album that is typical for black-thrash though, and whilst there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, it does come at the sacrifice of the sense of chaos and recklessness that the best black thrash possesses. There’s never any hint that, for all their blasphemous ways, Sathanas are going to let loose in the way that, say, Bestial Mockery do. Instead, Necrohymns is a tightly controlled album, its black-thrash honed to a razor-sharp edge and precisely wielded.
All of which might imply that Necrohymns is somehow a safe listen. Whilst it’s true that the album doesn’t push at the boundaries of black-thrash, and Sathanas show a greater degree of control over their music than other notable black-thrash bands might, it still races along at 666 miles per hour for the most part, full of energy and scorn. It’s certainly too enthused with the spirit and violence of thrash to be considered simply as black metal, and when those oh-so sharp melodies get under your skin, it’s hard to get them out.
It’s clear by this stage that, thirty years after first forming, Sathanas will change for no one, and make this music for no one but themselves – which is just as it should be. And yet it’s hard not to feel that Necrohymns is perhaps lacking that spark which would raise it from being a good album to something much more special. It could hardly be described as a bad album; yet nor is it the great one it aspires to be. Still, it’s entertaining enough whilst it’s on, and if you’re a die-hard black-thrash fan, then you could do far worse.
Necrohymns is available digitally, on CD, and on vinyl via Bandcamp.