Brian Ross: Vocals
Russ Tippins: Guitar
Steve Ramsey: Guitar
Graeme English: Bass
Sean Taylor: Drums
Earth Infernal is a product of the times that birthed it, and could only be the work of Satan. Having churned out cutting edge heavy metal throughout the 80s - and reunited in 2011 - their sixth full-length maintains the high standard they long ago set, and it is perhaps their timeliest release. "For two years the world has been preoccupied with politics and pandemics and while we were all looking the other way our planet has continued to get hotter," says guitarist Russ Tippins. "Our Earth is now infernally hot. Almost irreversibly so. We are on a one way trip to Hell and dragging our children and their children along with us. Yes, Satan has something to say about global warming."
Following up 2018's stunning Cruel Magic is no mean feat, a record that Tippins views as a "game changer" for Satan. "It feels like we jumped up a level or two. As if everything we'd worked towards since the reunion had suddenly clicked into place. The band's profile really blew up and the media reviews were sensational. In commercial terms we were high on every metal chart and even broke into the German national charts. We were kind of taken aback at the sudden success." Still, this did not mean that the guitarist sat around reveling in these triumphs, for as soon as that record was complete he began working on demos for what came next, and continued to write prolifically following its release. With no specific plan in mind for the record they let the songs dictate the direction, which slowly emerged as they worked on them. While the Covid lockdowns were disrupting bands' plans the world over, for Satan they actually worked in their favor. "It really messed up our touring plans but as far as writing goes, it was the best thing that could've happened. Sometimes there is perceived pressure to deliver product every 18 months to keep the engine ticking over, but the enforced hibernation worked out beautifully for us in terms of giving creative ideas more time to blossom - like how it was before our very first record came out. Over three years of development went into that." Describing the record succinctly as "Brutal, up tempo, loud guitars," it is classic Satan but sounds fresh and new, the band experimenting a little. "Steve (Ramsey, guitar) and I had been talking for a while about playing some of our dual leads in unison rather than in harmony - which is our normal method. And sure enough, the trusted twin harmonies are still in abundance on this record, but two of the songs have us playing lead in unison ie. the exact same notes as each other, like Rossington & Collins' solo in "Freebird". Hardly any bands do that anymore but it's really added a different vibe to our soundscape, and we can't figure out why we've never done it until now."
Lyrically, among other themes the band assertively weigh in on the climate crisis, the album lacking a title track but featuring two songs directly linked to the name, "Earth We Bequeath" and "Twelve Infernal Lords". "They share a common theme around the slow cooking of our home planet. What an arrogant self-serving generation we are, who apparently don't care about anything after our own lifetimes. To squander every natural resource and leave nothing for our future descendants. Utter madness." Then there is another pair of interrelated songs, "Ascendancy" and "Burning Portrait", which depict the story of a high-powered individual, who "could be a politician, or an industrial tycoon, or a star of some sort. "Ascendancy" is about the rise to the top, the brilliance, the optimism and genuine good intention. "Burning Portrait" describes the fall of this person, the gradual decline of optimism turning into cynicism, and how ideals, like paint on a picture, can crumble and decay if not maintained properly. The fall happens in his own mind rather than in the real world. He can no longer visualize himself the way he used to and realizes he has turned into the sum of everything he despised as a young idealist."
As is always the case the band tracked the record at First Avenue in Newcastle, with Dave Curle engineering and mixing. Though they eschew the tag 'produced by' it was the band that did everything to shape Earth Infernal creatively without interference from anyone else. The sessions however were not without problems. "We started laying down tracks in October 2020 but had to stop when the UK went into its second lockdown which lasted until April 2021. Even then we couldn't get into the studio as it was pre-booked, and then Dave our engineer was taken to hospital after a pulmonary embolism. He nearly died. We decided to wait for him rather than get someone else to take over, Dave is like a part of this band. Then, Graeme (English, bass) had an accident and broke his arm! Then the studio's recording system crashed! It seemed we'd never get this record finished but finally we managed to pick up where we'd left off almost a full year earlier. At that point we were up against the clock, without a doubt. Looking back it was probably a good thing, to have that sense of vitality infusing our performances." In a time of over-polished, digitally perfected metal records, Satan take a different path, embracing the mistakes made during tracking. "Of course we kept them. The fluffed note, the missed beat on a drum roll, the power chord that doesn't get struck fully. It all adds up to something that sounds engaging. Real. It's something which I feel I'm hearing less and less in modern recording. I'm not saying bands should go out of their way to mess up but if it happens on a take that's really cooking, why meddle with it? It seems that anyone can achieve perfection now but, precisely for that reason, perfection really doesn't mean anything anymore."
With touring plans in the works, fans will get a chance to hear these songs live in the not-too-distant future, and perhaps more importantly Satan will continue to spread the important message at the heart of the album. "I believe that our current writing and subject matter are only too relevant to what is going on in the world today. Take the lyrics of "From Second Sight", for instance. Wherever you care to look around the world, you'll find conspiracy theories and millions of people who actually believe in them. The denial of science is a very dangerous trend. In itself it's nothing new, but lately there's been a significant increase in the number of followers who've now given up on proven fact and are ready to believe that 2+2 = 5 if it suits their purpose. Trust in authority is at an all-time low. Our world is on the brink of sliding into chaos unless people wake up and start to have faith in the smartest human beings on the planet. Established expertise must win the day or we are finished as a species."