Satan’s Host has existed in some form or another, off and on for thirty years now. Their first record featured Jag Panzer vocalist Harry “the Tyrant” Conklin, who departed two years after to join Titan Force, and the Host lay dormant for over a decade. When they re-emerged, they did so without Conklin, who was replaced by LCF Elixir, and Satan’s Host’s blasphemous power metal took a turn towards acceptable, if average, black/death. That new direction persisted through four records, before the Tyrant rejoined, twenty-two years after his first tenure ended.
And with that, Satan’s Host changed dramatically, and for the better. Conklin’s multi-octave range and sheer vocal force added a melodic component to the band’s thrash-tinted blackness, pushing them over the line from decent black/death to first-rate American power metal. Two full-lengths followed, plus a compilation of re-recordings of Elixir-era material, all in four years’ time. Satan’s Host is stiking while their iron is hot, presumably heated with Hell’s unholy fire.
Inspired by myths and tales of pre-Christian days, Pre-Dating God was originally intended to be one album, but there was too much of it, so now it’s two official albums released simultaneously. It’s the Satan’s Host version of Guns N’ Roses‘ Use Your Illusion set, and overall, it fares about the same as those two.
Stylistically, the band’s approach hasn’t changed – this still treads the middle ground between black, thrash, and power metals, all heavy riffing and soaring melody. A few of the best tracks incorporate doomish tempo and darkness — “Lady N’ The Snake,” “Valley Of Blood,” and “As The Dead, They Sleep” among the best tunes on either of the twin albums. The first of the Pre-Dating Gods is the stronger of the two, with the opening blast of “Hell’s Disciples” running into “Embers Of Will” and the moody groove of “Valley,” all three showing the Host at their best. Conklin sings, shrieks, and screams impressively, sticking primarily to a throaty belting midrange and offsetting that with sporadic falsettos and less frequent forays into black-ish growls.
When I reviewed the killer Virgin Sails a few years back, the only real criticisms I could level were these: One, Satan’s Host has a tendency to push everything a bit too long – almost every song is in the six-minute range, which is often about a minute too much; and two, everything is all about Conklin, all about those melodies and the impressive array of voices. The former remains true, and time management is a bit more critical now that there are two albums – like the Illusions, there’s enough quality material here to justify more than one album, but probably not enough to really keep one’s full interest through two entire records. Also, like the Illusions, the extended running time is padded with a good but unnecessary cover (which is thankfully not “Knocking On Heaven’s Door,” but instead, Grim Reaper’s classic “See You In Hell”) and an alternate version of one song, the reprise of “Pre-Dating God” that closes Volume 2. That second coming is somewhat explainable – it puts a version of the title track on both discs – but it could’ve been subtracted along with the cover, and maybe one or two other tunes like “Soul Wrent” or “Descending In The Shadows Of Osiris” and the whole would’ve been one strong record.
As for the second criticism above, well, it’s still true, but that’s probably just the nature of this unholy beast – Conklin dominates here, but he dominated in Jag Panzer, too. As I listen to this, the same thing happens that happened when I listen to By The Hands Of God or Virgin Sails: I sing along; I get into the music, but the melodies supersede the riffs, and only a few of those riffs stand out. Three albums in now, and I’m not complaining about that anymore. It’s nature of this beast.
Sure, the whole of Pre-Dating God is a handful. But still, it’s hard to fault a band for giving you too much good music, and at least, with it spread out across two albums, one could argue that you don’t have to buy all of it. (Except, if you want it, you do.) Volume 1 is stronger, more consistent but not by a wide margin; and well over half of Volume 2 is equally good, so there’s justification for owning both, even if it’s not wholly necessary.
Satan’s Host is one of the best American power metal bands around, especially now that Jag Panzer has split up and left Conklin to focus on this, his more blasphemous side. If you’re looking for something equally melodic and aggressive, something powerful that steers clear of the “happy metal” goofiness that plagues much of power metal, then Satan’s Host is absolutely for you.