Long before he left Jag Panzer to front eeeeevil power metal outfit Satan’s Host in 2011, Harry “Leviathan Thisiren” Conklin left Jag Panzer to front eeeeevil power metal outfit Satan’s Host in 1986. The sole full-length issued from that initial collaboration, Metal From Hell, has been occasionally in and mostly out of print since then. Thanks to the fine miscreants at Moribund, it’s back again, and with it, the long-lost follow-up, 1987’s Midnight Wind, which is seeing its first-ever official release.
The press blurb for both of these albums is insanely exuberant, positively bursting with effusive praise amidst rampant exclamation points and all-caps declarations like “mandatory” and “most important.” Cited as one of the most bootlegged albums in metal history, Metal From Hell is compared to Melissa, to Black Metal, to Show No Mercy, and the band is hailed as forerunners for Fates Warning, Trouble, and Halloween.
All of that might be overstating the matter just a bit.
Then as now, Satan’s Host peddles a darker take on American-style power metal, thrash-ish riffy drive and edgy aggression balanced against the requisite soaring vocal melodies, the latter of which is a Conklin specialty. The Conklin-fronted Satan’s Host records of this decade were largely defined by Conklin’s voice and melodies, with the riffs and music falling to a supporting role behind the massive voice — good as those records are, they’re ultimately Conklin showcases.
Metal From Hell is also predominantly Conklin’s show, largely because his vocal dominates at least 50% of the mix. Beyond that, a further 30% or so is allocated to D. Lucifer Stele’s drums, and the remaining 20% is then split between Belial John Phantom’s wandering bass lines and Patrick Evil’s phase shifter effect. A riff pokes out here and there, or a solo or a fill, but a large part of the guitar work is lost in that white-noise swirl — it’s not so much a guitar tone as it is a wash of static, like someone running a ShopVac through Eddie Van Halen’s pedalboard.
Stylistically, Metal From Hell is a fiery trad metal record, pushing against the boundaries of thrash, and lyrically obsessed with Satan and various eeeeevil other things. But it’s one that’s presented with the horrifically raw production that would later come to define basement black metal. Consequently, much of the power in its power metal is lost in the low-budget balance, a tin-can-drum and metal-god vocal extravaganza backed by some blurbling bass and hiss. Imagine Ample Destruction with the white noise mix of trashcan blackness, and that’s pretty much what you get here.
Though they aren’t as strong as those of Jag Panzer, the songs on Metal From Hell aren’t nearly as terrible as the sound in which they’re wrapped. After a completely throwaway intro, “Black Stele” is a fine opener, with its wonderfully corny “Bang your head against the stage / bang your head for Lucifer / do what thou wilt!” bridge. (Of course, do what thou wilt so long as what thou wilt do is bang your head. Against the stage. For Lucifer.) From there, it’s a short ride through more of the same, with some standout moments in the title track. “Into The Veil,” and the Evil Dead-inspired “Strongest Of The Night.”
But then, what of Midnight Wind?
Well, that one’s mostly the same—the cover of The Animals’ classic “House Of The Rising Sun” fares as well as you’d think an ultra-raw traditional metal cover of that song would (which is to say, not terribly), and the best song on hand is literally a Jag Panzer cover, “Black Sunday.” The production is a little sharper, less ragged, and everything’s just a hair more cohesive, as you’d expect a band to be after two more years of growth, but for the most part, it’s its brother’s brother, only a little bit better.
At the end of the day, neither album is anything to which I’d allot a slew of exclamation points, nothing that I’d really describe as “mandatory” or “most important.” Historian and power metal fan that I am, and black metal enthusiast that I’m not, after many careful listens, I’d use words like “absolutely of interest to collectors and historians” and “essential for Satan’s Host die-hards” and “for most folks, check out the more recent albums instead, for a far better example of what this band can do, and do well.”