Satan Battled Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell in 1983 America
by Jody Haskins for The Laguna Spectator
Of all the classic rock albums I could have picked to spend a weekend with, Satan’s “Court In The Act” was not one I would have ever imagined reviewing when I began this journey almost two years ago. As you know, last week we discovered a band named Blitzkrieg. I can’t actually remember how I stumbled upon them. That doesn’t really matter, what does matter is that the lead singer of Blitzkrieg really impressed me. As I researched this singer whom I had previously never heard of, I discovered that he is still actively recording and or touring with both Blitzkrieg and Satan.
Classic rock bands were fading fast in 1983. Disco, MTV and Punk Rock had dealt them a near mortal blow. Just when it appeared as if all hope in genuine heavy rock and roll was lost, along comes a whole new breed of young, starving and desperate metal heads from England. They were filling the gap. They grew up in the shadows of their hero’s in Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stones, The Who and Led Zeppelin and they were ready to show they had the stuff to take the throne of heavy metal into the future. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) stormed the music scene and saved hard rock and roll from an early grave.
One of the best albums to emerge from 1983 was entitled “Court in the Act” by a band named Satan. From a popularity standpoint, Satan was a commercial failure. The competition was stiff in 1983 and when you name your band after Satan you are going to have a hard time selling albums.
This was the middle of the Ronald Reagan presidency and the strongest period politically speaking in recent history for Jerry Falwell’s Evangelical Moral Majority. I am sure there were many stores who did not carry an album named “Satan” in 1983 and there were even more kids that decided they would get less flack from mom. I can attest to that fact personally.
In 1983 my house in Birmingham, Alabama was Ground Zero for the Moral Majority and Ronald Reagan. If my mom ran across an album named “Satan” she would have flipped her wig and made me get rid of all my albums. It wasn’t a chance worth taking. Hell, I was already pushing pretty far with albums by KISS, Black Sabbath and Dio. I remember having to hide Black Sabbath and Dio albums from her.
That is my theory of why “Court In The Act” was a commercial flop in the United States. While many classic rock bands like Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult had flirted with occult themes, they weren’t crazy enough to call their bands Satan. This theory is confirmed by the fact that after this album they changed their name to Blind Fury.
Injustice and revenge are a constant theme throughout “Court In The Act”. Satan displays a strong social conscience with songs such as; Trial By Fire” about the suffering of the people of Japan after the US dropped two atomic bombs on this to end World War II in 1945 and “Broken Treaties” about the attempted genocide of the Native American Indians by the greedy evil white man. Other than the trip to Hell at the end, there is nothing “Satanic” or “occult” about this album. I highly recommend you give this album a try if you are a fan of classic rock bands such as Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath or Judas Priest. You won’t be disappointed in Satan’s “Caught In The Act”.
The vocals by Brian Ross are amazing throughout this album. He is in control and powerful with ear shattering high notes and almost limitless range. Ross would have been great in classic rock bands like Deep Purple, Uriah Heep or any band that needed lower register vocals with the highest range possible. When Ian Gillan left Deep Purple 10 years earlier, Ritchie Blackmore had to hire two singers to replace him. David Coverdale had the low register and Glenn Hughes could hit the highest of highs vocally and otherwise. Singers like Mr. Ross are a valuable commodity in heavy metal bands.
In addition to Brian Ross amazing vocals, the rest of Satan were all superb musicians. Steve Ramsey and Russ Tippins were one of the best guitar teams in heavy metal. In addition to their amazing talent as guitar players, they also were excellent songwriters. Satan’s rhythm section consisted of Graeme English on bass guitar and Sean Taylor on drums. They laid down a hard driving heavy metal backbeat with strong hints of classic rock bands of the past such as Black Sabbath and Judas Priest.
The production of this most unlikely of classic rock albums is typical for the era. While the highs are there, the lows are just a little muddy sounding. The guitar sound of Satan is what I would expect if Rhandy Rhoads of the Blizzard of Oz and Toni Iommi of Black Sabbath played together. Satan delivers a face melting heavy metal nuclear bast of Randy Rhoads like solos and Tony Iommi riffs. All this with a singer who has the range and versatility to sound like Paul Rodgers of Bad Company and Glenn Hughes and Ian Gillan of Deep Purple with a little Ozzy thrown in.
Satan’s sound is louder and fast. Every speed metal band owes a debt of gratitude to Satan for introducing the thrash style.