Cold Smoke Records – January 28th 2017
Hey Satan is a three piece rock outfit hailing from Lausanne, Switzerland. This is their debut, self titled album, so I’m going to be nice. There’s a couple glaring reasons that I’d hold an initial bias: firstly, if you’ve read my prior reviews, you’d probably know by now that I find overt “Satanic” references to be a bit cliché and lame in this day and age. Not very metal of me, I know, but I really don’t care. What does talking about Satan in 2017 actually mean?? It’s not edgy or dangerous anymore, and it’s so ubiquitous as to be essentially meaningless. It’s not even really that funny or goofy anymore, like it was in the bygone age of Black Widow, or in the early days of Venom. Satan is just extremely tame, and I am not a tame lion. Whatever, I’m just going to let it slide, because every band needs a name and they could do far, far worse. However, Hey Satan also name check Rage Against The Machine as an influence, who are one of my least favorite bands of all time. Really, I can’t stand them. Let’s just not get into it right now, because thankfully there are no badly rapped vocals or pseudo-political lyrics on this album, so it’s kind of a moot point anyway. I’m now being both tangential and unduly negative, so let’s change the subject to the music itself rather than discuss my personal hang-ups, shall we??
What you are going to hear on this album is basically a bunch of well executed, straight up, bluesy riff-rock tunes, with a heavy 90’s grunge influence and a dash of thee old stoner rock thrown in for flavor. You’re not going to hear much in the way of spacey sounds or “lava lamp moments”, as I like to refer to psych sections, though there’s definitely some tasteful usage of the wah-wah pedal and those big, fuzzy guitar tones that have come to define the stoner metal genre. Otherwise, this stew is strictly meat and potatoes. There’s ten songs on here, clocking in at a whopping 36 minutes, so let’s do the math – most of the songs are around the 3-4 minute mark. I can definitively say that Hey Satan have trimmed all the fat from these tunes and left us with the tastiest morsels.
Do you remember the main riff that Monster Magnet busted out on their rendition of the classic Howlin’ Wolf tune, “Evil (Is Going On)”, from their now seminal Superjudge album? It had that ultra-cool vibe, the stop/start chord followed by that rapid, slightly sinister sounding blues walk that used to slay me when I was just a teenage dirtbag, baby. Well, the verse riff from Hey Satan’s first tune, “Fallon City Messiah” sounds remarkably similar, and that’s not a bad thing in my eyes. Not a bad thing at all, it’s a catchy riff, and there are many more memorable riffs to follow. These guys also name drop Led Zeppelin as a main influence, and that’s readily apparent in both the blues-based writing and the lyrics. They’re singing about levees breaking during “Song For A Lost Mariner”, and there’s even a direct lift of a line from “Black Dog” thrown into a song for no good reason at all, other than that it rules. Otherwise, the lyrics are dark and ominous, and they play with some of those taunting hero/anti-hero dichotomies that the above mentioned Monster Magnet have pulled off so well over the years. Stylistically, the vocals are delivered a tad bit differently; they’re smoother overall, less gruff or over the top, and they’ve got that mid-90’s Seattle swagger. The rhythm section sounds HUGE, big drums and bass that sit right in that sweet spot of the pocket like a well-worn leather wallet. I’m digging the production on this one a lot, it really suits their sound.
The songs are mostly straight forward riff driven rockers with varying levels of aggression and big, catchy hooks. They make excellent usage of dynamics and subtle variations, and none of songs overstays its welcome. Later in the album, tunes like “Bastardizer” and “Black Flags Down” definitely demonstrate a more in your face vocal approach, as well as a more punk/hardcore urgency, so although Hey Satan aren’t exactly reinventing the proverbial wheel, they’re not a one trick pony either. The mixture of punk immediacy and dirty blues riffs reminded me of Orange Goblin more than a couple times. It’s pretty obvious that these guys love music and have far more influences than the few that they’ve listed and that I’ve written about. I’m hoping on future releases, they can bring more influences to the fold. There was a reason that music like this was referred to as “cloner rock” in the early 2000’s, because European bands that sounded similar to this were popping up left and right. It’s worth noting that Hey Satan also list Kyuss as an influence. If you recall a bit of rock history, Josh Homme of Kyuss/Queens Of The Stone Age publicly distanced himself from the whole “stoner rock” scene because he thought that too many of the bands were too under the influence of one another. I’d have to agree with him on that point.
Like I mentioned above, this is a debut album, and it’s super solid; it soundly follows in the tradition and heritage of heavy rock. In full disclosure, I’ll take innovation over tradition any day, but hey – that’s just me, and my opinion is hardly the do-all or end-all. I’m just one dude with a pen and a pair of speakers. Ultimately, it’s up to each listener to decide what music works for them. Plenty of folks I know will eat this album up (heck, I’m going to recommend it to some folks I know as soon as I finish writing this), though I personally would like to see a bit more variation and experimentation on their future releases. For me, that’s what ultimately distinguishes one band from all the myriad others that can also nail this kind of sound like it’s second nature. Solid songwriting helps, and Hey Satan have definitely achieved the rare feat of releasing an entire album without a clear clunker. If they can continue in that vein, hey….I’ll gladly take it.
Words by Andy “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” Beresky