The history of Satan is a long and complicated one. Originally formed in 1979, they were musically among the cutting edge of the NWOBHM, but were inundated with quite a few lineup changes, most notably as far as their vocalists go. They ended up changing their name several times over the 80’s – first as Satan, then as the band who did today’s album (Blind Fury), back to Satan for an EP and an album, and then to Pariah for a couple more thrash albums at the end of the 80’s. At least, I believe that’s how it goes; it’s hard keeping track of how many times they switched names. Then in 2011 they reunited with Brian Ross and have done a string of excellent records ever since.
I mention all of that, because in my estimation, that constant name changing is a strong reason as to why Out of Reach is such an overlooked and underestimated record. Blind Fury on this record were 4/5ths of the band who recorded the immortal classic Court in the Act, perhaps the single finest NWOBHM record ever made. To Blind Fury’s credit, despite largely being the same band – with vocalist Lou Taylor replacing the great Brian Ross on here – they aren’t really trying to make a CitA part II, because doing so would be a futile attempt to match the overwhelming brilliance of that album, with its thrashy, intricate harmonies and overall somber, bleak mood driving everything.
Instead, Out of Reach is overwhelmingly a much more slick, polished affair. The riffwriting is a bit more streamlined here; classic bludgeoning NWOBHM-styled riffing rendered in hi-fi 1985 sheen, and the songwriting isn’t as dense as a whole. Here, the writing is more streamlined, there’s more of a purposeful emphasis on hooks, and in general while it’s certainly heavy, its emphasis is more crafting memorable, anthemic tunes than anything Satan did, really. You could say this album has an almost communal vibe going for it at times; the chorus to blazing opener “Do It Loud” and the raucous sing-along fun of “Dynamo” are tributes toward such an idea.
You’re probably thinking to yourself “sounds like some sell out shit, why would I want to listen to that” or something along those lines. But, thing is that the members of Satan were among the best songwriters in metal (subgenre doesn’t matter here); they were musicians that excelled at quite a few different songwriting styles over the 80’s, as the Satan albums that bookend this attest to. Blind Fury, despite this more polished, streamlined writing style that this album showcases, are no different in regards for quality.
The virtues of this album are basically what it says at first glance – these songs are simply well crafted for the most part; just extremely talented songwriters & musicians delivered the material with precision and class that deftly avoids feeling sterile or overwritten. The riffs are super memorable throughout this record – there isn’t a week that goes by that the main riff to “Do it Loud”, or the main harmony that “Evil Eyes” is built around, that doesn’t get stuck in my head at least once – and the band’s harmony skills are, as one would expect, the show stealers. There’s always a tight rope a lot of metal bands have to walk with harmonized parts; handle it poorly and you get a pile of saccharine crap. Handle it well, and, you get songs like the aforementioned “Evil Eyes” or the absolutely brilliant, sublime build up to album closer “Dance of the Crimson Lady, Pt. 1”. It’s just impressively memorable, high flying stuff – tracks like the ones that have been mentioned already, the churning, charging gallop that underpins “Contact Rock ‘n Roll”, the moodier “Back Inside”, etc. All of these tracks showcase a band who were master craftsmen who understood what they wanted to go for, and absolutely fucking nailed it, even if it didn’t catch as much as the band perhaps hoped it would It also helps the album’s cause that Lou Taylor really was a terrific vocalist for what they were going for. He isn’t Brian Ross, and to his credit, he isn’t trying to be either. Taylor won’t blow you away with hitting insane high notes, for the most part, but his looser & generally low-pitched vocals absolutely suit the style & mood that the songs aim for, with the appropriate polish in the right places and the emotional gravitas that is delivered where it’s needed.
I’ll admit that, however, i’m actually not super huge on “Living on the Edge”. It’s a song that has a couple really cool riffs but otherwise it kinda misses the mark, and “Dynamo”, while certainly solid, also feels mildly underwritten during its middle part. Hard putting my finger on why. It’s a testament to the overwhelming quality of the other 6 songs that I hold the album in as high of regard as I do. Blind Fury isn’t gonna blow the doors off the hinges with sheer evil vibes or brute force heaviness, but they revel in classy, memorable songcraft and more memorable riffcraft than you can shake 10 other trad metal albums at. It’s a fun album, and while I am certainly a person why usually prefers metal a bit looser and more adventurous, there’s also absolutely nothing wrong with kicking back and having a good time with an album when the craftsmanship is there. And Blind Fury has it in spades. Outstanding, highly underrated record.
Favorite track: Dance of the Crimson Lady, Pt. I
Album rating: 91/100.