02.Catch My Breath
04.All Gone To Shit
05.Ain't No Ripper
07.Going Nowhere Fast
10.Back From Hell
Release date: April 13
Format: CD, LP
It’s been 11 long years since last we heard new music from the Satanic Surfers. In between 2007’s Taste The Poison and 2018’s Back From Hell, singer/songwriter Rodrigo Alfaro continued his musical pursuits, playing in a variety of bands, the most well-known of which was Atlas Losing Grip.
ALG seemed to be the pinnacle of melodic hardcore, and just after the band laid down their masterpiece, Currents, Alfaro quit. While we don’t know all the grisly details — and we don’t need to — it’s clear that Alfaro still harbors some animosity. “The Usurper”, the first track on the Back From Hell, lays out Alfaro’s joy at being back with the Satanic Surfers, and takes a few shots at ALG with passive/aggressive eloquence.
As disappointed as many fans were with Alfaro’s split with ALG, and the band’s subsequent demise, this new Surfers record should salve those wounds. While the Surfers have always written complex punk rock songs, infused with melody and lyrics balanced between personal politics and social issues, this new album clearly looks to build on what I call the “Unholy Trinity” of ‘90’s Surfers albums — Hero of our Time, 666 Motor Inn and Going Nowhere Fast.
While the band’s last effort, Taste the Poison, was excellent, it lacked the furious riffing and technicality of the band’s earlier efforts. Back From Hell plays like a band that’s been tired of twiddling it’s thumbs for more than a decade, just itching to get back into a room and jam. There is a freshness and a vitality in BFH that should make the teenage fans and middle-aged punks alike want to pick up their skateboards and hit the streets.
Rodrigo Alfaro is one of the most underrated songwriters in the history of punk rock. The dude is a borderline musical savant. While the lyrical subject matter on “BFH” might lack the gravity and personal reflections of Alfaro’s contributions to ALG’s Currents, it feels like Satanic Surfers, as well it should.
My favorite tracks on Back From Hell are “Catch My Breath”, “Self-Medication” and the album closer and title track “Back From Hell”. Despite Alfaro’s mighty contributions to Atlas Losing Grip, he clearly felt like a mercenary for hire while in that band.
Now, however, Alfaro is “home”. Listening to the lyrics on Back From Hell, it’s clear that Alfaro, and the rest of the band (which includes former ALG guitarist Max Hudden), are excited to resurrect Satanic Surfers — a seminal band that set the foundation 20-plus years ago for bands like ALG to build on.
Back From Hell is a fast album. It rips. Listening to it, I understand what Alfaro means when he sings “Chronically low. Shit I already know. I can’t handle stress. Let me catch my breath.” The album has a blistering pace and if you plan on singing along, you’ll need to come up for air every once in awhile.
Newcomer Stefan Larsson might be the best drummer the Surfers have had since, well, Rodrigo Alfaro. Larsson has fit right into the band and matches the blazing nuance of Alfaro’s songwriting with a drumming clinic of his own.
Guitarist Magnus Blixtburg has been a Surfer since 1989, while bassist Andy Dahlstrom joined after 2002’s Unconsciously Confined. Their experience and chemistry together weaves this whole record together.
It’s an exciting time for the Satanic Surfers. This is how it’s done, skate-punkers. The Satanic Surfers were one of the progenitors of the skate-punk sound, and they inherently understand that you cannot sacrifice the quality of songwriting for the sake of technicality. There is a way to balance the two and the Satanic Surfers have proven their mastery of that formula with Back From Hell and that they remain the European kings of the genre.
Four out of four stars