While American frontman Paul Speckmann is now living in the Czech Republic and playing with an European lineup consisting of a Czech native (guitarist Alex Nejezchleba) and a Slovakian (drummer Zdeněk Pradlovský), Master is still very much an American-styled death/thrash metal band. 29 years and 11 full-length studio albums later, Master are still vehemently revolting against the established world order, one hate-filled album at a time—with plenty of drunken thrash metal swagger and a very American screw-you attitude to go along with the filthy aural experience.
Most people think of Sweden immediately when quizzed about where the best underground death metal bands come from, and while such a claim is generally agreed to be true, we all shouldn’t forget that America was the birthplace of pioneers of the death metal genre (luminaries such as Death and Possessed instantly jump to mind). Many of these pioneers went on to make big names for themselves and had phenomenal success within the extreme metal community, yet strangely, for a death metal band so reviling and fiendishly groovy as Master, they never saw much media attention; no thanks to the notoriously common early career-killer known as the VLS (Volatile Lineup Syndrome).
Regardless of the on-and-off nature of Master’s existence, Speckmann havs been keeping his band’s underground spirit alive and continues to cement Master as an inimitable icon in the death metal underground. While Master certainly missed the opportunity to make a bigger name for themselves during the heydays of death metal circa 1980s, they manage to fill a niche in today’s extreme metal market that not many aspiring death metal groups would want to strive for and/or make a living out of: staying firmly under the radar. Just listen to the disgusting nature of Speckmann’s unique vocals and the supremely outdated style of the guitar work on this album.
Right from the groovy opening riff of the mischievously and arrogantly titled album opener, “The New Elite”, Master grabs your attention by the neck and wrangles all signs of human intelligence away, demanding you to listen to them with your primal side and your primal side only. No complicated chord progressions, no synthesizer accompaniment, no chugga-chugga guitar passages; just simple, old-fashioned guitar melodies with huge invisible hooks that dig into your ears and refuse to let go until some ear bleeding is seen. Speckmann’s trademark vocal-puking makes a much-loved and expected return, too, forming the heart of Master’s music once again. Without it, Master simply wouldn’t sound like Master. It’s like listening to Iron Maiden without Bruce Dickinson, and such praise is seldom bestowed upon vocalists dabbling in the death metal genre, of which the gruff and unclear nature of the harsh vocals utilized makes it difficult for most death metal vocalists to sound different from one another. Speckmann’s bass guitar part actually has a greater purpose other than merely providing harmony for Nejezchleba’s guitar part as well, as it sees some spotlight in the form of brief solos dripping with playful menace, as heard right at the beginning of the penultimate track, “Souls To Dissuade”, and from 3:28 to 3:38 in the last track, “Twist Of Fate”.
Despite the (*yawn*) boooring (*yawn*) socio-political lyrical theme of encouraging the youth masses to stand up against the eternally-scheming governments of the world, this latest release from Master will wallop you in all the right spots and figuratively send you to A&E like in the good ol’ days (imagine that imaginary hospital having to dig up your records from their immense archives). It sounds cliché, but be prepared to take a metaphorical beating. Be it the traditionally morbid album artwork, vibrato-laced guitar shredding, Speckmann’s vomited vocals, or the breakneck pace of the tempo; seasoned metal fans should find every trick that Master uses in this album obsolescent, but nostalgically enjoyable.
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