Review: At the time when Master began, the future direction of underground music was uncertain: metal had become too interested in personal glory, and punk had redefined individualism as political alienation; both had gone far from reality as experienced by those who lacked desire to become professional entertainers and thus to find handy summaries of life which in grasping both the individual and the abstract, leave out the middle: how to not only survive daily existence but find triumph in it. For this reason, it is instructive that Master cover Black Sabbath "Children of the Grave" on this album: their hardcore chops bring out the full cynicism of that anthem of desolation, and their appreciation of its metal structure shows why they belong in that camp as well.
1. Pledge Of Allegiance
2. Unknown Soldier
3. Mangled Dehumanization
4. Pay To Die
5. Funeral Bitch
7. Bass Solo / Children Of The Grave
9. The Truth
10. Pledge Of Allegiance (Original Mix)
11. Re-Entry & Destruction
12. Terrorizer (Original Mix)
Songs on this album vary, but most are of three riffs: one each for verse and chorus, and then one as a form of summarization of that cycle -- a counterpoint in linear development that addresses both harmonic needs (find a tone more fundamental to these structures than lowest point of verse/chorus) and phrasal ones (create in opposition a shape that reverses while explicating the direction taken by previous riffs; a summing up) with enough break or re-interpretation of rhythm to be seen as what it is: analysis turned into action, and thus perceiving all that is described by the song up to that point and finding a higher abstraction to explain it and thus to manipulate it toward a clearer direction. This operatic tendency to have the fat lady sing and explain the action in terms of its grander principles, its ideals and theory, is distinctive to metal music and is empowered by the tendency of metal bands, using easily movable power chords and hence chromatic fills, to write in phrase and not fixed-tonal rhythmic patterns like rock music or blues. It is a hybrid between the liberation of harmony for the sake of melody as a structural agent as found in free jazz and the narrative composition, in which music is a language for expression of poetic experience, as found in classical music and opera. Master exemplify and wield warlike this basic pattern.
Paul Speckmann being the compositional core of this band -- "Master" shares songs with Deathstrike, Abomination, and Speckmann Project -- this album represents a linear development from his previous work, the aforementioned Deathstrike release; here, there are fewer heavymetalisms like bluesy fills and bounding choruses, because the riffing technique on this CD has more in common with Discharge and The Exploited than a metal band, even if the phrase shape of riffs and the structures of songs are closer to bands like Bathory, Sodom and Hellhammer or hybrids like DRI. Vocals are harsh death shouts with the extended cadence and monotone, shorter phrases of droning punk bands. Unlike most death metal of the era, the artistic and philosophical impetus behind this album is an intense cynicism about the motives of modern society and thus its ultimate outcome; few other bands tackled these topics, letting them lie dormant until black metal, but Master looks both inside the soul and to the effects of soul-misguided actions externally. For this reason, while the techniques on this album now appear primitive, its composition holds up well over time because its spirit and insight are eternal.
Review: During the middle period of its history, Master attempted to fuse the elements which influenced it, including the protest rock of the 1970s, the punk of the following decade, and the heavy metal which bridged those eras. The result is a more technically confident, precise album that nonetheless remains in a hybrid state because it cannot fully accept what it was to be death metal without giving up some attributes of those other styles. As alert readers may recall, this delighted its label, who in 1993 was attempting to find bands it could sell to both punk and metal audiences.
Unselfconscious in a temporary freedom from concern about style, the band generate powerful songs that use patterns of combining riffs and rhythms that are quintessentially metal but, from punk hardcore, craft their riffing from a fluid substrate of uniform pace of open strumming and roughly equal emphasis on all parts of the riff except the conclusion; a slower version of this type of riff is found on almost any 1980s hardcore album or Black Sabbath's "Lord of this World." These riffs achieve the vibrant liveliness of punk music without its deconstructive emphasis on the organization of songs, and would be considered powerful on any hardcore album; in fact, "Blinded Faith" shares a riff with the Misfits song "Demonomania." Where the hybrid proves less effective are the demonstrative breaks in which song titles or concepts are carefully enunciated, as in protest rock, and the bluesy wandering solos which kick out for late mid-song jams without much effective except to adulterate the impact of assembled song structure.
During the era in which Master evolved, there was no death metal as a style one could inherit; the dominant bands of the day were hybrids, and Master picked a direction in that category which preserves the resilient internal response of punk music with the basics of metal songwriting and cadence; on this album, they trimmed it back and then let it expand to include as much of their influences as possible. While some of this became excessive, the quality of song concept and execution surpasses most of their work both before and after, and the maturation of expression saves the listener from some of the more abrasive angst. A cover of AC/DC's "Jailbreak" graces the latter half as if to remind us that even in serious music, there should be a sense of fun. Although history pulled death metal into a different direction, for those who enjoy the elements of the genre in a slightly more elemental form this album will remain a pleasure.
Review: Everything about Master is raw and muscular, but not unintelligent: this music reassembles the shattered world underlying an illusory political reality, putting together more than information a worldview derived from the core elements of death metal: hardcore punk and the heavy metal bands that didn't sell out.
Thick sludgy bass-roped riffs support competent punk-rock and Slayer-style drumming, with riff collisions driving song structure changes which follow the "story" narrated by the changing melody of the vocal veteran Paul Speckmann hoarses into the mike. In heritage, these riffs are pure punk and metal, but in this album Master fuse them into a form of crossover music which brings heavy blues road music into the dark and senseless world of nihilistic hardcore/metal.
1. Follow Jesus
2. Cast the First Stone
3. Addicted to the Pistol
6. We're About to Fall
7. Believers Have a Choice
8. Faith is Still in Season
9. Broken Promise
10. Where Are you Now?
11. Butchered by Numbers
13. Spiritual Bankruptcy
14. Victims of Jesus
15. Return to Vietnam
16. Previously Committed
Galloping beats support propulsive-strummed riffs in the style of Motorhead or Black Sabbath, meeting the uptempo cruising of grindcore music in staggered rhythms and counterpoint slam riffing. All instruments are playfully creative, sneaking at times a reggae beat into the percussion or sliding blues or psychedelia into the strength of lead guitar or riff phrasing. The riffs are raw, fervent in rhythm and nihilistic in mode and melody, which fluctuate between a classic metal dirge and a punk music chaos space in which rhythm differentiates randomness.
This music is violent and driving, but taken as songs it is highly abstract, despite seemingly abrupt collections of riffs, using looping techniques to build expectancy that delivers a listener between several points of each song while making each shift context until a coherent conclusion is seen. With a refinement that comes from repeated playing and contemplation, these songs are sturdy in their inclusion only of the necessary, but with a re-inventor's eye there are rough spots in which chaos was deliberately inserted. The attention to melodic guitar over hypnotic thunder riffing adds a morbid and doomy touch to this highly refined metal.
Highly recommended crossover death metal from these American standouts, who have been at work developing death metal since the first Slayer record, in whatever context of heavy music the listener can have, as this is so clear in the fusion of its elements that it expresses the raw emotion of antisocial resistance.