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The second in the USSR, after "Kruiz" - 93%

CentralAsiaMetalhead, February 23rd, 2021
Written based on this version: 1988, 12" vinyl, Мелодия

Speaking about this debut album by the "Master" band, several things should be immediately mentioned. The first one is that this band, which until recently was a part of the "Ария" ("Aria") band, and this musicians left to play harder music. The second thing to remember is that the band got the opportunity to release a release on the largest in the "eastern camp" record company "Мелодия" ("Melodiya"), which meant by default a huge circulation even by American standards, since there was a demand - at that time there were releases in any subtype hard rock and metal music "Melodiya" published less than a dozen or so, and due to the fact that Western vinyl in the USSR did not have distribution and cost from 20 to 100 times (!) more expensive than the production of "Melodia", and a pirated cassette-tapes was more expensive 10 times, then everything that was produced by this company was swept away by young Soviet and Eastern European metalheads. From this follows the third thing - to lose such an opportunity, getting bogged down in the development of new material, would be suicide for this band.

Actually, this release is "Master" - my favorite! Many people call their favorite releases "С петлёй на шее" ("Looped Around the Nneck") or the later and relatively "brutal" (within thrash) English-language releases "Talk of the Devil" and "Maniac Party", and there are very few people who like the later releases, which are extremely dull and uninteresting hard rock without that fun drive that we love in hard rock, monotonous and dull. That is, for most of those who know and love this band, these are the pioneers of thrash-metal from the USSR and (later) Russia, whose current composition leaves bewilderment and respect for past merits.

This is the essence of the perception of this album. Those who got acquainted with the band later than in 1988 expect that this album will be essentially "pure thrash-metal". In fact, there is only one track in this album - the title song "Master", which can be attributed to this genre. Everything else is closer to the style that is now called USPM. Power-metal, as it was understood in the USA in the 80s. When there was only one step left to thrash metal, but this step was not taken, and I cannot say now whether it was good or bad.

But - in the case of this particular album - it suits it! This style, based on dense guitar riffing (and I like the sound of this album with tight guitars and volumetric sound, I also like the keyboard parts that create a mystical mood, volumetric bass, the only minus of the sound is insufficiently dense and clear bass drums). The sound is rather "expensive", I like it (but lovers of a "raw" sound can be disappointing, since everything sounds too "studio". The band leader, guitarist and main author Andrei Bolshakov was dissatisfied with this factor, he wanted a more "rebellious" and a rough / raw sound than the mix made by the sound engineer "Melody").

But a respectable and mainstream company was not very interested in publishing a product with a "raw" sound at a time when the first surge of interest in heavy metal passed and any metal-band releases, for example, released on the basis of the "Cruise-1" demo tape - was a sensational and resonant event. The algorithm for working with metal bands came in line with the algorithm for working with artists of more familiar genres, when "Melody" did all the work independently and in full volume. Anyway, it turned out very well, but the CD edition that I heard, in my opinion, has not very convincing mastering, like most of the files leaked on the Internet. It is necessary to listen to the original vinyl in the mint state. This is not to say that the sound from the CD of this album is bad, but it is very much inferior to the sound of the mastering of the original vinyl.

The songs themselves are very hit, a lot of great riffs, the solos have a memorable individual guitar sound, which is rarely the case, except for the works of "famous guitar heroes". Mikhail Seryshev, whose vocals are considered the benchmark in this band, requires some getting used to, taking into account also the Russian-language lyrics, but in the end it fits well into the overall sound. The point that many consider controversial is that the release used songs released a little earlier by the "Aria" group, de facto - "cover versions" of Aria. Here we should not forget that we have a "half of Aria" called "Master", and - as I wrote above - it's making in a tight deadlines. In my opinion, these songs - "Воля и разум" ("Will and Reason") and "Встань, страх преодолей" ("Stand Up, Overcome Fear") - sound better in "Master". By the way, I first heard them on this release.

The first three tracks - "Берегись", "Руки прочь!" and "Щит и меч" ("Beware", "Hands off!" and "Shield and Sword") sound very holistic and assertive, and give the best impression of a mature band. "Щит и меч" ("Shield and Sword") is by the way equipped with one of the best in metal, a circular saw-sounding riff. "Ещё раз ночь" ("The Night again") - the ballad on the keyboards sound is somewhat unexpected, but it is saved by the fact that we heard similar choral keyboards in the previous tracks, and they made them no more mainstim or pop-oriented, but more atmospheric or mystical. This is rarely the case in metal music, but so you know what I mean, these are the same keyboard sounds we hear on Iron Maiden's "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" album, and it's not bad!

The second side of vinyl is opened by the songs "Воля и разум" ("Will and Reason") and "Встань, страх преодолей" ("Arise, Overcome Fear"), which are common with "Aria", followed by the most boring piece on the album "Храни меня" ("Keep Me") - this is a slow/medium-tempo heavy to go into speed-metal "Кто Кого?" ("Who Will Win?") is one of the best tracks on the album, like the Helloween-inspired "Walls of Jericho" and the last song on this 40 minute release is "Master", a tough piece with asymmetric tempo changes.

The cover and back cover of the disc seem to be just as good. The lyrics seem to be a big failure of this album, but this nuance is understandable only to those who are fluent in Russian and lived in the USSR in the 80s, representing the realities of that time. The lyrics are literally replete with the influence of the outdated at that time rhetoric and propaganda of the Soviet Politburo, which at that time seemed absurd to everyone. The song "Master" mentions a project of "turning the Siberian rivers" (in a negative way), which was abandoned in 1986 (!). In the song, it is sung about it as a pressing environmental problem. The lyrics of the song "Воля и Разум" are heard not as "anti-war", but as a "engaged theme" from the old people from the government, and there are enough such moments on this disc. For us, young people, all this caused a feeling of mistrust and falsehood, and an unpleasant aftertaste remained.

But there are also cool finds in the lyrics. So, for example, the text in "Берегись!": "The one who did not die of poison and wound, will be burned today!" ("Тот кто не умер от ядa и рaн, Будет сегодня сожжен!"); "Burn everyone, God will recognize his own!" ("Жгите всех, бог узнaет своих!") ;"Nazi steel cuts Europe into pieces, as if it were a Sunday cake, the clanking of Aryan boots will replace the moral for Übermensch" ("Режет Европу фaшистскaя стaль, Словно воскресный пирог, Сверхчеловеку зaменит морaль, Топот aрийских сaпог").

Not a single group sang so harshly in Russian at that time (and long enough after). At the same time, all this was presented from an indirect point of view, simply - facts. If you compare it with the toothless lyrics of metal bands of that time from this part of the world - "Cruise", "Black Coffee", "August" - it was very evil, to the shivers on the spine.

In the sum of all the components - in those days it was a very good album, which listens well even now, which gave rise to a cool group, in my opinion, second only to trio "Kruiz" from the USSR bands (in trio format, 1987-1995 releases, the lineup of trio broke up a little earlier).

I recommend this release: for those who love bands in the style of Metal Church, who like "Painkiller" by Judas Priest, and who will not be scared away by the Russian-speaking vocals; for those who are interested in metal geography and who want to know everything about the main releases and main bands outside the UK, Germany, USA and Scandinavia; for those who are interested in the music of the USSR and Eastern Europe. This is one of the main metal releases from the USSR; those who like "Aria" and are interested in projects related to it.

Schizophrenic second league worship - 69%

kluseba, July 26th, 2011

The self titled debut album of "Master" is another overlooked and essential piece of traditional Russian heavy metal, this time with a focus on thrash metal. Two past members of Aria founded this group and wanted to play music in the key of the first Aria records with a slightly heavier approach. In a strange way, the musicians weren't quite able to entirely disconnect from Aria and their smoother metal sound. The band plays two cover versions of the second album of Aria for this record and even if they sound slightly heavier, more riff orientated and a little bit faster, the difference isn't enough to give a different atmosphere or own character to those great tracks. I also think that it isn't a good and courageous sign to include two cover versions from past bands on the first record of a new band. They should rather focus on forging their own identity and that's where this album ultimately fails.

Let me explain why. The album starts truly promising with the two best tracks. "Master" as well as "Watch out" are two fast paced and vivid speed metal anthems with clear thrash metal influences that remind a lot of the Russian band "Kruiz" as well as of the American legends of "Metallica". "Hands off!" combines both thrash and heavy metal roots in fast paced verses and a more melodic and classic chorus. They create a very vivid banger that works well and the bands seems to have found its own and unique approach right here.

But suddenly, the band plays softer and rather traditional heavy metal tracks that could also be written by Aria. I must admit that tracks like "Shield and sword" are still great metal tracks that remind me of the energy of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal but the band almost completely abandons its thrash metal approach and plays quite the same music that many other bands offer already in a similar or better quality. They lose too much their original approach, goal and energy that just comes back with the short and sweet speed metal killer "Who will win" at the well done end of the album and that mixes heavy and thrash metal in a great manner. But when the band plugs an atmospheric dark ride interlude with choirs and keyboards called "It's night once again" that turns out to be the second longest track on here, they just lose me here and turn me off. Normally, I'm very positive and open minded towards this kind of experiments, but it's too abrupt in here and completely breaks with the strong two or three first songs of the album. Let's say that this experiment is way too long and repeated in the overlong introduction of "Keep me" that has almost a doom or gothic feeling that is than mixed with classic hard rock and heavy metal riffs. This may sound innovating and promising but is completely incoherent to the album's thrash metal beginning as well as the heavy metal tracks in the middle of the record. The band completely mixes me up and sounds pointless.

In the end, the whole thing sounds as if someone had mixed three different albums by three different bands into a strange potpourri. This effect gives a really weird and schizophrenic impression to the record and rates this album down. Musically, it's interesting and there are only two weaker tracks with "It's night once again" and "Keep me" but if we add the two cover songs two this, there are only five more or less unique but at least good average to great songs that worship the mentioned bands. The talent can be heard on the whole record but the band lacks of focus, uniqueness and creativity. That's why this somewhat slightly overrated album gets a rather low rating and plays only in the second league of Russian metal music according to me.

Master - Their finest effort - 89%

Savage300, June 20th, 2003

Probably, this is the best album Master managed to put out (still having troubles to decide). While a few later outputs are insanely thrashy, this is mostly a speed metal issue.
A speed metal issue, except the first track "Master", not only the best song on here, but it has definitely a very thrashy intro riff. Not only the intro riff is really thrashy, but it's also one of the most twisted bone-crushing riffs ever. Damn good stuff. Most opinions on this track are not as high, as they should be, because of the "annoying vocalist". Here and now I declare those opinions to be complete blasphemy. The voice works very well with the whole song definitely. Another cool thing about this song is the ending, which features the same intro riff and verse, but a lot faster.
The next song "Beware", being a solid piece of music, manges to sound quite bad, exactly because of the "annoying vocalist". But in general it's good overall, just one needs to get a bit used to it.
The third track "Hands Off" is another nice speedy song, notable for some cute verse riffs and catchy chorus.
"Shield And Sword", after a small intro, sarts the main riff, another damn memorable, but as far, as the next riff starts, a lot more memorable. Then, the chorus riff, even more memorable. This is definitely the special Master thing, putting out not very technically difficult, but quite memorable riffs. In general this song has a few slow moments, but by the riffs it is a total winner (except the first track, naturally).
The next track is the one that usually is skipped. Starts out with a long intro (hm, is that an intro?) and flows into a sad ballad-like song. Quite annoying, but listenable.
"Will And Mind" was previously featured on Aria's "Whom Are You With?". No, it's not entirely a cover. It was co-written by Bolshakov (who moved to Master) and Yelin (who stayed in Aria). The always-repeating chorus riff might get stuck in one's head for a long time.
Same goes with "Stand Up, Vanquish Fear", it was featured on that same Aria album and co-written by Bolshakov. This song takes the cake for the catchiest song on here (except the first one, again). Nice lyrics too.
"Save Me" is a great track. Not too much music-wise, but really catchy and epic. Always makes me feel better, because of its "positiviness" (but one should understand those russian lyrics to catch with it). Among the very best of this album.
"Who Beats Whom?" - the last actual track on here. Quite good, not as special or memorable as the others, also a lot shorter.
And in the end, depending on the album release, one can find a bonus live track "Here Metal Is Forged". This is like "Will And Mind" from that same Aria album. Quite a fun live track.

In general, this is a great cd. Definitely worth getting, for the genre maniacs especially.

Another highly overlooked speed metal classic - 82%

UltraBoris, August 8th, 2002

This is Master's debut album - it's not as thrashy as some of their subsequent releases, but is quite a memorable speed metal album. Master was formed by a few members of Aria (Alex Granovskiy and others that I forget right now) who wanted to play heavier and faster. It's quite apparent that they listened to Defenders of the Faith, Walls of Jericho, and Kruiz I - those 3 are highly apparent influences here.

There are a few songs here that are kinda throwaways, that prevent this album from being a total masterpiece. "Night Again" is 5 minutes of spooky horror music, that kinda gets old after 2 minutes. "Save Me" is pretty repetitive. Yep, the two slowest songs. Speed metal bands should stick to playing speed metal, because the remaining 7 songs are very cool.

There are two Aria covers here: Will and Mind, and Shield and Sword. Both are done heavier and faster. Stand Up Vanquish Fear is close enough to Jawbreaker in the verses that one can sing along with the lyrics half the time, but is nonetheless very nice. The highlight o the album is probably the title track "Master", with a nice thrash break in the middle.

Overall, a pretty strong album - a bit of filler but generally quite enjoyable.