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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.