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Plenty of wonderful mementos to be found - 94%

slayrrr666, August 18th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, 12" vinyl, Support Underground

The second album from Slovakian thrashers Majster Kat, “Memento,” offers so much to like that this blend of technically-precise thrash rhythms and locally-driven instrumentation should make far more known than they really are.

Quite far removed from the traditional thrash scene, there’s some good material at work on this one. The main elements at play here is the guitar riffs which are rather impressive throughout this and really generate a lot of great moments displaying a skill-set way above expected for this kind of band. Equally at home with the frequent use of acoustic guitars to allow a sense of melancholic mood accents to many of the songs within, whether an instrumental interlude or an intro segment on through to moments of tight, dense patterns that are utilized quite frequently here that are allowed to move through mid-tempo gallop or blistering full-throttle paces or more of a heavy chug that coincides with heavy, pounding rhythms in here which really allows this the kind of variety that becomes incredibly appealing as time goes on. This variety manages to work in a huge part of the enjoyment to this with the songs displaying quite far-ranging moods and dynamics as the differing tempos are utilized with great effect as different arrangements provide this with numerous opportunities for those tempo changes or pattern switch-ups that display a variety of sweeping technicality throughout this which further enhances the variety within this. The technicality is reserved more for how easily and fluid the band is able to shift into varying tempos and moods throughout this rather than constantly offer some type of complex riff-patterns and offers quite a distinct impression due to this change-over quite nicely. Never forgetting to keep the songs up-tempo and energetic regardless of the amount of technicality present is another rather important feature present here as the songs do tend to feature large portions of their arrangements playing around in the upper tempos and generating a lot of excitement in those areas by letting the heavy rhythms get plenty of work-outs in the intense paces normally associated with the genre and really focusing on blending these two areas together into a fantastic manner. Even more impressive the fact that these intense rhythms serve as additional methods of enhancing the variety within just as much as the different guitar patterns within the album and alternating the moods within quite nicely as well which makes the guitars all the more impressive in this. Sprinkled with just the right touch of melodic flourishes amid the intense thrashing and there’s a lot to like with the guitars here.

Apart from the guitars, there’s quite an impressive mark here of dynamic thrash here. That the band is clearly at home displaying their nationalist roots, both through the native language supplying the lyrics but also through the use of localized rhythms and instrumentation being present on this release gives this a dynamic and unique identity that really wouldn’t come from most other bands. The use of a local flute-like instrument, a fujara that adds an ethereal, almost folk-like quality to the music when played, is a part of the feeling here of incorporating the native melodies and tones to the typical thrash being pounded out throughout here and definitely allows for a unique experience as this pops up throughout the album. The rest of the instrumentation is purely thrash through and through, with the drumming here providing this with plenty of impressive moments as it absolutely crushes throughout here. Raging with blistering double-bass patterns that zip and soar through the faster tempos delivering devastating patterns and arrangements that bring those heavier pounding tempos into fully explosive and dynamic patterns that rage with blistering tempos during the full-throttle paces while displaying the kind of simple pounding melodies that can accompany the more technical mind-set quite well. This does dip into those technical modes occasionally with stuttering patterns and dexterous rolls that can portray that kind of technical prowess so common in other genres full of technicality within but the fact that this is done in accordance with the thrashing intensity given to the solo sections in here where it really leaves the pedal going far more often than the rest of the album so that the drumming is allowed far more freedom to really weave in plenty of stellar mid-tempo rhythms rather than those other moments where it can really deliver the appropriate thrashing speed. The thumping bass-lines throughout are certainly technical enough to warrant such use in offsetting the different tempos and energy used throughout here and certainly adds a spindly quality to many tracks while also keeping a driving, thumping quality in keeping with the demands of the genre which certainly keep this charging along nicely.

Overall, the album is certainly enjoyable and has a lot going for it. The fact that the band is actually knowledgeable enough to continually apply a brand of technical riffs and patterns into their thrash metal work-outs is a clear move above the norm on its own right as this blends in complex patterns and rhythms throughout that are far more dynamic and accomplished than the majority of other thrash bands of this age which are far more content to just rip away at the older styles without doing anything really unique or enjoyable with them. Here, this certainly blends in the idea of the technical riffing but also brings in two key works for further identifying their own signature sound in the use of their native Slovakian tongue for the lyrics and the use of localized instrumentation alongside folk rhythms which further their own brand quite well. The Slovakian language is rarely used in many cases with quite a few bands in the country choosing a more international language to appeal to more listeners whereas the decision to retain the traditional language here offers them an edge by being recognizable for that facet as it certainly provides a different feel than most bands. This is highly recommended for those looking for an edge and hoping to stand out in the scene and offering your native language which actually fits the genre quite well as the guttural quality meshes nicely with the speed and intensity of the genre is quite a great turn. Beyond this element, though, there’s the fact that this one utilizes the local instrumentation and melodies for an extra appeal by really going against the grain and being truly unique and original. Most won’t know what to do with the kind of instrumentation on display here much less how to include it in the manner done here which is quite a feat in making this appear all the more creative and unique by going against the grain and changing it up the way it’s done here. Make no mistake, this is still a quality thrash album full of the raging tempos, energetic riffing and dynamic patterns found in the genre but it’s the way these are incorporated into a creative entity as it’s done here makes this all the more enjoyable and appealing.

The songs here are truly fun and enjoyable with a lot to like about them. Instrumental ‘Úsvit’ gets things started with quiet, haunting acoustic guitars, local instrumentation and ominous atmospheres. Proper first song ‘Spoveď kňaza’ provides more of an example of the bands’ style with dexterous drumming, mid-tempo riff-work and epic paces that utilize the thumping rhythms and intense technically-proficient guitars bristling with fiery leads in the later half which wraps up the bands’ signature playing quite compactly. Album highlight ‘Kto si bez viny’ lets the mid-tempo riffing gradually turns into thumping drumming, technical patterns and tight riffs that rage along with sprawling atmospheric segments which drop out the thrash for folk-inspired patterns in the later half before blistering thrash for the finale for an even greater and more enjoyable display of their talents and serves this one quite well. The localized ‘Sudca a kat’ starts with local instrumentation and mid-tempo chugging that becomes far more technical with raging patterns, flowing arrangements and charging energy that lets the complexity win over the technical patterns win absolutely raging energy in the later half, making for back-to-back highlights. Serving as a mid-album breather, instrumental ‘Hodnoty’ uses the moody, atmospheric acoustic strumming and easy folk melodies exceptionally well. ‘Podlé slová’ gets back on track with charging mid-tempo riff-work and pounding drumming that adds tight, dense patterns and raging energy throughout as the technical rhythms surge through blistering solos and fiery rhythms for a highly-enjoyable effort. The slow-broiling ‘Zlo v nás’ uses an atmospheric acoustic intro with slow-building drumming that takes tight, charging riffs and technically-complex mid-tempo workouts which gradually increase in speed, intensity and rather furious tempos for yet another stellar track. Slightly low-key after all these great tracks, ‘Zvony’ uses tolling church bells and mid-tempo chugging throughout the first half with technical patterns and tight drumming pounding along in a stellar solo section which is certainly tolerable enough but manages to come up short compared to the quality already on here. The multifaceted ‘Smetisku civilizácie’ is one of the most spectacular offerings with stellar acoustic guitar drags utilize romantic arrangements at first before exploding into technical riff patterns, pounding drumming and mid-tempo chugging in the later half with melodic leads among the fiery, dynamic soloing providing this with plenty to like and being the album’s general highlight. Bonus track ‘Disko Oskid’ utilizes dexterous drumming and frantic up-tempo riff-work to being in a rousing, energetic touch to the material and really hones the mid-tempo chug in the middle segments for a fine finish in great style.

It’s a criminal shame that a band as wonderfully creative and unique like this is held deep in the underground for there’s so much to like with this one that it really needs a chance to be heard and enjoyed. Hopefully this gets them a little more exposure for there’s a lot of great tracks and hidden surprises to be found on the album that it really should be in the hands of most thrash aficionados or even those that enjoy hidden gems from unexpected locations.