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The originals are always the masters - 95%

Pratl1971, August 17th, 2012

Around my parts Master, and particularly Paul Speckmann, is as legendary as our pizza, or lakefront, or our old-school gangsters. Chicago took great pride in Speckmann then and he’s still a hometown boy revered, even far across the globe in the Czech Republic where he now makes his home. While wildly prolific with bands such as Warcry, Funeral Bitch, Abomination and Death Strike, Master remains his main project, and the latest addition to the arsenal by way of The New Elite is a deadly combination of death metal archeology and Heavy Metal History 101.

After the impressive and intense The Human Machine from 2010, Master re-emerges with 11 tracks of sadistic, blood-pumping death metal that is always steeped ever-so-slightly in thrash elements that satiate and subdue the wandering nomad fan of both genres. Arguably one of the first death metal vocalists along with Kam Lee or Jeff Becerra, Speckmann’s throaty, almost hoarse delivery belches and bellows out over the din of some speedy guitar work that pummels the senses as much as it impresses. The initial first tracks in “The New Elite” and “Rise Up and Fight” show that Master is still at the top of its game, both lyrically and musically. While “Rise up and Fight” might not make its way to the next Rocky movie in terms of ‘feel-good’ anthem, Speckmann screaming, “Get a grip on reality…you must fight the fucking machine-“ does just as much to accelerate the testosterone of the staunch metalhead as anything Bill Conti or Ferrante and Teicher wrote for the lulled, impressionable masses. This track is one of my favorite Master tracks ever, and considering how far back this writer goes with Master that speaks volumes. Speckmann’s lyrics have always dealt with overcoming suppression, be in political, spiritual or internal, and he’s vastly underrated as one of the better lyricists of the metal movement. You just feel empowered and alive after hearing Master, and if you don’t I’m afraid you simply don’t get it.

While there is no denying the absolute tenacity with which Master assembles and shatters the psyche within the span of any one album, The New Elite is a tempestuous and vile slab of musical vermin that is about as brutal as it comes while still retaining a perfectly tangible, enunciated balance between guttural noise and intelligent metal easily consumable in large portions. The single “Smile as Your Told” leaves little to the imagination and fools no one; these guys have no intention of giving way to the commercial aspects of the business - Master is the business, and after all of these years they comply and cower to no one. In an era of some long-standing artists bowing criminally to the mighty god of bland commercialism, some bands and players maintain the integral aspects that make us a proud army, and Master is certainly in that mix. Even the ‘slower’ tracks like “Redirect the Evil” harken back to a time where Possessed and Dark Angel reigned supreme in the West Coast dominion; the heavy, battering crunch of the riff in this song is enough to crush a windpipe and a rib cage in one infernal grip. The sound is a total encompassment of the Swedish sound of the late 80’s / early 90’s and a modern underground anger employed by only a few cellar-dweller bands that ‘get’ it. The crisp sound around the edges does little to deviate from the source page, which is a down-tuned carnal sound that is more malevolent than and twice as ugly as any Cannibal Corpse track you can name over the band’s entire period. I’m torn between my want for this music to stay concealed from the layman poser’s view and the need for a band such as Master to be heard and ingested like cyanide to the willing minion. I’d certainly opt for the latter as Master could and would convert any fence-sitters accordingly or simply tear down the fence without apology.

Other standouts here certainly include “New Reforms”, “Twist of Fate”, and “Guide Yourself”, which would induce a Wacken-like pit in any small club across the world, and they’re going to be doing just that this year and into 2013, when a trip home to the States in set for March.

I expected all of this and more from Master and they failed to disappoint, as usual. This will surely be on my year’s end list of “the master elite” albums of the year. I think Paul was on to something there.

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