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Master - Master
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.
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.