Death metal vets Master remain furious, cynical on 11th album ‘The New Elite’

If you don’t like music that’s occasionally irritated and pissy, might I suggest you stop listening to metal. This is the perfect medium for lashing out, finding a target and honing in for the kill, doing what one can to do as much psychological damage as humanly possible to its target. It’s part of what makes metal so damn cathartic, and if you’re too sensitive for that part of it, get out now.

Before he went off the deep end and sunk into the ocean, Dave Mustaine was always a fun guy to hear rip apart his victims, and early Megadeth material is as awesome to hear for its thrash goodness as it is for Mustaine’s diatribes. Withered always has done a fine job taking on societal woes and putting a vicious crunch behind their message. While his targets may be different, Leviathan’s Jef Whitehead always has been masterful blistering his own personal opposition, and you come out of his songs with no mystery what he plans to do to satisfy his wrath. These approaches may be dangerous to an extent, but the music should help you relate and adjust.

One of my favorite miserable bastards ever is Paul Speckmann, who has been fronting Master seemingly since the dawn of time and never is at a loss for words. Be it societal, religious, or political oppression, Speckmann always takes on his distaste with a clenched fist and deathly howl, and now 11 albums and nearly three decades into his career with this band, he’s hardly slowing down. The band’s latest album “The New Elite” follows 2010’s excellent “The Human Machine,” itself a pretty direct hit against the powers that be that he sees as ruling our every step. Speckmann refuses to have his wrists be put into chains and his motives questioned, and he’s absolutely blistering on this new record.

I imagine this is the point where we address that, “Hey, these guys have been around a long time, and isn’t it amazing they’re so furious,” thing. Look, Master never let up at all. Through their various trials and tribulations as a band, they’ve kept things pretty nasty. Maybe not every record has been a home run, but their intensity and anger never could be questioned. So if you merely want to judge “The New Elite” compared to other bands of their era, there’s pretty much no contest. But if you want to throw Master into the pool of young death metal artists who are trying to carry the genre, those kids mostly be eaten alive by the veterans. These guys remain that hungry and punishing.

While they don’t get nearly enough credit for this, Master is one of the original bands that helped develop the death metal template. Their sound remains grisly and rough around the edges, and there’s also some punk and thrash blended in just for good measure. Speckmann’s vocals are full of spite and protest, and his undeniable charisma as a frontman is part of what keeps him so refreshing to hear. The other part is his lyrical content, that never pulls punches or kicks and certainly would not be taken so kindly by government officials or clergy.

The same lineup that’s been recording as Master since 2004’s “The Spirit of the West” is back for “Elite,” that being Speckmann (vocals/bass), Zdenĕk Pradlovský (drums), and Alex “93” Nejezchleba. They sound as tight and hammering as ever, and on a production note, this record sounds as good as anything they’ve ever put out. They erupt with the menacing title track, that grabs you right out of the gate and drags you to “Rise Up and Fight,” a thrashy, throaty puncher with some sweet dual guitar work; grindy “Remove the Knife”; “Smile As You’re Told,” a cynical, pissed off look at how life’s great atrocities play out in our very living rooms, with Speckmann sneering, “Sit back and watch with your remote control!”

“Redirect the Evil” opens with a bit of a shuffle before exploding into a lightning fast assault, and that takes us into “Out of Control,” a song that laments the world’s dangerous power struggles and war mongering, with Speckmann warning, “There will be no one left alive.” “As Two Worlds Collide” and “Guide Yourself” get into thrashier territory, while “New Reforms” adds some mud and sludge into the pot; “Souls to Dissuade” opens with a thick bassline that bubbles over into a Prong-like assault and some beastly, catchy melodies; and closer “Twist of Fate” is a total storm, with relentless blast beats, some cool loopy lead guitar work, and Speckmann wrestling over the emotions of someone facing execution, knowing only death will silence his inner voices and turmoil. It’s a pretty heavy note on which to conclude the album.

Master’s always been a really reliable source for open-wound, angry death metal, and they’ve never buckled under the pressure to get glossier or more accessible. Their scars and warts are there in public display, their message is ominous and sobering, and their metallic assault is unforgiving. Let’s hope Master never change a bit, and knowing their history, it’s pretty certain they won’t.

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