Paul Speckmann, mastermind (if you’ll excuse the pun) of Chicago’s Death Strike and Abomination, returns to blast the world with another exercise in old-school death metal; ‘The New Elite’ marking album number eleven for Master. Consisting of the same line-up which has been assisting the ‘Lemmy of death metal’ since 2004’s ‘Spirit of the West’, this album boasts more of the same tightly executed music that we have come to expect from this evolving US-Czech unit.
Given the almost thirty year gap between Master’s inception and 2012, the band’s core sound has changed surprisingly little – aside perhaps from the ultra stream-lined ‘On the Seventh Day…’. After the prolific, brilliant early-90s period, just one inconsistent album appeared between 1993 and 2002. Since shifting to mainland Europe though, Master has undergone a steady process of refinement. As before, social injustice, government control and capitalist greed are the primary targets of Speckmann’s vitriol on ‘The New Elite’, and if anything, the man sounds more disillusioned than ever by the hypocrisies of democratic existence. The opening (title) track immediately launches into familiar Master territory: thrashing riffs, solid double bass and Speckmann’s bourbon-breath demon vocals directing the tirade. In comparison to the last album, on which the man’s voice sounded like he’d swallowed a grenade before laying down vocal tracks, here they are an even distance between that style and ‘normal’. As previously, the playing of Zdeněk Pradlovský (drums) and Alex “93” Nejezchleba (guitar) is technically proficient, consistently locked-in and energetic.
“Get a grip on reality and fight the machine. You must fight the fucking machine!” implores Speckmann during ‘Rise up and Fight’, as his bouncy bass works away beneath a bunch of forceful riffs and restless drum beats from his Czech mates. Immersion into the Central European death metal scene seems to be largely responsible for the more angular, jarring edge of modern Master, and as suggested earlier, it’s a positive attribute. The production is also perfectly balanced, lending weight to each aspect of Master’s precise instrumentation. Although the relentless guitar work of Alex “93” does shine through in particular – with solos that vary from frenetic to soulfully melodic. Musically, the album is full-on, with the frantic likes of ‘Smile as You’re Told’ and ‘Out of Control’ embodying the general feel. Things are evened out somewhat in the form of the slower ‘Redirect Evil’ (though only just). As ‘New Reforms’ opens up, blasting away with pinch harmonics, it comes to symbolise the unifying effect that the ‘new’ members’ involvement has had on Master’s mission – namely that their playing styles fit the unceasing disdain of Paul Speckmann to an absolute T.
The final two tracks contain a couple of notable moments amidst their gnarly groove, with some funky bass initiating ‘Souls to Dissuade’, and the death row narration of ‘Twist of Fate’, climaxing with the utterly bleak assessment: “So death will be the best solution for myself”. Contemplative moments aside, ‘The New Elite’ displays all the subtlety of your average Motörhead album thrown through a death metal blender. The arguable downside to this approach is that it’s sometimes less than easy to remember exactly which track is which. As I’m a fan of Master, being encompassed by the overwhelming mass of their compositions is no problem at all.
As it stands, ‘The New Elite’ is certainly one of Master’s most well-executed and consistent efforts. By extension, it is also among their finest.
(8.5/10 Jamie Wilson)