MASTER
"Collection of Souls"

(Displeased)

01. Constant Reminders
02. Taste of Insanity
03. Hidden Stories
04. Glorify the Dead
05. Blinded Faith
06. Justice of Fate
07. Jailbreak
08. Collection of Souls
09. Silver Spoon
10. Where Are you Now?
11. Final Word
12. Prepare For the Fall
13. Cast the First Stone
14. Fatso
15. Antidote

RATING: 8/10

It's tempting to call MASTER the RAMONES of death metal, except that THE RAMONES actually sold some records. (Zing!) Anyway, love 'em or forget who they are, it's hard to deny the basic chugging purity of Paul Speckmann's three-decade crusade for the simplest, purest, most primeval form of death metal. He's the guy who went right from THIN LIZZY to MOTÖRHEAD to VENOM, traded a few demo tapes in the mail, and then just stopped right there, artistically speaking. His death metal is so raw and basic, most people under thirty probably think it's punk rock — hell, they might be right.

Even in 1993, when "Collection of Souls" first came out, MASTER was already seen by many as a long-in-the-tooth anachronism. Kids whose idea of death metal was MALEVOLENT CREATION, SUFFOCATION or ENTOMBED had no idea what to make of this atavistic filth-punk with the basement production and the raw, croaked vocals. Labels coulda cared less, for the most part — this band's discography remains scattered, and sometimes impossible to find, and you have to wonder if MASTER would be regarded any differently now if, at any point in thirty years, someone had actually promoted one of their albums well.

But there's a reason MASTER retains a cult following from the old school, and is still actively churning in the underground today. As basic and blocky as this stuff is, there's something compelling about Speckmann's riffs, and he occasionally throws an oddly progressive idea or a fluid guitar solo into an otherwise crude raveup to keep things interesting. At their best, though, MASTER are all about unadorned old-school death metal savagery, basement-tape rough and subtle as sandpaper. A few songs have memorable hooks, but a lot of the individual details get lost in the overall fuming bastard belch of it all — MASTER evokes a feeling, a desperate and broke conviction that puts "Collection of Souls" over the top despite a pretty pork-fisted rhythm section, a zero-budget production, and a sloppy cover of THIN LIZZY's "Jailbreak" that does no one any favors.

MASTER definitely isn't for everyone, but for those who revel in the poverty thrash of VENOM, bow to the out-of-focus altar of early DECEASED, and hate it when you can hear all the instruments clearly all the time, "Collection of Souls" is a crusty nugget of underground history you should own. This reissue contains tracks from two laughably rare 7" singles, which sport production even crappier than the album itself, but contain the raging "Antidote", possibly my new favorite MASTER cut. Beers up, Speckmann — kudos for a lifetime of service, and for sticking with this subterranean sound when the rest of the world bailed or quote-unquote "progressed". Don't change a damn thing.

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