MASTER
"Slaves to Society"

(Ibex Moon)

01. The Final Skull
02. In Control
03. Beaten For The Possibility
04. Slaves To Society
05. The Darkest Age
06. Cheater
07. Anarchy Nearly Lost
08. The Room With Views
09. Remnants Of Hate
10. The Last Chapter
11. World Police
12. The Line To Kill (Demo)
13. He'll Probably Win (Demo)
14. Lined Up And Punished (Demo)
15. Everything Is Rotten (Demo)

RATING: 9/10

Ibex Moon head honcho (and INCANTATION leader) John McEntee has gone all out to spread the word of MASTER for the North American release of "Slaves to Society" and current tour with label mates ESTUARY. A self-described MASTER fan, McEntee is genuinely excited to give back to bassist/vocalist Paul Speckmann what he has given to the world of death metal since 1983. MASTER is considered by many to be the originators of death metal, along with DEATH and POSSESSED, which at the time was a more brutal form of thrash with the early, mid-range version of the growl. What is most shocking is that "Slaves to Society" — originally released last year by Twilight-Vertrieb overseas — essentially sticks to that thrash/death metal style with stellar results and it comes across as a breath of fresh air in a sea of imitators.

Any way you slice it, "Slaves to Society" is one of the best death metal albums of 2008, as it was in 2007. There is nothing out there today that truly sounds like MASTER, but that by itself is not what makes it a great album. It is not just the number of fantastic riffs heard across all 11 tracks either. A bevy of dirty 'n' thrashy rumble-riffs are heard on songs like "In Control", "The Room with Views", and "World Police", as are several dark 'n' twisted licks that lock in with killer grooves. Yet that still doesn't tell the complete story. What ties it all together is great songwriting that relies on the fundamentals of catchy choruses and memorable verses, made tougher than leather with Speckmann's throaty vocals. "Slave to Society" is an album full of no-frills anthems to which you'll want to listen from beginning to end repeatedly; that cannot be said about a lot of death metal albums these days.

Fast-paced and nailed down with an incredibly tight and colorfully percussive rhythm section (relying on the old-school style of thrash-based drumming, rather than blast-beaten excess), everything from the cadences to the vocal patterns are engrossing. Add to that all the little twists and turns that are incorporated to give the songs even more personality. "Beaten for the Possibility", "Cheater" and "The Darkest Age" are just a few of the songs that are addictively aggressive (the way the original "speed metal" could be) and damn catchy in their own unique ways. A cowbell even makes its way into the title track and "World Police", and it too rules!

Speckmann has something to say too, as found through his often damning sociopolitical lyrics. Paul's relocation from the States to The Czech Republic several years back gives him the unique advantage of writing lyrics from the outside looking in. It is clear he is no fan of the prevailing Western world "order."

Next to the songwriting, "Slaves to Society" succeeds so smashingly because of the genuineness and honesty of the performance. Knowing all the nuances and tricks comes from years of experience, not to mention an innately metallic sensibility. A huge plus for the North American release is the inclusion of four bonus tracks from the 2005 "Everything is Rotten" demo, which hold up just as well (check out the blues jam during "Lined Up and Punished" and the staccato rhythm on the chorus of the title track). You don't need to be an old school MASTER fan to enjoy "Slaves to Society". You just need to be a fan of well written thrashy death metal that is as real as it gets.

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