Hey look, the weirdest inside joke in all of metal is still going strong. Backstory: Masters of Disguise is a throwback speed metal act living and breathing to pay homage to a particularly obscure band from the 80s called Savage Grace. Who, you ask? Exactly. They were a good band but barely got any traction or notoriety despite a pretty solid outing with 1986s After the Fall From Grace. Now Masters of Disguise (named after Grace‘s debut album) seek to revive their hero’s nonexistent legacy due to some highly tenuous ties to the original singer. I reviewed their 2013 debut Back With a Vengeance and found it a fun, nostalgic nod to the era of speed, but assumed it was a one-off novelty (I mean, how could it NOT be?). Not so, as they’ve since released another full-length of Savage Grace homages called…ahem, The Savage and the Grace, and a fun little EP of 80s metal covers as well. Alpha/Omega is their third album and it’s still plenty savage, and somewhat graceful1. If this all seems a little bonkers conceptually, I’m right there with you, but hey, when in Rome, enjoy of deep speed metal homage and don’t think too much.

The plain truth is these cats are quite adept at recreating the 80s speed metal sound made famous by Agent SteelAbattoir and their ilk. All the things that made Back With a Vengeance a fun listen are here in equal force, and if you grew up in the speed era, this will likely tickle your nostalgia bone. The essential ingredients for this specific style are frenetic, unhinged guitar-work and a singer who lives life with his scrotum firmly crushed in a vice. Masters of Disguise know this recipe well and liberally season the originality abyss with plenty of both. After the riffy opening instrumental “The Rise (and Fall) of Kingdoms” sets the mood, it’s off to the races with album highlight “Sacrifice” and its commitment to over the top 80s metal cliches. Want to raise a fist? Do it here. Want to bang yer head? This’ll do it. Want to point at things dramatically? You found your huckleberry. Good fun and good, energetic music to go with it.

Songs like “Demons From the Past,” “Killer’s Redemption” and “Witchhammer” blast along on waves of testosterone, PBR and pizza rolls while dragging you along for the joy ride tethered by their enthusiastic hookiness. The title track in particular is an enjoyable shot of adrenaline with some outrageously metal vocals from Alexx Stahl which run the gamut from Daniel Heiman (Lost Horizon) to King Diamond himself. If it’s excessive, it’s available here, folks. Toss in a respectable cover of Exciter‘s “Blackwitch” and you have a righteous boot in the fanny even Australia would respect.

By and large the writing is solid and the songs rock harder than a van full of hippies on Ecstasy and Viagra. The sole weak point is “Knutson III: Nemesis (I Am the Law),” a continuing character story dating back to Savage Grace‘s 1985 debut. It’s just not a particularly strong song to begin with, but it gets completely nuked by highly annoying samples of a woman arguing with the song’s protagonist. It’s a big downer.

The production is a bit on the loud side of things, but it’s not the worst you’ll hear this year. At 46 minutes, it feels about the right length and the material’s high octane energy keeps it all moving and shaking.

Alexx Stahl gets full credit for putting his voice box on the line, wailing, screaming and warbling as the music tears ass through Metalville doing donuts on poser’s lawns. The boy has a set of pipes on him and while he isn’t the most technical vocalist, he was born to sing in a band like this. Guitarists Wolle and Kalli Coldsmith are a potent duo in their own right, plying the listener with speedy riffs, meaty gallops and the kind of hysterical solo-work only heard in metal. The boys know how to keep the energy hot and the pace breathless, and that’s half the battle with 80s speed.

I know this whole act’s existence is a head scratcher, but since they’re determined to stick around and worship a band no one cared much about even when they were around, we can judge them on how well they pay respect to their cult idol. Geezers like your friendly neighborhood (Agent) Steel, who were teenage knuckleheads in 80s are bound to like this kind of stuff, and as retro speed goes, Masters of Disguise is at the top of the three-link food chain. How long they can keep this going I don’t know, but I’m happy to enjoy the ride til the biscuit wheels come off the Grace-y train. Tastes like Zima.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Limb Music
Websites: mastersofdisguise.bandcamp.com | masters-of-disguise.com | facebook.com/MastersOfDisguise
Releases Worldwide: October 20th, 2017

Show 1 footnote

  1. And the first not to shamelessly mimic a Savage Grace cover.
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  • Brutalist_Receptacle

    HEY SOUL PATCH!

  • Tofu muncher

    I’ve listened to the three songs so far available on iTunes, and they are GREAT!!!1!!. Their previous ones are as GREAT!!!1!!. I mean The Fine Art of Aging Gracefully? Really? Love these dudes.

    • Drink less coffee.

      • Tofu muncher

        Too late.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          Too latte.

  • Thatguy

    Is that an Australian fanny or an American fanny to which you refer? You do know one is at the front and the other at the back.

    And, of course, I don’t like this.

    • You actually LOVE it!

      • Thatguy

        Ha.

        And which fanny was it again?

        • It was an obscure Simpsons reference to Australian corporal punishment. You ruined it.

          • Brutalist_Receptacle

            HE DOES THAT A LOT.

          • Thatguy

            That’s you – the nasty box.

          • Name’s Dalton

            It’s an obscure reference?

        • Mollusc

          SD wouldn’t suggest putting the boot in a front one… would he?!!!

    • ToddRob64

      Was reading the comments waiting for one of my Aussie brethren to point this out, not exactly a fun experience from what I’m told

      • Thatguy

        And I got told off by SD for my trouble…water off a duck’s back though and I thrive on abuse from the nasty box.

  • Austin Lovell

    This sounds awesome. If it’s anything like Ranger or last year’s Nuke I’ll love it.

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Album cover is like a tactile game for demon toddlers……

  • TheKenWord2017

    Tastes like Zima. The greatest sentence to ever end a review with! lol

    • Zima was a helluva beverage.

      • TheKenWord2017

        Never got a chance to try it. Sadface.

        • Name’s Dalton

          Do you like Sprite Zero?

          • TheKenWord2017

            I don’t remember, actually. The last time I drank any kind of soda that wasn’t intimately acquainted with some kind of hard liquor was like, six or seven years ago.

  • Innit Bartender

    Those trousers should rate highly in the Band Photometer…

    Also, second band logo of the week in Old English. Are we going back to the good old Bathory days and declare “Bodoni Is For Posers!”?

    • Repantless!

      • Innit Bartender

        No please keep them on!

        • Mollusc

          If they’re all buckles down the side, might take a while.

          • Innit Bartender

            But they are SPEED metal….

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Those pants are certainly in the “S&M Mariachi” style.

      • Innit Bartender

        My man, I could certainly use a good “S&M Mariachi” album… Any suggestions??

  • defjam

    Oh mighty Steel, your reviews are costly. Sorcerer yesterday and now this deplete my already weak finances.

  • The Unicorn
    • Savage graced, you mean.

      • The Unicorn

        INDEED!!

  • Apple Tree

    this is what a band photo should look like. everyone, take note. its not abstract minimalist art, we just ask for the band photo to know what you look like

    • Eli Valcik

      If I were in a band, the band photo I would send to AMG would be me in a unicorn onesie.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        …with a button-up flap in the rear, unbottoned

        • Eli Valcik

          Oh, I thought that was already implied.

          • Assless onesies have no place in speed metal, son.

          • Eli Valcik

            In my mind I’d be doing Black Metal.

          • Then it’s completely acceptable in a Carpathian Forest kinda way.

          • Eli Valcik

            Good ol’ Carpathian Forest, I own Black Shining Leather on vinyl, can’t show it off fo my friends because off the gas mask wearing BDSM chick on the front. But yeah myabe get Abbath to pose with me, he seems like he would be down for that.

          • [not a Dr]

            That’s exactly what happens when you’re playing speed metal in your Uni-onesies: you start playing so fast that you fall on your ass. By the time you skid to a stop, your assful onesie has been altered into a slightly less prude vestment.

    • Lithophyte

      They’re Masters of Disguise – do we REALLY know what they look like? (Apart from The Unicorn who busted his cover)

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    80s Metal related? Check.
    Outstanding guitarwork? Check
    Over the top? Check
    Obscure yet good? Check

    This seems right up my alley.

  • P.K.

    I’ve loved Savage Grace’s two albums since I discovered them almost 20 years ago. I gave Masters of Disguise a shot when their debut came out, and they’re a decent imitation that I could get into… if not for their video from that album, I forget the song title, which was super “rapey” and just IMHO went way beyond the softcore, “all in fun” original SG album covers from the 1980’s.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    I always thought Savage Grace was WAY underrated, maybe even criminally so, so I’m not (that) surprised to see a band worshipping them.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    “I Am The Law”. Isn’t that what it says on your business card? Or is it “Steel is Justice!”?

    • It simply says “Steel cannot be bent, broken or otherwise cheapened.”

      • sir_c

        But it’s British steel that bent for leather…

  • Michael Saurette

    If ya’ll don’t know Savage Grace, listen to Master of Disguise. It’s one of the best 80s speed metal albums ever!

  • MetalVic

    This band has a slightly more than tenuous connection to Savage Grace. Back in 2009, original SG member Chris Logue briefly resurrected the band, and then he recruited four German guys to play a few European festival dates in 2010 as Savage Grace. Those four guys went on to form Masters of Disguise in 2013. Current members from that live SG lineup are Mario Lang and Eric Kaldschmitt.

    • I know the history. Still pretty strange they are doing this after Loge vanished and left em holding the Savage bag so to speak.

  • Mathieu Villebrun

    The vocals immediately brought to mind the recent work Joey Belladonna has done with Anthrax. I can’t not enjoy this album!

  • The Unicorn