I’m not going to lie. When I got handed the new Reclusive Blasphemy release from New England/New York’s One Master, I immediately assumed they were another one-man outfit nestled firmly in the bosom of pretentiousness, gathering mid-paced black clouds, and smothering the listener in an atmospheric bla(n)
ck(et). Not only is One Master a full band, but it also has a sound as raw as sewage. With two previous albums under their belt (the self-released Forsaking a Dead World and The Quiet Eye of Eternity), One Master delivers classic Norwegian-styled blackness with no gimmicks, no flair and no bullshit. It’s metal from the frozen north and if you don’t like the sound that inspired numerous church burnings… well then, you won’t like this either.
While not overly original compared to some of the black metal we’ve seen this year, One Master has a few things going for it. They’re as consistent a black-metal outfit as they come, each release contains only five-to-six tracks, and nary an album breaks the forty-minute mark. The debut is about as raw and as black as it gets; sporting standard tremolo riffing, rasps, and production quality that harkens back to the days of yore. It’s concise, mean-as-hell, and features one of my all-time favorite black-metal songs, “The Test.” The Quiet Eye of Eternity took that formula and expanded on it with mid-paced numbers and a melodic atmosphere that sucked you in, brought you down, and left you longing for the frozen tundra. But with Reclusive Blasphemy, the band (including vocalist/guitarist Valder and three new staff members) incorporates all of these ingredients into another stable display of solid blackery.
“At the Hour of Saturn” doubles as both the opener and best track on Reclusive Blasphemy. Hammering forward with a mix of chaotic tremolos, thundering drum work, and an all-enshrouding cloud of melody, the song weaves a steady barrage of post-black emotion, a black ‘n’ roll midsection, and a thrashy little betty that brings to mind Gorgoroth. It’s a good representation of where the band came from and where they have remained for some thirteen years. “A Cursed and Dismal Mind” takes the more melodic side of its predecessor and shifts down to “bulldozer” gear. To my delight, the band trudges along not in a post-black direction, but more in line with the mid-paced, atmospheric moments of Immortal and some lead guitar work that feels positively Watainian. Hell, even Valder’s vox develop the crispness and crabbiness of Abbath. Even after multiple listens, this nearly nine-minute ditty never feels to long. In contrast, the similarly molded “Infernal Silence” lacks the builds and impact displayed by its twisted step-sister and – sadly – feels cramped in its seven-and-a-half minute skin.
Taking the slower-paced and menacing atmosphere to a new level, the closing title track wraps the listener in a straightjacket and exposes them to a reverberating spoken-word and an ambiance of sheer hopelessness. Unfortunately, this air only lasts for a few minutes before it plods along with an almost 1349 weirdness and slowly peters out. Unlike the closer “Field of Ruins” (The Quiet Eye of Eternity), “Reclusive Blasphemy” leaves me unsatisfied as the album comes to a close. Additionally, middle track “Intolerance” is a straightforward song that is neither original or disappointing. Like a middle child, it’s exactly where it should (and shouldn’t) be.
Production-wise, One Master have done some “polishing” for their first-ever label release, but with just the right amount of rawness to match the attitude. While the debut’s rawness is unbeatable as a modern-day example of early ’90s production, One Master works hard to keep this new release sounding just as nasty. But that’s just it. There’s really nothing overly unique about this release. It’s black metal of old and done well. So, if you’ve been itching for some blackened minimalism between these 2.5-hour “masterpieces” of 2015, this might be your ticket.