Take a minute to appreciate this album artwork. Not only is it an excellent demonstration of basic design principles, composition, and color theory, it also clearly establishes the genre of its artist. In this case, the artist is Master and the genre is death/thrash. Master have been active since 1983 with minimal interruptions and a long roster of ex-drummers and ex-guitarists. Having finally settled on a solid lineup in 2003, Master soldiered on with few changes made to their thrashy death sound. With fourteenth installment Vindictive Miscreant, Master aim to prove they’re just as vital as they were in 1983. Vindictive Miscreant constitutes a death-thrash riffapalooza devoid of fancy trimmings, silly interludes or mushy ballads. Since Master are a long-lived meat-and-potatoes kind of death/thrash band, it serves nobody to reference other outfits as points of reference. Master don’t give a shit if you think they sound like anybody else as long as your neck snaps to and fro—which it inevitably will—with every stampeding track. Master have an old school template that works and there’s no reason to fix something that ain’t broke.
Speaking of things that ain’t broke, Master‘s execution is as rock solid as anything. Each cut from Vindictive Miscreant harbors a riff or three that afford listeners plenty justification for smashing that replay button. Personal favorites include “The Book,” “Vindictive Miscreant,” and “Replaced.” Bassist, vocalist, and founding member Paul Speckmann drives the record with his razor-sharp bass work, propelling Vindictive Miscreant with vitality (“Your Actions Speak Louder than Words”). Lead guitarist Alex “93” Nejezchleba also impresses, using his guitar on every track to further invigorate the momentum generated by the bass. His solos are short and sweet as well, never resorting to rank wankery (“Replaced”). Zdeněk Pradlovský pummels the skins with aplomb, making efforts to unseat these songs from the brain impossible with reliable, if ever-so-slightly predictable patterns and fills (“Engulfed in Paranoia”).
That brings us to the vocals. Paul possesses perhaps the most unmistakable vocals in all of death/thrash, sounding like a certain slaving junk dealer from a certain world-famous sci-fi adventure flick. You all know who I am talking about, I’m sure. Paul vomits every verse with as much malice he can muster and at times he extends his range to a blackened roar (“Stand Up and Be Counted”). Despite his unusual delivery, Paul is coherent eighty percent of the time—an impressive feat in and of itself. But most importantly, Paul gives Master identity and character, something that is often missing from other death/thrash bands.
While the riffs and the performances are highlights of Vindictive Miscreant, the songwriting as a whole could use more fine tuning. Previous outings contained tracks that were, for the most part, happy to live somewhere in the three-minute to five-minute range. Vindictive Miscreant, on the other hand, features only two that finish in under five minutes. Needless to say, there is some bloat. The worst offender is “The Inner Strength of the Demon,” which contains a full minute of intro that could be cut by two-thirds and be twice as rewarding. Furthermore, Master tread the line between consistency and monotony too closely. The band inject some variety in tempo here and there, as evidenced by the ambling pace set in the beginning of “The Impossible of Dreams.” However, these moments do not occur often enough to have sufficient impact.
Master have been kicking ass longer than I have been alive, so it feels strange for me to pass judgment upon this album. On the other hand, it feels just right to tell the world that I enjoyed Vindictive Miscreant. It’s one helluva good time from start to finish, and only falls short of greatness as a natural consequence of the band’s methodical steadfastness and overwriting tendencies. Don’t let that stop you from picking this up, though. Vindictive Miscreant may not break new ground for the death/thrash genre, but it verifies that Master stand resolute upon that ground.
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Websites: masterdeathmetal.bandcamp.com | master-speckmetal.net | facebook.com/master-18521536017
Releases Worldwide: November 28th, 2018