In the music review business certain albums are tailored-made for the ears of specific reviewers. Here at AMG Blogworks Conglomerated, as we harvest promo from the reeking promo sump we tag them for specific writers based on their “unique” tastes and predilections. Promos with “vomit” in the name are automatically given to Mark Z, as are things mentioning “goat” or “bondage.” Anything remotely Christmas-themed goes to Cherd of Doom, and those platters with “Steel” emblazoned upon them are routed to yours truly. Savage Master is a throwback super-retro metal act who seek to recreate the early 80s heavy metal sound, mixing classic NWoBHM ideas with Warlock and early American acts like Bitch. I was quite taken with their 2016 outing With Whips and Chains and admired their straightforward and catchy metal anthems. Fast forward to 2019 and the AMG routing protocols dumped their third album Myth, Magic and Steel on my desk ov…metal. Not much has changed since last time – Stacey Peak and her hooded gimp cohorts still traffic in early 80s metal, and they continue to immerse themselves in the sound of that era with a fearsome and trve commitment. But this time there were some problems at the foundry involving the forging process itself.
As things kick off with the rowdy, high-energy title track, I find myself appreciating the gist of the song but certain issues hold me back from really getting my retro on. Ms. Peak sounds rougher and more amateurish than last time and though we still get a brainlessly amusing metal anthem, it feels noticeably awkward and somewhat slapped together. Songs like the doomy “The Owl” never really get airborne and at times Stacey unwisely channels the over-the-top vocal silliness of Sacred Steel‘s infamous Gerrit P. Muntz, which is never a great idea. Songs that should be hard hitting barn burners like “The Devil’s Ecstasy” and “Flyer in the Night” just don’t ignite real sparks and feel tired and half-baked though the germs of good ideas are there.
There are a few decent songs here, like the rousing battle metal of “Lady of Steel” where flashes of the magic heard on the last album finally reappear. Both “Crystal Gazer” and “Far Beyond the Grave” are also respectable in their simplistic rocking and/or rolling good times. However, the album ends on a sour note with the overlong, way overwrought “Warrior vs. Dragon” which is an attempt at an epic composition by a band that should never ever attempt anything epic.
At 41 minutes the album is concise enough and most of the songs are wisely kept in the 3-5 minutes range. The biggest problem is where the last album had one catchy head-banger after another, this one feels like the band really struggled to achieve the same level of consistent songcraft. On top of that, everything here feels rougher around edges, raw and oftentimes rather juvenile. This style of music is 120% in my wheelhouse so I really want to love and support it, but it just isn’t hitting me right. At their best the band sounds like an embryonic version of Castle mixed with old Warlock, and at their worst they sound like a demo-level act. Ms. Peak sounds more shrill and rough than she did last time and I find her voice grating on me where it hadn’t before. She also makes a series of odd vocal choices which annoy more than entice. Likewise the guitar-work from Larry Meyers and Adam Neal sounds like it took a few steps backward from last time. They can still throw out a fist-pumping lead straight from 1982, but the bulk of what they’re laying down this time feels rote, tired or overly simplistic even by retro metal standards. The production is also clunky and chunky, with Ms. Peak too far forward and the guitars lacking in real punch and sizzle.
I hardly expected Myth, Magic and Steel to end up one of my top albums of the year, but I dd expect to enjoy it much more than I did. It’s not a bad example of early 80s metal, but it isn’t anywhere near as addictive and enjoyable as their past material. I still think Savage Master have the tools to be a fun, mindless throwback act ideal for olde geezers like myself, but this time they just didn’t get the metal flames burning hot enough to properly manipulate the steel. If you’re a fan of the early Warlock albums, your mileage may vary. Maybe it’s time for me to start grabbing some of those Wallace and Goat Womit albums by the horns.