As soon as I heard note one of this thing I knew I was in for it. I’d end up falling in my 80s nostalgia hole preaching to the very small choir of 45-plus geezers who grew up on this kind of raw, simplistic proto-metal. Praising this would inevitably lead to abuse from my youthful AMG peers and readers while further cementing my rep as a metallic fossil, but what can a middle-aged Steel Druhm do? Things just don’t get more knuckle-headed and old school than Savage Master, and with a sound falling in that minuscule space between Cirith Ungol, Bitch and Warlock, any post-84 influences are absolutely proscribed. But being so relentlessly old timey isn’t why With Whips and Chains is such a fist pumping riot, and it’s not the gloriously retro cover art either. It’s the wonderfully cornball, completely infectious writing jam-packed with hook after skin-snagging hook and the over-the-top performance by front woman/Dominatrix Supreme Stacey Peak that sells this stuff like $1.00 gourmet hot dogs at a 420 festival. You won’t want to like this, but you will, and that’s something we all have to accept as best we can.
My first thought upon hearing this was that it could’ve been recorded in a same dank, musty basement as the early Nasty Savage demos like Wages of Mayhem. It sounds raw as fook, but so gloriously metal it functions as a time capsule to a bygone era. The Cirith Ungol-y guitar tone had me grinning like a fool and when you factor in Stacey’s rough-hewn shouting style, it’s impossible to avoid comparisons to Cirith Ungol‘s Tim Baker. She even draws out certain words like toooomb and dooooom just as he did. It goes without saying a female Tim Baker is as wonderful as boobies on an ice cream cake and as rare as a plaid unicorn, so yeah, I’m on board bigtime.
But it’s the songs that really rattle the coven, borrowing the straight-forward hard rocking style of Warlock and Bitch. Every one is crisp, direct and to the point with rudimentary, metal-as-hell riffs and a catchy chorus delivered with leather-lunged enthusiasm by Ms. Peak. This results in a fun albeit brainless listen, and cuts like “Dark Light of the Moon” and the title track will have you shaking that metal money-maker. “Path of the Necromancer” sounds like old Omen mixed with Burning Star era Helstar and damn if that chorus isn’t glorious in the most throwbacky way imaginable.
You also get the made to be played live stomper “Looking for a Sacrifice” and my new personal anthem “Vengeance is Steel,” which should be played whenever I enter the AMG offices. Closer “Ready to Sin” sounds like a lost track from the early Overkill demos and rocks the same punk-infused, quasi-thrash rowdiness. Old time thrashhards will notice they pirated the lead riff to “Satan’s Crown” directly from Death Angel‘s “The Ultra-Violence” but that’s about the only criticism I’m prepared to levy against them.
At a very brief 35 minutes With Whips and Chains flies by in a garter snapping flash and with zero fatigue factor and no dead weight or filler, it commands you to return for more metal training. Every song is a tight, concise 3-4 minutes as they hit fast and run into the night with your lunch money and dignity (mine in particular it seems). It should be noted my promo is listed as their “vinyl mix” and though I can’t speak to what the CD or mp3 versions will sound like, this is a very well produced platter with a perfectly vintage 80s sound and a lovely DR of 10.
From a talent perspective, I readily concede these sexecutioners are not among the best of our metal brethren. Stacey is a limited vocalist, but like a Lemmy (R.I.P.) or Ozzy, she knows her limitations and makes the absolute most of her gruff, ballsy bellow to win you over with charisma rather than range or power. The band behind her is equally average talent-wise, with the guitar tandem of Larry Myers and Adam Neal delivering the most basic of riffs. However, they ably demonstrate it isn’t always the most flashy lead or convoluted riff that sucks the listener in and gets that head banging. They may look like Machine from 8MM (or The Mentors) but their playing makes every song a hard-driving, hook-filled success.
I know this is deep-dish nostalgia-core for the assisted living set, but there’s no denying how much fun it is. It’s not forward thinking nor trend redefining, but it’s 110% pure metal, and purity can win over hearts and minds. Definitely not for the tedious elitists (you know who you are), but if you want rowdy, rocking metal with balls and attitude, here it is, bitches. Now go easy on good ole Steel, he has a metal hip.