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The Witchhunt

FDA Rekotz (2013)
Rating: 8.5/10

Paul Speckmann. What more can be said about the man who will go down as one of the godfathers of death metal? US death metal kings Master have been around for many years now, emerging from the underground scene of the early 80s, yet they’ve always remained a cult act rather than a household name. The Witchhunt is, would you believe, the 12th full-length studio album from these dogs of war.

Yes, rather predictably, it’s fantastic, forever hinting at that old school rumbling, particularly in those loose, reaching vocals and creaky dynamics. This 11-track platter comes only a year after The New Elite, but it still carries that formidable swagger and well-crafted musicianship which makes it stand out from the crowd.

Just like fellow stalwarts Death, Master have always held a secret ingredient to their sound, giving them the edge and swagger above so many great pretenders. It’s no surprise either that Speckmann continues to work with the raging talents of guitarist Alex Nejezchleba and drummer Zdeněk Pradlovský, who’ve been around since 2004’s The Spirit Of The West after the mainman had relocated to the Czech Republic.

Although Master have evolved over the years, it’s in their blood to remain true to the metal underground. As soon as the title track comes speeding out of the traps, we’re finding ourselves back in the 80s with that earthy guitar rumble and Speckmann’s crude bass. The vocals are crust-layered, and bring to mind the gnarled, murderous quality of Autopsy, such is their rotten edge. Meanwhile, the drums are dense yet hammering as the terrible trio launch into the grating strains of ‘Plans Of Hate’, which follows a similar tarnished gallop, before ‘Another Suicide’ arrogantly raises its head above the swamp water and prowls close to the harbour like a hungry shark.

‘Waiting To Die’ begins with epic crashing drums and doom-laced guitars, building slowly with utter menace before a killer chug is introduced, nipping at the legs like a flesh hungry piranha.

The sound of Master never seems to date, even though it somehow refuses to play ball with today’s trends. The flailing ‘Remove The Clowns’ – with its hyper drums – and the equally racy ‘Wipe Out The Aggressor’ provide total carnage in the room. ‘Manipulated To Exterminate’ follows a groovier path on the other hand, opting for a doomy plod with narrated lyrics until it transforms into another throat-slitter of a tune.

Pradlovský has to be one of metal’s most underrated drummers, as he rattles and charges through this record as if it’s his last day on earth. The trio make a volatile team whose work culminates in the snarling ‘The American Dream’, which boasts a twisted opening riff before hurling itself head first into another full steam ahead rant.

It’s hard to ever argue with Master, especially when they are on this form. The Witchhunt is a mighty record, and it’s no wonder so many bands over the last 30 or so years have cited Speckmann as such an influence. It’s just a shame fellow death metal godfathers Death are not around to compete for the extreme metal crown, but Master are doing the metal underground and its origins proud by belching out another exercise in extremity. This is the business.

Neil Arnold

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