Review Summary: Cut through the filth
It's really amazing how history works sometimes, the parallels it can draw and the ironies that it can throw up. Such is the case with Master's unreleased album, if drummer Bill Schmidt had decided to sign the deal with Combat Records in '85 and released this album then perhaps the metal landscape would've been changed forever. Master would've been creditied with the creation of death metal and perhaps the genre would've take an markedly different route. As it stands though Master are well respected in the death metal scene for their early contributions to the genre and their sheer longevity however in 2002 the unreleased album finally saw the light of day. It shows what could've been and boy was there a lot that could've been...
It should be stated right away that this is nothing like Master's official debut album, this is dirtier, darker and far more unhinged. While this album has its roots firmly placed in punk and thrash with the drumming and song structures it has a bite and heaviness that set it far apart from its contemporaries. Speckmann's vocals are more of a vicious roar than the usual hardcore punk shout; static and distortion coat the production like filth, making it sound like the output from Raped Ass
-era Anti Cimex except with an even more buzz-saw like guitar tone; and the solos straddle the line between alien and a-melodic. It all adds up to create a sound that would've sounded totally different to it's contemporaries yet still sounds fresh and modern even today. This is partially down to the uniqueness of the album's sound but also partially down to the sheer energy of the performance and the quality of the songwriting.
While most of the songs are written around the simplicities of the punk/thrash template, it rarely falls into monotony thanks to how well constructed the songs are. Songs like 'Funeral Bitch' and 'Unknown Soldier' exploit the conventions of their genre to full effect, building up rolling hills of intensity and militaristic grooves in short spaces of time while maintaining enough riff variation to give the maximum adrenaline shot with none of the mess. Occasionally there are forays into different tempos that hint at the later direction taken in the bonus tracks but this album remains one constant barrage of unfiltered hate and loathing. It cannot be denied that there are moments where the songs do seem to blend together but the combination of the energetic performance, the songwriting and the fantastic soloing make this a rarity. This is without a doubt Master's best album. Never again would they match this level of aggression in their career and it remains an important milestone in death metal, not only for what could've been but what should be.