Released: 2007, Twilight
Paul Speckmann is, essentially, the Lemmy of death metal. It would be practically impossible to sum up the long and convoluted history of his involvement with the metal scene in the space of a paragraph, but let's just say despite the fact Master's debut album wasn't released until 1990, the influence of Speckmann's work with various acts has been felt since 1983. Master's much-lauded seven-track 1985 demo was seminally important to the development of the late-80's/early-90's death metal and grindcore movements and cannot be overlooked as major influences on bands like X-Ecutioner (who later became Obituary), early Pestilence, Nihilist (who became Entombed), Napalm Death, Benediction, Terrorizer, Carcass...the list goes on and on. The band itself, upon finally getting their debut released, was unfortunately lumped in with the glut of clones of the Floridian death-gods and never received the recognition as pioneers they should have. That didn't stop Speckmann, who's been churning out material with Master, Abomination, Solutions, Martyr, and Krabathor with workmanlike regularity. 2007's SLAVES TO SOCIETY is Speckmann's eighth album with Master and longtime fans will be pleased to note that unlike some of the bands they influenced in the beginning, they haven't given in to trends or changed with the times a bit.
In fact, the contents of SLAVES can pretty much be defined in exactly the same terms as the cover art (the uncensored version, that is)...old school as all fucking hell. I mean, seriously, the cover art is a 1995-dated black 'n' white sketch of a sword-wielding demon "interacting" with some naked girls, looking exactly like what you'd expect to see on any given number of thrash/death demo tape covers from that era...and it fits the music perfectly. Twenty-four years since the band's founding and you can still hear their primary inspirations as early as the first few seconds of opening rager "The Final Skull" - raw, primitive, Venom-meets-early-Slayer riffage, furious double bass-driven drumming, chaotically aggressive lead guitar, Cronos / Lemmy-on-a-bad-mole-day rapid-barked vocals, and a monster of a brutal breakdown riff about halfway through. The whole album continues on in this vein...no-frills heavily raw production, no keyboards, no interludes, no acoustic guitars, no blast beats, no bullshit, and no mercy, just forty-five and a half minutes of old school midtempo thrashy death metal assault that ranges in terms of style only in how fast the band is beating on your skull with a crowbar at any given moment.
This is, of course, both a strength and a weakness, showing fierce dedication by sticking to the guns of the band's trademark sound but having the unfortunate side effect of giving an air of "sameness" to all of the tracks. Some cuts like the blazing "In Control," the midtempo "Remnants Of Hate," and awesomely heavy closer "World Police" are slightly better than the other songs, but there really are no major standouts here. Fortunately, the album isn't so long that there's much to complain about as a result of that. Anyone familiar with previous Master albums will be unsurprised to know in terms of lyrics, Speckmann is still lobbing grenades in the direction of the U.S. government - and they won't win any prizes for intellectualism, but they're blunt, brutal, and effective for the music they accompany. Same pretty much goes for the musicians - there are certainly more technically-skillful guitar players and drummers than Nejezchleba and Pradlovsky out there, but for the style of music they're playing, they are a dead solid perfect fit.
The bottom line is if you're a fan of Master, you've probably already picked this one up - and if you haven't, you should do so as soon as possible. If you've never heard of Master before but you're a fan of straight-ahead death/thrash metal in the early-90's vein, this is definitely an album to add to your list.