Band: Savage Master
Album: With Whips and Chains
Genre: Heavy metal
Label: High Roller Records
Savage Master are a newer heavy metal band that have just released their second full-length album since starting a few years ago. And if that level of output weren’t already noteworthy enough, they also managed to do something even more remarkable and that is to produce a sophomore album that is better than their first one. And seeing as how the first one was already a stellar example of old school heavy metal, if you enjoyed that one, you’re in for a real treat with this one.
For those of you unfamiliar with Savage Master, it’s pretty easy to describe their sound. Just try to imagine Leather Leone singing for Cirith Ungol. And I think that comparison is particularly apt not just because their sounds are similar, but also because the quality of the music is equally comparable. Like Cirith Ungol, their greatest strength lies with their uncommon ability to craft riffs that are – for lack of a better word – fat. And it’s not just because they are on the slower and heavier side, but also because they are accompanied by a thundering rhythm section whose steady yet bombastic execution fills them with power and drive. Songs like “Path of the Necromancer”, “Looking for a Sacrifice”, and the title track are masterful examples of riffs potent enough to send the likes of Mary Whitehouse into a headbanging rage.
For some reason, slow heavy metal has always been more impressive to me when it’s executed well compared to power and speed metal. Besides the obvious bias I have based on my personal tastes though, one reason that I think I like it more is simply that if you’re not playing fast, you’ve got to at least be interesting. And that’s what you have going on here in pretty much every song. Heavy metal bands, especially bands who are specifically going through the effort to keep the old school sound alive, can easily fall victim to recycling a lot of classic material. Though you wouldn’t have a hard time pinpointing a lot of the obvious influences here, there is still a plethora of fresh stuff to chew on.
Adam Neal, the band’s founding guitarist, cites the Belgian band Acid as one of his main inspirations, and whilst I can certainly hear some of that in this album, I would hesitate to use that band’s material as a point of comparison. The main riff to “Path of the Necromancer” sounds far closer to Chastain’s iconic “Mystery of Illusion” than it does to anything on Acid’s first three albums. The lead playing on “Satan’s Crown” is something straight out of some seventies-era Priest songs, and the vocals are of course a completely different animal. So to be fair, it’s possible there is a lot of Acid influence in the music, but those influences can get much harder spot when there are so many other differences in speed and overall sound.
I had the opportunity to catch a recent show just around the time I got the album and I was especially curious how well they would be able pull off their sound in a live setting. Specifically, I was curious if they would be able to get the mix balanced well enough so that the bass and percussion don’t drown out the rhythm and lead guitars. There was also the other question of how well the vocalist would perform with such a heavy band behind her. But I was not disappointed; not in the least. Stacey Peak, the petite but powerful singer, has a larger-than-life stage presence and has a set of pipes that matches the band’s aggressive low-tempo riffs flawlessly. Watching them do the title track was especially awesome since the entire audience seemed to be joining the band in on the screamed chorus, which was something that you won’t experience just listening to the album at home.
It’s only half-way through the year, and I realise that a lot could change, but this album is a serious contender for my top ten and so far is probably the strongest full-length album I’ve heard so far. Lovers of heavy metal who lament over the dearth of that classic sound in recent years should give Savage Master a listen, starting with the debut.
Check ’em out here: https://www.facebook.com/savagemaster666/