For nearly thirty years, Paul Speckmann and some form of Master have been releasing quality thrash- and d-beat-tinted death metal. Alongside the likes of Death and Possessed, Master is one of the bands directly responsible for the growth of extreme metal. They’ve endured break-ups and shut-downs, been renamed Death Strike and brought back to Master, exchanged continents, been ignored and been hailed as kings, had their debut album famously rejected for being too aggressive and had the same record released decades later to universal and rightful praise. Through it all, Speckmann has stayed the course, and The New Elite shows them in strong form, still raging after all these years.
The New Elite is the band’s third release for the Singapore-based Pulverised Records, and though it displays a few marked differences, for the most part, Elite follows well the two records that precede it. Like Slaves To Society and The Human Machine, The New Elite is politically charged, with Speckmann railing against the system – “You must fight the machine,” he snarls in the grooving breakdown of “Rise Up And Fight. “You must fight the fucking machine!” Other titles like “Smile Like You’re Told” and “Guide Yourself” speak for themselves, as the does the title track’s . As the world around us grows increasingly more chaotic and frightening, one minor upside is that it gives Speckmann no shortage of lyrical material.
Still, though it’s largely business as usual, The New Elite both improves upon and takes a step back from The Human Machine’s template. Sonically, Elite is a step up, particularly the drums and vocals. Speckmann’s voice is still often double-tracked, always snarling, and the second screams blended in add an additional level of violence and venom. For this one, Zdenek Pradlovsky’s drums have a bit less of a live sound, a bit more kick and punch. But song-wise, The New Elite does lose itself for a minute in the middle – there’s a run of a few tunes in the album’s midsection that just don’t hold my attention, from “Out Of Control” through “Guide Yourself,” finally righted by the aqueous wah-bass intro to “Souls To Dissuade” and the execution tale “Twist Of Fate.” It’s not that any of those four tunes are particularly onerous, but they’re just not as interesting as what comes before or after, and it’s a definite down-shift, especially considering that they follow a masterful four-song pummeling begun by the title track and ended by the snarling “Smile As You’re Told.” Strangely and perhaps telling, it’s these tracks that also display a newfound penchant toward the occasional skronking atonal riff, a nod to modernity in Master’s well-established sound, which has mostly been defined by driving tremolo-picked classic-styled riffage.
Nevertheless, even slightly lesser Master is still at the top of the pile, and though the middle is a bit of a blur bookended by barn-burners, thanks to some serious stand-outs, The New Elite kicks more ass than it doesn’t. As I listen, one thing that constantly strikes me is how absolutely vital and vicious this band still sounds, thirty years into their career, how perfectly pissed-off and pummeling. Right now, somewhere wherever, there’s a young death metal band crawling out of their parents’ basement, thinking they’re ready to rip, and though they’re half as old as Paul Speckmann, they’re less than half as angry, with one-tenth the energy and one-twentieth the power. So listen up, kids, this is the sound of rage and experience, and this how it’s done.