Mask of the Devil
There are moments on this album that I feel like the Last Judgment has finally arrived. Mankind has been swallowed into the awaiting mouths of Hell-coyotes that have been salivating at our doorstep for eons. The deceit is over, and Savage Master, drenched in black demonic cowls, stand, arms-crossed, as our limp bodies are dragged away, soused in wolf spit and bile, with lead singer Stacey Savage laughing viciously above us all, standing on an altar of charred skulls.
There are moments when I feel like that. Most of the other moments are just me headbanging and devil-horning. Mask of the Devil has become one of my favorite releases of 2014. Adam Neal (The Hookers) and the rest of the band have churned specific elements of metal over the fires of the abyss and boiled the genre into some of its most classic elements. Aiming less at some of the more extreme versions of Death, Doom or Black Metal that exist in some Louisville bands, Savage Master focuses more on the building particles of New Wave of British Heavy Metal (that’s NWOBH, y’all), plus some bits of Thrash and Speed.
Mask of the Devil dwells in this copse of classic metal, hovering in a beauty of curdling screams by energetic singer Stacey and down-picked riffs written specifically to cause you neck pain in the morning. My Ancient Metal Nites DJ co-host and metalhead historian Stephen Shoemaker reminded me of references to bands like Bitch and Savage Grace from the early 1980s. Savage Master would not sound out of place on a Metal Blade Records compilation like Total Destruction or Metal Massacre. But that doesn’t mean the band is stuck inside a corpse of gimmick; the live show is as fun, heavy, scary and loud as the album, and kills next to any metal band onstage.
Oh, and Satan. Yeah, because if you really simmer TRUE METAL down, might as well go all the way. There’s more Satan on this album than Satan himself. There are lyrics about Lucifer smeared in every direction, both backwards and forwards. Plus the sounds of black masses. I think “Kill Without Warning” chants “Satan” enough to potentially conjure up Mephistopheles, so watch yourself.
In other words, this is a goddamned perfect metal album. Cue wolf howling.