It’s all right there, before a single note is played. It’s there in that extra syllable Paul Speckman injects at the end as he bellows “You’re nothing but a vindictive miscreant!” It’s a burst of disgust, dripping with vitriol tagged onto “miscreant,” a venomous punctuation before the guitars burst in.
It’s all right there, but what is it? It’s Master, doing what they’ve been doing for 30 odd years, and not losing a step with new album (in case you couldn’t guess) Vindictive Miscreant.
The signature gutter wrenched vocals coupled with gnarled, fuzzed out death metal at 1,000 mph was locked into place with “Pledge of Allegiance,” the opening track off the band’s self titled debut back in 1990. The remarkable consistency since then rivals bands like Motörhead: you’re not looking for change and evolution; you want that battering ram attack blasted against your brain again and again. Over time the production got little cleaner, but it did nothing to clean up the filth and fury on albums like 1998’s Faith Is In Season or more recent blitzkriegs like 2013’s The Witch-Hunt.
Vindictive Miscreant tonally picks up where previous album An Epiphany of Hate left off. The opening title track is a barrage of death and speed metal buried in the dirt and left to fester. When the chorus hits, there’s an almost primal joy in the way the drums and riff accentuate the syllables. It’s been well over a decade now with guitarist Alex Nejezchleba and drummer Zdeněk Pradlovský filling out the rest of the brutality, and their synchronization is a driving force to how well the songs come off – odd to think of when the production is so dirty, but for this style of metal being locked in is even more essential. “Actions Speak Louder Than Words” has “single” written all over it, a super-catchy riff alternating with a spiraling tremolo part that echoes Scream Bloody Gore-era Death.
The rest of Vindictive Miscreant moves between these two anchors, trading off more NWOBHM filth (“The Inner Strength of the Demon”) for full onslaught (“Stand Up and Be Counted”). In between there’s surprising amounts of space to invoke some groove, particularly on the latter half of the album. Songs like “The Book” and “Engulfed in Paranoia” move adeptly between the two extremes, showing that the one-trick pony aspect of Master can be a bit misleading.
Taken as a complete album I’d put Vindictive Miscreant up against most anything else Master have put out in their career – the songwriting is clear and powerful, the band sound as hungry as ever, and Speckman specifically sounds like he’s giving it everything he has in the vocal department. This is just a great, ripping record that should find a place in your rotation sooner rather than later.