Released in the thick of the US death metal explosion that was now a staggering thirty years ago, Master‘s second full-length was something of an establishing statement for mastermind Paul Speckmann. After spending the last few years of Master being a password amongst diehards in the metal underground, it seemed right to regroup with the same tools and methods that allowed many bands that Speckmann and company inspired to be so successful. The album’s title furthers the assertion that they were there from the beginning, which was something many newcomers were just discovering at the time.

Armed with the unlikely addition of seventeen-year-old Paul Masvidal of Cynic on guitar, and with producer Scott Burns at the helm, On the Seventh Day… has all the makings of a monster. The interesting thing is that while it absolutely is, it’s not in the way you might guess. Master is not about flights of escapism, summoning demons, or hailing Satan. It is a bare-knuckled and imminently grounded affair, with all the brutish, caveman execution that internet weekender fans seem to be so in love with these days. In Master’s case, they are absolutely the genuine article and one of the originators at that.

Paul Speckmann’s vocal attack manifests in a harsh and relentless bellow on this outing, coupled with the trademark Scott Burns guitar tone and clearly captured drums. Everything is well-executed, but the strange thing is that it almost seems a little too refined and polished in places, at least by Master standards. It’s almost as if recording in such an formalised setting undermined the commando element that defined the Death Strike and original Master recordings. That’s not to say it isn’t a brutal affair, as the band viciously churns through song after song without ever resorting to those new-fangled blast beats that everyone was doing in 1991. It’s all mechanised double bass, d-beats, and down-picked guitars, which will prove to be a real treat to anyone who thinks extreme metal has gotten too dense and overly fast over the last thirty years.

Master tends towards the big openers, and the angry upheaval of What Kind of God is a perfect punch in the face to get things started. From there, they keep the heat on with tracks like the ambitious Heathen, which recalls the wildman rant delivery of Peter Steele from his Carnivore days, along with skull-crackers like Used, the very fast and heavy Demon, and burlier mid-paced numbers like Constant Quarrel. Obituary vocalist John Tardy adds some additional color to the proceedings on two tracks (Latitudinarian and Submerged In Sin), further emphasising the full-circle of Master’s influence on the burgeoning movement. From song to song, there is a lot of exploration of dynamics on display here, as the band never hesitates to delve into hanging open chords over flying drums or dropping into looming dirges as a counterpoint to the more ravenous moments.

One factor that sets Master apart from the rest of the death metal pack is the literal nature of much of their lyrics. Speckmann primarily airs his cynical and sarcastic takes on America, society at large, and the demons of the mind. This hardcore sensibility may have made the album a harder sell for fans overdosing on the Satan-worshipping frenzy brought by acts like Deicide and Morbid Angel, but it’s worth mentioning that none of the topics on On the Seventh Day… are any less relevant now than they ever were. Thing are actually far worse, all told, and the message of Master resonates.

If you missed out on this stripped-down gem of primordial death metal, now’s your chance to do a little archeology and find out why this band mattered in the first place. If you already know it, here’s your chance to get reacquainted with an understated classic. On your knees for the Master!

On The Seventh Day God Created… Master re-releases on August 26th.