The explosion of heavy metal in both quality and quantity in the 1980s caused quite the uproar all up and down the Bible Belt in the U.S. I’m not ashamed to admit that one of the things that first intrigued me about metal music as a child was one of the myriad of anti-metal videos put together by various religious groups. Seeing images of bands like Venom, Slayer, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden was so damn fascinating, and needless to say had the reverse affect they were probably hoping for. The “Satanic Panic” was a sight to behold for metal fans in the 1980’s for sure. If Louisville’s Savage Master had put out this album in the early 80’s not only would they have been featured prominently on one of these religious public service announcements but their debut album, Mask of the Devil, would have already seen at least one cassette tape copy played until the writing had worn off the case and the tape itself warbled with wear.
Metal has a way of recycling itself over time. What’s old becomes new again. Thrash made a huge comeback in the last decade, 70’s occult rock was reinvented with varying degrees of success, and of course the idea of ‘traditional metal’ getting the re-do treatment is starting to become a more and more popular avenue for a lot of bands whose members aren’t even old enough to have seen it all the first time around. But every now and then a band comes along and really does recreate what their metal forefathers had first laid down. Savage Master are one of those bands and their debut album is an absolute gem amongst the innumerable pretenders.
From the opening riffs of “Blood on the Rose” to the final rumblings of “Death Rides the Highway,” Savage Master lay down massive amounts of early heavy metal bliss. Front woman Stacey Savage is an absolute banshee, shrieking and barking lyrics filled with images of sex, drugs, and Lucifer himself. Her delivery is part Doro, part Halford, and all sorts of nasty in the best way possible. Add to the mix some of the catchiest riffs this side of 1984 and songs structured to feel like they are legitimately north of ’84 and what you are left with is a band that isn’t so much retro as one that is helping to classically recreating a sound thought lost to the ages. It’s a beautifully nasty affair and one that should have old fans and new of the ways of traditional metal drooling for more.
Mask of the Devil was originally released on vinyl at the tail end of last year but you can now experience and purchase it through the Savage Master Bandcamp page.