Savage Master – With Whips and Chains (High Roller/Skol Records)

Friday, 29th April 2016
Rating: 8/10

Never thought in today’s scene you’d hear (and see) a US true, occult oriented metal band from Louisville, KY – more known for baseball bats and the Kentucky Derby than anything else supremely heavy. Yet Savage Master burst on the scene three years ago, taking on striking S+M/executioner on command imagery while performing stylistically classic, street level songs that felt like a montage of Belgium’s Acid meets California’s Bitch. With Whips and Chains as a second album needs to prove that a debut like Mask of the Devil wasn’t a one trick pony fluke – the quintet hopeful to muster up another set of killer songs and capture an audience craving something unique plus a little bit dangerous in a genre that often goes for shock values without proper substance.

Believing in the band comes down to a series of elements: visually striking through hooded masked musicians, chains, and vocalist Stacey Savage’s bondage gear, the riff choices and shorter, tighter arrangements give the listeners a very quick hitting approach that embodies their old school philosophy. Lyrically touching on the darkness of life with burnings, sacrifices, and vengeance abound (one need to look at song titles like “Dark Light of the Moon”, “Burned at the Stake” and “Satan’s Crown” as proof positive to their occult leanings), guitarists Adam Neal and Larry Myers ride out their parts much like the early Combat/Metal Blade rosters who took British influences and morphed them into a heavier yet still melodic gallop that commands attention and causes spasmodic screams or flying fists to the sky. Check out “Vengeance in Steel” with its early 80’s Zach Harris front to back tom roll fills and the Riot meets Priest-esque “Black Hooves” for two future set favorites when Savage Master cruises into your town.

Stacey has a banshee-oriented wail that proves we aren’t going to have a typical siren/operatic delivery within this act. Primal and ferocious, the bluesy overtones can bring up memories of Debbie Gunn (Sentinel Beast) and Wendy O. Williams, in the sense that personal inflection for the warrior-oriented title track anthem weighs heavier than being purely note perfect in terms of her melodies during the verses. Kudos for recording analog and keeping the digital elements to a minimum even in the mastering – which will be a separator from the thousands of other cookie cutter sounding albums in the modern world.

At a tidy 34 minutes and change, With Whips and Chains will certainly strike a chord for those who miss early Mercyful Fate, late 70’s to mid-80’s Judas Priest with a side order of 1982-1984 US metal. Although not exactly re-writing the classic metal coffers, Savage Master at least backs up their strong imagery with memorable songs and a few anthems for the hellrats and headbangers to drink, scream, and shout along for entertainment.

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