February 12, 2020

Master's Hammer - Mantras (2009)

Country: Czech Republic
Language: Czech (čeština)
Genre: Black Metal, Experimental
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© 2009 Master's Hammer (Self-Released)
Reviewed by "Goat" for Metal Reviews.com
Like their countrymen Root, Master's Hammer walk a fine path between the amazing and the insane, and never more strongly than here, their fourth album in over twenty-five years. They've always been rather cult in status, only coming to anything approaching wide attention recently when Behemoth covered one of their songs for an EP, and Mantras doesn't seem likely to break them onto the wider scene, as quietly self-released as it is. Whatever this is, it's certainly not a break for the mainstream, and fans of the band's past works will easily recognise the sound continued here, although Mantras takes so many twists and turns that classifying it exactly is close to impossible.
Starting out like a mixture of early and recent Rotting Christ, opener Typograf speeds along merrily, trading keyboard trills and guitar melodies before vocalist Franta begins his low croak. It's a tight, thrashy little tune that manages to feature plenty of show-off moments for the wonderfully named Necrocock on guitar, and opens the album well. Of course, things get more impressive immediately; Domanín's male choirs and intricate drum beats are interspersed with acoustic strums to form a complex yet fun track which gets catchier the more you play it, whilst the following Až Já Budu V Hrobe Hníti opens with Church organs and ends up as a melodic and progressive Black Metal song that could easily have gone on for double its five minute length.
From then on, the album really begins to swing. Proggy synths on Čerti soon fade as the track turns folky and anthemic, before they return at the end, and then things go really strange as Bodhi takes a Rammstein-gone-Goth route, techno synths swirling around a percussive beat as Franta's deep voice declaims over the top. It all works together, somehow, and that it's one of the more sensible moments on the album makes you appreciate it all the more as the following tracks rapidly head for bonkersville. Červené Blato is even more Rammsteiny and Goth'd up than Bodhi, even those perculiar Gothic burpy vocals making an appearance. It's sort of like Fields Of The Nephilim making a stripper tune, if that helps - raunchy rather than miserable, yet still with a very noticeable grumpy feel to it, almost as if the weird Goth friend you've dragged to Hooters would rather be sat at home carving Paradise Lost logos into his arm.
Of course, said situation has its funny side, and so does the song - as with all the Mantras tracks that are weirder than you'd expect, your jaw may slacken a little at first, but you soon learn to love them. Vrana is a case in point; vaguely groovy Death Metal with electronic 'peeow!' noises may not sound like fun at first, but give it a chance and Master's Hammer prove their talent for mixing various genres into a melting pot and coming out with a catchy result. Propesko is like the aural suicide note of an alcoholic and severely depressed lounge singer as he takes one last look over his life, celebrating the successes and lamenting the failures, whilst Fantasie is what would happen if you took the same guy and gave him a mild dose of hallucinogens beforehand, and as for the utterly LSD-fuelled Ganesha Mantra, well, you imagine a cult Czech Black Metal band attempting to make some sort of Hindu New-Agey chanting weirdness. It's pretty much like that.
All in all, Mantras starts out respectfully enough but ends up odd enough to make Lugubrum look uncomfortable. They're the kind of band who have earned enough underground kudos to make whatever they do worthy of attention, but I can see eyebrows being raised all across their fanbase at this. As out-there as The Jilemnice Occultist was, this is more conventionally strange, and may not fit all tastes - don't say you weren't warned. Yet take it for what it is and Mantras is an enjoyable, verging-on-Avant-Garde bit of fun that goes all over the place but keeps you listening, and certainly is a reason to keep the Master's Hammer pounding away.

tags: masters hammer, mantras, 2009, flac,


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