We all know the names of the legendary and influential bands that laid the groundwork for today's metal universe. Their legacies are undoubted, the influence massive. But for every band that became immortal, there were others that were forgotten, left behind, doomed to spend eternity in the shadows. It's a simple fact that only so many can make it to the top of the mountain, and only a few can be recognized as innovators, but they were never alone. There were always other bands, who didn't make it, who pushed them along on the path toward becoming legends.
Master is one of those bands that never made it to the top of the mountain. Though they started in the early years of death metal, they never made the kind of impact Death, Cannibal Corpse, Possessed, Morbid Angel, or even a band like Necrophagia did. They languished in the obscurity, revolving through band members, and sputtering out albums I'm sure few have ever heard. For the fifteenth anniversary of “Faith Is In Season”, the album is getting a re-release, an odd occasion, since I've never heard the album heralded as one of those forgotten classics that needed to be brought back to life, nor is it one of Master's formative works.
It doesn't take long to see why Master didn't become as big as the other early American death metal bands. “Faith Is Is Season” is not a pleasant album to listen to, and I don't mean that in the way death metal bands would want me to. Band leader Paul Spekmann's vocals are of the earliest variety of growl, more harsh croak than fearsome roar. His screams aren't terrifying, nor are they particularly adept at doing more than keeping pace with the music. Like the vocals, the drumming makes the nearly hour-long march through the album a tiresome episode. The snare, in particular, is so up-front in the mix that it overpowers everything, and at times makes the entire album not unlike listening to someone hammer nails for an hour while calling it a song.
There are a few good riffs here and there throughout the record, like in the back half of “Cast The First Stone”, or before the solo in “Addicted To The Pistol”, but a couple of good riffs aren't enough to overcome the rest of the package.
A song like “Imprisoned” tries its best, with a slower tempo and a less frantic vocal, which comes closest to sounding like a well-formed death metal song. Unfortunately, the tempo stays elevated throughout most of the record, which is an area Master isn't well-suited to reside in. The guitars are such a wash of fuzz it's hard to make a judgment about the playing, but the rest of the band doesn't execute well enough to make the faster material sound comfortable. They always sound like they struggle to keep up with what they want to do.
What it is they want to do is prove their worth as a death metal band, but they lack the most important element; songwriting. All the issues over the tones and sounds can be forgiven if the songs come out of the gate and rip your face off, but these aren't those kinds of songs. Master, despite being a decade into their career at the point “Faith Is In Season” was released, sounds like an amateur band still trying to find their way. The riffs don't stand out enough to inspire anyone to pick up an instrument, the vocals are below par, and the songwriting almost never injects a hook into the song to make it memorable. Death metal has always been an assault, but Master's peers were able to do that while still writing some solid songs. That's where this album fails. There isn't enough meat on it's bare death metal bones, despite its unbearable length.