Black metal, while fixed in the public imagination to its second-wave caricature, is a more sonically diverse sound than many of its detractors think. And I don’t just mean the many experimental and genre-blending bands and scenes that have emerged since the mid-90s. Remember, no style is born fully fleshed out. A diverse array of bands and influences combine into something we can assemble into a narrative that comprises “black metal,” “death metal,” “hardcore,” and so on.
One of the most influential and profoundly forward thinking black metal bands of all time is the Czech Republic’s Master’s Hammer. Before the second-wave took it’s recognizable form, Master’s Hammer both influenced and transcended it with their 1991 album, Ritual (as did their countrymen in Root). Since then, the band has been on quite a musical journey through avant-garde and then finding their way back to straightforward, ripping metal on albums like 2016’s Formulæ. But when I say straightforward, I don’t mean one-dimensional. There is always something different and off-putting about their sound that defies easy definition.
The band continues this legacy on Fascinator, which came out last week. This album features a more atmospheric sound than the previous album, as the guitars are less in-your-face and subsumed into the rest of the mix. But don’t let that fool you, the album is still loaded with great riffs and a punishing rhythm section (with drums that sound super-tight without sounding robotic, yes it’s possible, friends).