Larger than life, but no bigger than the people. — Being considered a “professional amateur” heavy metal band might not sound like a compliment, or at least it should have you pulling an eyebrow arch on sight, but on my part that notion is meant to convey underground authenticity, the real thing and the application of the lessons learned across fifty years of thee high n’ mighty standards of traditional heavy metal craft in practice. It really is a matter of putting on a show, boasting an over the top personae which is imaginative and charming, even mind-blowing without the natural egotism of infamy involved. The goal being to provide inspiration just as much as it is entertainment, a variously spoken and unwritten tenet of classicist metaldom which misses superficial types without fail. You’ll know it when you see it live, yet hearing it on record is entirely another thing, so, you might think Louisville, Kentucky-based heavy metal quintet Savage Master are all show, and they certainly do put on a show from every angle imaginable, but their records somehow escape the feeling of that same old rock n’ roll bullshit despite sounding fuckin’ wisened and ancient. Their fourth full-length ‘Those Who Hunt at Night‘ clarifies exactly why this is, well, at least a bit more than the previous had in the sense that these folks are showing up for the song, the sort of shout-along piece which is both earworm and physically inspiring audio-visual experience at a jogging and stomping pace.
Fired up circa 2013 between charismatic vocalist Stacey Savage and guitarist Adam Neal, Savage Master had a bit more of a speed metalpunk edge to their traditional ‘occult heavy metal’ but decidedly not at all heavy psychedelic rock (or proto-metal) sound to start, their evolution has edged toward an increasingly authentic keep it true attitude and style over the course of four longplayers. Rather than partaking the fluff-route of the normative and glossy ‘new wave of traditional heavy metal’ revisionism, they’ve never been about crossing stream into glam and bad 80’s rock attitudes, they’ve nonetheless kept it tuneful, heavy, all the while pushing their evil agenda. Doing so has allowed their sound to not only resound with a broader demographic but it seems to have provided stylistic focus/personae enough that they’ve begun venturing into increasingly distinct, anthemic songcraft which has been more recently boosted by what I’d consider realistic production values. ‘Myth, Magic and Steel‘ had gotten this balance right a few years ago [see: review], wherein we’re served a render set to mystify a pub or cult-sized crowd as an ideal and with a full crew those songs are still able to translate to a fest sized application.
‘Those Who Hunt at Night‘ takes that tip and focuses on songcraft befitting of their idols, accessible dramatism which appears to goad participation from the audience in the form of memorable chorale-sung choruses and verses which depict a merger of high fantasy and horror visuals akin to the best of pre-’85 or nearby heavy metal with a slight shock of early speed metal’s kicked-up bikesploitation aggression to the temples. Everything from Cirith Ungol‘s ‘Frost and Fire‘ to Girlschool‘s ‘Screaming Blue Murder‘ applies here in terms of rhythm and voice wherein Savage‘s vocals sway between aggressive, somewhat deadpan and melodic delivery which retains a certain toughness and cryptic, horrified zeal at once, reaching peak character somewhere nearby the unforgettable “Queen Satan” over on Side B. The songs are ninety percent there, the sonic personality certainly is, and this amounts to an above average heavy metal release.
Opener “Hunt at Night” is an obvious single for its impressive pre-chorus as it provides an anxious launching point for the notable titular moment which rushes to define the moment and characterize the band outright. It is the first of several pieces to highlight the increasingly meticulous yet exactingly traditional songcraft these folks continue to impress with, or, at least a freshly skinned take on the style they’d mastered on their third album. A traditional form of 80’s obssessed heavy metal with occult horror camp on the brain persists throughout though there are a handful of very clear standout pieces along the way — Starting with the hook filled Side A triumvirate: The early Maiden-esque rally-in and soldier out of “Rain of Tears”, the stage stomping fist-shake-along of “Spirit of Death” and the peak moment for my taste, “A Warrior’s Return” pulling in some of the tension and hulk of ‘King of the Dead‘-era mastery to its movement to close out the first half of the record with absolute power.
Though I’d felt the 80’s power metallic whip of “The Hangman’s Tree” and the likely iconic live moment which “Queen Satan” brings were equally vital pieces which do a lot of the heavy lifting on Side B, I’d soon found myself ready to jet back over to restart the full listen rather than press on through the final two songs. “Vaster Empires” could’ve held its own as an energetic closer but the drained skull energy of “The Death of Time” drags extra hard after it. As a full listen it all works together brilliantly with consideration for classic early 80’s heavy metal standards, the only note I’d taken in that regard is that I’d definitely wear a hole through Side A rather than the flipside in this case, and I think I’d had similar remarks on the previous record, too. It might seem like they’ve merely ticked up a notch or two in terms of my own fandom but I am even more impressed than ever with Savage Master after spending countless hours with ‘Those Who Hunt at Night‘, happily noting the additional push for greatness here when they could’ve simply iterated upon the undeniable high point of their previous record. A moderately high recommendation.
|TITLE:||Those Who Hunt at Night|
|LABEL(S):||Shadow Kingdom Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||August 5th, 2022|
Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:
Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.